How To Leave Your Dog When You Go On Vacay

The moment we left for our wedding and honeymoon and I knew we’d be away from Harlow for 3+ weeks was probably the height of my dog-insanity (and that’s saying a lot for me.) As we pulled out of Chris’s mom and dad’s driveway, ready to make the nine hour drive to Colorado, I’ll never forget the look on Harlow’s face.

It’s the worst look of all. If you’re a dog owner you know the one. It’s the one that says, “Wait, you’re leaving?! Where are you going? Why can’t I come along? Why are you leaving me? Are you coming back??” It’s a look that guts me every single time.

About five minutes after we left, I panicked hard. I was suddenly certain that there was a car in the driveway when we left and the doors were open and Harlow was most definitely going to jump inside, at which point someone would shut the door, forget he was in there, and he would meet his doom on that hot summer day as we drove to our wedding. That’s incredibly morbid, I know. But it’s where my mind went. (It’s where my mind always goes right when I leave Har: what if he gets lost? Runs away? Tries to find me? Gets run over? Gets stolen? The list goes on and on…)

So of course I insisted Chris call his mom asap. And he told me to calm down and that I was freaking out. You know what you shouldn’t tell someone who is freaking out? THAT THEY’RE FREAKING OUT.

Well, he called (because I made him) and Harlow was fine. So I was able to settle down (a bit.) But this, my friends, is just a peek inside my head when I leave Harlow behind.

And at this point, I’ll kindly ask any non-dog readers to turn away. Come back tomorrow, please. Because if you don’t already think I’m 100% nutso about Harlow, you will after reading this.

Thus I present to you, How To Go On Vacay When You’re Over-The-Top Obsessed With Your Dog and Feeling Very Very Sad and Guilty About Leaving Him/Her Behind – a memoir.

1.Know your dog and know what is right for them.

For example, Harlow likes other dogs, but he doesn’t love them. He prefers humans. He also doesn’t love sleeping on the floor, or in a crate, or basically anything that is too “dog-like.” He is a human and prefers to be treated like one, damn it!

So dog hotels don’t work for us. We tried once and Harlow came home with ripped ears (there’s a good chance he was the shit-talker who started the scuffle, so I blame no one for this) and we were also told he continually tried to escape the play area to instead hang out in the employee area.

He was different for quite awhile after this brief dog hotel stay (extra clingy and nervous.) It was a place in our neighborhood and when we walked by it afterward he refused to even walk on the same side of the street. I didn’t need to see anymore. We would never go back.

But, I know people who go to this same place and absolutely love it. Their dog can’t wait to go inside and play all day. So like I said, know your dog and what is best for them.

2. Find someone to stay in your home.

This is the best option for Harlow and I take a small comfort in the fact that he is in his home, with his smells, and his toys. I suggest you give clear instructions for whomever is staying with your pup so they can stick to your pup’s normal routine as closely as possible.

Harlow is a little (a lot) eccentric and I make sure whomever is staying with him knows this. He needs to be wrapped in blankets, share a pillow with you at night, have good conversations with you during the day, constant cuddles, and loves a nice glass of red wine with dinner.

3. Find a house with a doggy pal where your pup can stay.

If someone doesn’t come to our house, we take Harlow to a friend’s house who also has a dog so they can play all day. In reality they probably sleep all day, but these are the lies I tell myself.

Again, I tell the host about all of Harlow’s eccentricities to make sure she know’s what she’s getting into to ensure it goes well for all. For example, whenever you leave the house you have to give Harlow a proper good-bye or he’ll go nuts. But once he hears, “Bye Harlow, I’ll be right back,” he’ll chill out on the couch and be totally fine.

I also make sure to pack a bag for him with a couple of his favorite toys and a blanket from our house so it will smell like home 🙂

4. Ask For Updates. Or Don’t?

I LOVE photos of Harlow having fun while I’m away.

But I would never ask to FaceTime. We tried it once and Har got so confused hearing our voices he began looking all over the house for us and I almost booked a flight home that second. Most people would laugh it off and be like, lol dogs. But not old Crazy Boots, over here. That moment of confusion killed me.

5. Don’t Leave Your Dog With Just Anyone.

This might sound like common sense, but… I think some people wait until last minute and then they’re in a tough spot and have to take what they can get.

Some dogs/breeds are higher maintenance, more sensitive, and just all around more high strung than others. If this is your pup (Hi Har!) you owe it to whomever is watching your dog to give them this heads up.

And guess where I’ve found some of my favorite dog-sitters?! … The internet! Facebook dog groups, to be specific.

I meet everyone in person first, obviously. But even before I do that I Do A LOT of online research/creeping, and once they pass the test I invite them over. We’ve had nothing but great results doing this. They’re people just like you and me who love dogs and either want a playmate for their pup for a few days, or in our most recent situation, miss their dog back home because they’re here going to school. My advice to you is to join a few breed specific groups, or groups specific to rescue animals, so you can find people who have situations similar to your own.

Last but not least, when I find myself panicking (usually the second our plane leaves Midway airport) I remind myself to take a breath, and I then I repeat these three things in my head:

  1. Harlow is safe.
  2. He has a roof over his head.
  3. And he has food and water.

For whatever reason, breaking it down like that helps me to chill the F out. It also helps to remember there’s a good chance your pup is sleeping 75% of the time you’re away, as well.

And if all else fails, get a drink at the airport. And then once again when you’re on the plane.

I’m sorry if this helped no one. I really tried though, I swear. If you have your own coping mechanisms, or dog advice, please tell me below 🙂


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