It’s hard to focus with the dust – pushing past like a thick cloud, creeping into my eyes, nose, lungs… But he doesn’t listen. He continues to run laps, chasing… well I’m not quite sure what, just running and kicking up dust. Enjoying the sheer magic of the moment. The patter of his feet, the wind on his face. The afternoon sun after a cool swim.
He’s five months old. Five months of waking in the night to tend to his needs, cleaning up his messes, reassuring him, showing him right from wrong, showing him respect and obedience, showing him love. No, he’s not a human child, but a dog. A puppy.
He does this thing at the end of the day when he’s exerting his last bit of steam. He runs full pelt around our camp, around and around like a merry-go-round. He pants loudly and his ears flap in the wind, and we laugh, and laugh and laugh.
No longer just the little blue cattle dog, but two brothers. The little blue cattle dog and the gangly red desert dog. Our two pets and our two travel companions. Our two life companions, in fact.
When planning our trip around Australia there was no question of whether we’d take our dog or not. We knew the Landcruiser was built for four legged friends and we knew we wanted to share this crazy journey with them.
To us, dogs are more than things you keep in your backyard and feed twice a day. They are with you for life – for THEIR entire life. They give you their entire being and in return we show them a life of love and fulfilment. Much more than a thing that sits in the backyard and spends a lifetime waiting and wanting.
I intend to write several blog entries about dogs and travel around Australia and this is the first. It’s designed to reassure you if you are on the fence about taking your pet on your travels and to inspire you to see things through the eyes of your little mate (or mates in our instance).
Our first few months of travel were done so without Sammy (our heeler). Oakey was yet to exist on this earth. From the outset, we couldn’t believe the number of dog-friendly campsites and caravan parks dotted around the place. Particularly on the east coast, we often found ourselves sitting around the campfire talking about how much Sammy would love that exact moment and how much we longed for his company. When we weren’t looking for dog-friendly places, we found them everywhere! Heaps of public poo bags for the taking too! Turns out more and more people are opting to move about with pets and councils and caravan parks are FINALLY catching on.
In some instances, it does take planning and it can limit you. Dogs are never allowed in national parks and it just so happens these are some of the most incredible places on earth so you can’t skip them because your floofer is with you. I always argue that humans are far more damaging than a dog on a lead, and any campsite riddled with fires, glass, dirty nappies and rubbish will prove my point, but regardless, national parks are a complete no-go for dogs. So what do you do? You just have to plan.
- Hire a pet sitter – there are plenty around and if you use sites such as MadPaws, you will find plenty of people who would watch your pooch – wherever you are.
- Leave them with family or friends – If you are blessed with people you know near a site you want to visit, hit them up to watch your fur baby for the day while you knock over the parks
- Leave them with the car – This is only in special circumstances – in some cases, the parks allow you to leave your pet in the car park areas. Of course, this can only really be done in the winter months, but it can be done. We left Sammy in the car with water and windows down while we explored Kings Canyon in the NT, he slept the entire time. Angel, right?
- Make friends at camp and offer to watch their pet in return – If you get into the spirit of travel, you will no doubt strike up conversations with anyone doing the same thing. Ask them a favour for a small fee or a six pack even – If they’re anything like us, they’d jump at the chance to watch your fur baby for the day or afternoon/ morning. We met a lovely young European couple who fell in love with our dogs while we were camped at Yulara – they were more than happy to watch the dogs while we checked out Uluru and The Olgas. All it took was kindness and a conversation.
You will always get the people who do not tolerate dogs. You will always get the people who moan when they’re not on the lead or the ones who run in the opposite direction when your dog simply wants to say hello. You will always get the (generally older, greyer) nomads who have zero kindness when it comes to dogs barking or running or simply being dogs. You will always get people who just don’t like them or don’t understand them. You simply have to deal with that and do your best to control each situation. I often find myself anxious about whether they look like they’re playing too aggressive, whether Oak is barking too much, whether they’re walking somewhere they shouldn’t be, or whether they are approaching someone they shouldn’t be. It’s just part of being a responsible pet owner, and even I still struggle to be calmer.
But with all of this, you will ALWAYS get people who are super excited to pat your dogs, you will always get people interested in their breed, age, names and general personality. You will always get caravan parks and hotels that welcome dogs more than they welcome kids (who can blame them 😉 – and will go out of their way to help your pooches have the best stay. You will always have wonderful conversations with other dog owners no matter who you are or where you are. You will always laugh.
If there is one thing I can say to inspire you to bring your dog with you on your next trip – it’s this. Right now, both our dogs are curled at our feet. They’re awake, alert and curious about all the smells and sounds around them. They are content just being in our presence. They are content in the moment.
They’re not worried about tomorrow or what happened yesterday. They are enjoying the now. They find places us silly humans could never find because we don’t know how to enjoy the world like a dog does. They are excited for morning and excited for where you’re taking them – even if it’s to the toilet cubicle. They crave adventure and relish in the peace of the present. This is why dogs are so important in our lives. They show us how to live in the present and be at peace with it.
This is why we travel with our dogs and why we’ll continue until the end of our days.
So, acknowledge and then move on from the worries, the what-ifs, the limitations… If you want your doggy with you, bring them. You’ll always make it work and the pros will ALWAYS outweigh any con that comes along the way.
A lover of the written word.
Journalist by trade, writer by hobby. Writing fuels my soul and I promised myself I’d string words together more often, so here I am.
A collection of pieces that describe the inner workings of my mind.