We used to have a Saint Bernard. When she passed, I said no more giant dogs. Either we could get something small we could easily take with on our travel adventures – or nothing at all. My family pushed back but in the end, I won.
We got a Westipoo – half West Highland Terrier, half Mini Poodle. This breed, with its 15-pound max, is the perfect travel dog.
We named our new puppy Ash and we got him started right away. His first road trip was the two hour drive home from the breeder’s.
He threw up seven times.
In two hours.
My dreams of an easy travel dog were dashed almost instantly. But we are a traveling family and so, any dog of ours has to be as well.
We thought the motion sickness might get better with time.
We tried medication, which just made him groggy while he vomited. We tried putting him in various places throughout the car. We tried holding him and not holding him. We tried leaving the window down. We even tried putting him in his kennel and buckling the whole contraption into the front seat.
Failure on all fronts.
But still, we persevered. What else could we do? Board him every time? Too pricey. Give him away? Too late for that; everyone was already in love with our heaving little houseguest.
So I decided we would simply train the nausea out of him. I trained the kids to ride in the car; surely I could train our dog to do the same. Really, it was just a matter of getting him used to it until it became normal.
So that’s what we did. We hit the road, barf bags in tow. He threw up. A Lot. Once, he turned and vomited right down the front of Tony’s shirt. Another time, he upchucked in the cupholder.
We did not relent.
One day he finally managed to hold it in. Slowly, he started vomiting less. Once, he happily rode atop the console between the driver and passenger seats for two whole days.
Sweet, sweet success.
That year we took two really big trips – both with long flights and adventurous schedules in climates that wouldn’t work for a dog. You can train a dog to get over car sickness but you can’t train them to survive 110 degree heat waves while you explore no-dogs -allowed national parks.
So Ash stayed home. When we next embarked on the road with him, he shook like a jackhammer. After hovering under him with a barf back for 85 miles, we finally put him on the floor at my feet. He whined and panted like an asthmatic while continuing to quake uncontrollably. Then, he puked.
We soldiered on.
By day two, he was calmer. Curious, even.
By day three, he was sleeping at my feet.
Day four? He vomited right off the bat. And when we stopped for ice cream in Portland, he experienced what could only be called a fit of explosive diarrhea – all over the front seat.
Turns out, you can’t train the car sickness out of a dog, but they can lull you into a false sense of security by making you think you did.