Traveling by myself can be a lonely proposition from time-to-time, which is why several well-meaning friends encouraged me to get a dog.
“Oh, you’ll love having a companion to go on walks, greet you when you come back to the RV and snuggle with you at night. It will be like traveling with your best friend, and you’ll get to meet other pet owners,” they all said.
I have met hundreds of RVing animals and most are probably just like that. I never hear them bark. They are playful and love attention, and when they’ve had enough excitement, they waddle over to their doggy bed and take a nap or play with a toy. For me, that was a pure fantasy.
I finally bowed to the pressure and visited a dog shelter while traveling through Branson, Mo., last October. They had a variety of dogs available, but my eye kept going back to this nice, quiet, unassuming 7-month-old beagle/boxer mix in the corner. While all the other dogs were yapping wildly, he was content to sit and listen to the others without participating in the ruckus. I asked the staff to let me spend some time with “Dale” and they brought him out to the lobby where he jumped into my lap and proceeded to lick my face. He was gentle and seemed to obey commands. Dale was on his best behavior.
I slept on the decision and returned the next morning to pick him up, stopping at Walmart along the way to buy a kennel, food, chew toys, and a dog bed. I returned to the shelter, spent a few more minutes with the pup, then paid the $100. They handed me a folder with all his medical records and sent me on my way. It was the way the clerk wished me luck that should have raised a red flag.
The 10-minute trip back to the RV park was unadventurous, except for a little nervous whining from the crate in the back seat. When we arrived and I unlocked the crate, I discovered he had barfed and peed all over his cage. I wiped him off as best I could and took him in to check out his new home.
The dog wandered through the 35-foot RV for more than 30 minutes sniffing every nook and cranny before opting to lay down on the only carpet in the motorhome between the driver’s and passenger’s seats. A short while later, I decided it was nap time. About 45 minutes later, I emerged from the bedroom to find the motorhome door wide open. Thinking I had lost the dog within hours of picking him up, I rushed to the door to find the dog sitting on the bottom step of the motorhome just gazing outside.
WHEW! Disaster diverted, and a sign the dog would be a good faithful companion. But how did he know how to open the door?
I renamed him “Buddy” and posted his cute picture on Facebook for everyone to see. I had 48 hours to make a go/no go decision to proceed with the adoption and everything appeared just fine. However, about 97 seconds after that 48-hour period expired, Buddy allowed his true colors to show.
He started barking at passersby, and he couldn’t do his business outdoors to save his life. Three days after I got him, I worked all day, then had to go to the bank and post office. I put him in his kennel and headed out the door. Ten minutes later I get a call from the campground telling me that my dog has been “barking all day and the neighbors are complaining.” I raced back to the campground and could hear a distinctive beagle howl as I neared the motorhome. So much for keeping him in a crate when I was gone. Yet, each time I put him in the car to take him with me, he threw up within a few miles.
A few days later, we pulled out of Branson and headed toward Heber Springs for a big Workampers convention. One of the events included a half-day of fly fishing for trout. I left Buddy alone for five hours to go fishing, and this is what I found when I returned: a chewed-through podcasting microphone cable, chewed-through wire for the passenger’s electric seat, chewed-through extension cord — and that night, he bit through his retractable leash in the blink of an eye.
Extreme naughtiness! Oh yeah, he had a rawhide, an antler, a beef bone, three nylabones, a rubber chicken, a Kong, two tennis balls, a thick tugging rope and a stick to play with. All the cords were sprayed with Fooey Ultra Bitter Spray, which Buddy apparently thought was caramel coating.
A few weeks and another chewed through leash later, while visiting Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, I had a golf cart to zip around the giant 310-acre park. One night, we were taking a ride around the park just to check things out. Buddy was on a leash sitting next to me. Suddenly, as we were moving down a road, the demon-possesed dog leaped out the seat and over the hood of the cart onto the street. I slammed on the brakes, but hit him anyway. Unfazed, he jumped back onto the seat.
A week later, I woke up at 4:15 a.m. to “the smell.” I got up and turned on every light in the RV trying to find out where he made a mess. Since I couldn’t find anything, I uttered a quick thank you and reached for the leash thinking he just had a bad case of the farts. As I turned to clip it on him, I saw it. A pile of dog dung as big as a horse pie situated directly on the dash of the motorhome.
By the time we got to Florida, he had developed a routine, that being that he needed a walk about every 30 minutes, mostly just to look around. That didn’t fit the work schedule, so I came upon the brilliant idea of getting him a tie-out chain. That way, he could sit outside, enjoy the scenery and fresh air, chew his bone and leave me alone to do my work. It was less than 15 minutes later than I heard someone yell, “Is anyone missing a dog?”
Sure enough, Buddy had chewed through his fifth leash in five weeks and was scouting out the campground. So, another trip to Walmart secured a plastic-coated thick wire cable that I attached to the RV step. It was plenty long enough, I surmised, so he would be free to roam anywhere on the campground. And he did. He wandered right over the the neighbor’s cable connection and proceeded to chew on the cord.
By this time in our journey, he had chewed through every single cord under the driver’s and passenger’s seats and several extension cords. But, he finally learned his lesson when he found chewed into the live wire of my laptop. He yelped and sprang from the passenger’s seat and raced back to the bedroom. When I found him, he was shaking nervously with a “What the heck just happened” look in his eye.
The next day, I shorted the cable and took every imaginable toy he had outside. Fifteen minutes later, I heard a tapping sound. I looked up from my desk and saw the neighbor at the next site pointing toward the ground.
There was Buddy, his back legs spread wide and his front paws digging a crater into the campsite. There was so much dirt being tossed behind him that he looked like a canine ditch witch.
So, eight weeks after I got him it was obvious Buddy wasn’t cut out to be an RVing dog. He had grown well beyond a typical beagle size. In fact, one guy at a dog park looked at his paws and the amount of excess skin he had yet to fill and determined he was a beagle, bulldog and yellow lab mix. He had grown so big in two months that when the slides were in, it was hard for him to turn around in the motorhome.
Although he had stopped throwing up in the RV on travel days, and in the Jeep to run errands or visit the dog park, his chewing, digging and potty habits got to be a bit too much. Besides, he almost got impaled by some long-beaked bird he flushed out of some grass at the Florida campsite.
A few days before New Years, Buddy and I drove up to the frozen tundra of Wisconsin so that he could live with my daughter and her family.
Since then, Buddy — now renamed Rowdy — has clawed through a cabinet, snapped off and chewed through a piece of corner molding, consumed four pair of my granddaughter’s shoes, plus countless stuffed animals. But, my granddaughter, Riley, loves him — when he’s not wrapping his leash around her legs and tripping her to the ground.
My experiment in mobile pet ownership was a failure. I guess I can chalk it up as tuition in the RV lifestyle. Would I ever get another pet? Perhaps. Anyone know where I can buy a pet rock?