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February 19, 2009

News & Features

Sit, stay, ride: When you take your dog on the road, be sure to gear up right

Special to NWautos


The writer bought her Nissan Frontier to accommodate her dogs, Kelsi and Abel. (Photo by Monica Fischer)

In a city where there are 45 percent more dogs than kids, the phrase "Dog is my co-pilot" is more than just a bumper-sticker slogan -- it's a way of life.

Seattleites don't just transport their pets to the dog park or the vet; they load them into their cars for shopping trips and road trips, too.

"I take my dogs to off-leash areas and to walk in different parks and neighborhoods around town on a fairly regular basis," says Lisa Wogan, Web editor of Bark magazine and owner of Lulu, an 11-year-old Lab-shepherd mix, and Renzo, a 6-year-old Husky-Australian shepherd mix. "Sometimes I just take them out with me on an errand for a little variety in their day. We also take them on road trips."

Seattle dogs spend so much time on the road that their owners often choose their vehicles for their ability to accommodate their dogs. I chose my Nissan Frontier because it has a back seat that's roomy enough for Kelsi (a 6-year-old Australian cattle dog) and Abel (a 2-year-old Lab mix), who are as familiar with the command "load up" as they are "sit" and "stay."

Wogan is partial to Subarus, and recently replaced her wagon with a newer Outback. "I like that the dogs can ride in the passenger seats or in the cargo area in the back, depending on what works," she says. "I did upgrade to leather upholstery, which I am loving. Sweeping fur off the seats beats endless vacuuming and arm-breaking passes with the lint roller."

As with traveling with kids, the right supplies (see sidebar) are crucial to an enjoyable ride. Val Mallinson, who wrote "The Dog Lover's Companion to the Pacific Northwest" and "The Dog Lover's Companion to Seattle," has two miniature dachshunds who have a car seat that lifts them to the level of the window so they can see out "and stick their snouts out the window when allowed."

Pet products for your vehicle

Before you hit the road, head to your local pet-supply store for travel-friendly products to protect your dog, your car and your sanity. Some to consider:

  • Bowsers Pet Products single seat cover ($59.95), back seat cover ($84.95) and SUV mat ($84.95).
  • Canine Friendly Products 3-in-1 Vest Harness, available in sizes XXS to XXL, $24.95-$37.95.
  • Petastic Stain & Odor Remover, $6.50 for 16 ounces, $9.50 for 32 ounces.
  • New Angle Gulpy pet water dispenser, $7.95.

Call ahead for pricing and availability.

Harnesses, which function like seatbelts, can keep dogs safe in case of a sudden stop or accident, and seat covers can protect your upholstery against accidents of an entirely different nature. Other necessities include a towel, food or treats, water, leashes, a lint roller and a stain and odor remover such as Nature's Miracle or Petastic.

Are there drawbacks to driving Daisy? You bet. Dogs get carsick just like people, and sometimes they have to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. Seattle writer Michelle Goodman sniffed out another pitfall when she took her 8-year-old Lab mix, Buddy, on a trip to Vashon Island.

"On the way, we stopped on the beach and Buddy went straight for a dead fish, did a swan dive right into it and then rolled and rolled, despite my hysterical screams," she recalls. "He stunk to high heaven and there was no place to wash him, so we had to pack that stinkmeister back into the car.

"It was December and freezing out, but we drove with the windows down. The only thing that kept my friend Karin and I from gagging were a couple of scented candles we bought and held under our noses, unlit, the remaining 30 minutes it took to reach the B&B."


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