by Lisa Price
Never before did I prepare for the worst things to happen, but then a couple of them did, and I upped my game.
There are oodles of articles about safety for dogs in the field, accompanied by pictures of dogs riddled with porcupine quills, slashed by barbed wire and similar disastrous encounters. And lots of people who pursue grouse and woodcock with dogs can head to a local woodland.
But lots of us must knuckle down for a long drive. If you’re headed out for a dream hunt with your dogs, make sure the trip there is not a part of the adventure you’d like to forget.
This happened: I loaded five dogs into my cargo van, all of them in travel crates. I had worked from two lists, with the headings “People Food” and “Dog Stuff.” I figured I had thought of everything.
Before I got to the New York border, yes, just a couple hours from home, my youngest dog was sick and filled the bottom of his crate with foul-smelling, nameless muck. But ah, I was ready with paper towels and a spray bottle of cleaner.
Back on the highway, it wasn’t long before a car in front of me slammed on the brakes for a piece of newspaper—a piece of newspaper!—that was blowing across the road. I braked hard. The dog crates were lashed together and to the floor of the van, not so the cargo. Everything laid on top of the crates was jettisoned about the vehicle.
In Maine, not long after dark, I dropped to gas up and air the dogs. One by one I walked them in the only grassy area at the gas station. All went well until one of my older dogs yelped. Whoever had cut the grass there had simply run over aluminum cans, and my dog had stepped on one of the shards. Thankfully, although her main pad was cut, I had the dog first aid kit under the passenger seat, cleaned it, stopped the bleeding, put on a bandage and a dog boot.
From this experience, I learned to add a headlamp to the the “Dog Stuff” list.
I figured we would probably encounter a porcupine first thing the next day when we started our hunt. I was wrong about that, though. My young dog found a leg-hold trap, instead.
What an informative trip! More lessons were learned, and I can joke about that trip now. But it’s really no joke. Dogs can’t make plans and preparations, so it’s up to us. I never knew that when I grew up, my job title would be “The Dogs’ Driver.”
Here are a couple extra tips, all from lessons learned the hard way:
- The place where I hunted in Maine had zero cell service. My dogs had tags on their collars with my cell phone number, but even if someone tried, I wouldn’t receive a call or a text. A lot of grouse country is like that. So, I added a temporary tag which had my name and the name of the camp road where I was staying and the type of vehicle I was driving.
- You can also use a temporary tag to provide the phone number for someone at home and use that as a place to call and check for information, or the number for a staffed lodge or hotel, if either of those is headquarters for your hunt.
- Carry a pair of bolt cutters in your day pack. Last fall my dog Homer got a rear paw stuck in a trap. Fortunately, I knew how to open that type of trap, but if I hadn’t – well, I was in the middle of nowhere by myself and would have had to leave him there while I sought help. I’m sure he would have panicked, and it was quite cold. I still shudder when I think about all the things that could have happened.
- Take a few minutes to puppy-proof and dog-proof the place you’ll be staying, inside and outside. Sometimes when a camp is going to be winterized, the owner will have the materials ready—things like antifreeze and rat poison.
- We’ve all read this one and it’s easy to do: carry proof of vaccinations, especially the rabies inoculation. Although it’s not likely that you’ll be stopped within the United States and checked, it’s a requirement to carry proof of rabies vaccination when crossing state lines. Make a bunch of copies, keep a set in the glove compartment, and a set in your hunting pack.
- Carry actual printed photographs of your dog. That’s the quickest way to make a poster with a picture and make copies.
All in all, despite all the misadventures I had, I would guess the dogs and I were all in agreement that it had been an awesome trip and hunt. Each dog, even the old timers, had gotten a grouse, some more than one (and some would have gotten more if I’d been able to hit them). I stayed in a touchingly beautiful lakeside camp with no power, no running water – and had wonderful meals. I kept a journal, read books and remembered to be thankful for every minute of the experience.
Enjoy your hunting experience with your dogs and make it a safe journey.
A Cure for the Carsick Dog
The American Kennel Club has some great suggestions for helping either accustom dogs to rides in the car or fix dogs that habitually become carsick:
- Take time to just sit in the car with your dog without leaving the driveway. Do this often to prepare the dog for actual travel, which ideally should start with short trips.
- Make sure the dog is traveling on an empty stomach – no meal with 3 or 4 hours of departure.
- Make sure the crate is well ventilated. Don’t cover openings with your luggage or gear.
- Make frequent stops. Plan ahead on your route for “dog friendly” stop areas. If you’re going to stop for gas or meals, try to find spots where it will be easy to walk dogs rather than places dominated by (hot) pavement.
- Dogs should have water available at all times in the crate—resupply with bottled water.
- Before you take a young dog on a long trip, take the dog along on short trips whenever you can to the post office, bank, and similar places that involve you only briefly exiting the vehicle.