This is an interview with Michelle R. who has recently begun long-term travel in an RV… with her SIX dogs. That is correct… SIX, and three are large breeds. Michelle is an artist who previously owned a pet sitting business.
She blogs about her adventures and offers great doggie advice on her blog: Life on the Road with the House of Paws
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you have been on the road?
I am a single, 47 years old traveler living and exploring the US with my six dogs. I am an artist and hobby photographer and of course love dogs.
I am fairly new at living fulltime as a road warrior. I started in March of this year. 2014 , so far I am loving the road life (I think I was born with gypsy blood in me).
2. You travel with – kind-of blows my mind – SIX dogs! Wow! That’s a lot of furry friends 🙂 How do you do it? Why so many animals?
I have always loved dogs and have always been owned by at least two dogs. I opened my own dog walking/pet sitting business back in 2006 and just closed it this March. Along with that, I became very passionate about helping rescue and foster dogs,especially the bully breeds.
I adopted my first one from a local animal shelter, then I fell in love with the Pug breed, so I adopted two Pugs, then I became involved in the education of bully breeds, so I adopted a Pit bull.
I had four dogs by then and I found out about another Bully in need (My American Bulldog) so she was next. My last rescue was a Craigslist cast off, another Pug.
Since I was so involved with dog related business and I owned a house with a 1/4 acre specially designed for the dogs, it was nothing to own so many.
I am a firm believer that when you decided to adopt or purchase a pet, you just do not give up on them just because your plans change. Not for moving, divorce or anything. Just “my” belief.
I have wanted to hit the road for over 30 years and it was just time,so I did not give it another thought to bring my dogs (furkids) along. Most dogs love to travel, mine all do.
I live in a 24’ trailer, but if you think about it, most people crate their dogs when they go to work or put them in a smaller area. It’s the same with me, only they have 24 feet to stay in.
I walk them two to three times a day, no matter where we are. I have also made sure that its a dog compatible living space.
I bring along a couple of xpens to put up where ever I am work camping at the moment. They have all grown up with each other and used to ride all over town with me when I went to my dog clients house, so they are accustomed to traveling a great deal. Its like they have been doing this all their lives. They are people and dog friendly.
3. For all the dog lovers out there like us, can you please introduce us to your crew. What are their names/breed/size, etc. Who is the most trouble? For us… it’s 8 pound Chihuahua-mix terror Tiger 🙂
Gus – Boxer/Rottweiler mix, 12yrs old this year. My heart and soul. Very gentle,loving and laid back. He is the patriarch of the group. He is the best behaved, except on those occasions when he feels he needs to bark at nothing whats so ever. I adopted him when he was 1.5 yrs old.
Wheezer – Pug. 10 yrs old this year. I adopted him at 6 weeks. He is the trouble maker. He sets the other dogs off. Has the Napoleon syndrome big time. Thinks he can take on 50+ lb dogs.
Raven – Pug. 8 yrs. I adopted her at 9 weeks. Likes being the mother to all the other dogs, but is very bossy too. She is the dominate one of the group. Also a trouble maker, but lesser of the two.
Boo – Pitbull/American Staffordshire Terrier mix. 8yrs, I adopted her at 10 months. She is very gentle, loves, loves people, especially children. Is the clown of the group, very silly. Lets Raven boss her around like crazy.
Roux – American Bulldog. at a 100 lbs she is my youngest. 4.5 yrs, also the biggest. I adopted her at 9 months. She is a huge goof. She truly believes she only weighs 15lbs and should be a lap dog. Loves people and other dogs, but is protective of the me and the group if they are all on leashes. Very submissive with other dogs when not around my group.
Bumble B – Pug. I adopted her at 8 yrs of age. She is 10 yrs. Been with us the shortest. She is mostly blind and deaf from neglect. The quietest and most laid back of the group. Goes along for the ride so to speak. She is started to come out of her shell more and more. Obsessed with anything paper, so I have to be careful. I call her my paper fiend.
4. I know many RV parks have pet restrictions of some sort, usually size, number of pets and do not allow some breeds (larger animals). Is it difficult for you to find places to stay?
So far, I have had no trouble with just one or two overnight stays. I am honest and up front. I have never been asked about the breed and usually when they meet my group and see that the bullies are nice and live around little dogs, it sets their mind at ease.
It helps that my huge dog sits nicely behind a two foot high fence and never once has tried to bust through or jump over it.
Now work camping is another story. They have never asked the breed, but I have been contacted to work at a few places, but once they find out I have dogs or six dogs, I get turned down. Its OK, the USA is a big place and there will always be one place that will take my dogs.
I am work camping right now and many who walk by find it fascinating that my dogs are just sitting behind their little fence not trying to attack or get out. Thats not to say that my Pugs don’ttart barking and stirring up trouble, but after a few minutes they settle down.
So far, I have work camped at three spots and the owners have never had a problem. One was worried about the size as most his long term residents or winter birds have little teeny dogs, so he was worried they would find another place to stay upon seeing mine, however, his fears turned out to be for nothing.
I always ask my neighbors if they ever hear my dogs barking while I am at work and not once has anyone heard my dogs barking. I strive very hard to make a good impression. I like to leave a place with a good reference.
I just believe there will always be someone out there willing to take a chance on a crazy dog lady and her six dogs. 🙂
5. What advice can you give other RVers traveling with dogs? What are your top survival strategies? Got to be a bit tight in a small space!
Number one on my list is,”Chip your pets!”. Anything can happen, collars can come off. Have names of people who, if something happened to you, can come get your pet and take care of it.
I have four friends scattered across the US, that know if something happened to me, they will come get my dogs. I have a will written up. I also have a sticker in my window of my trailer travel telling how many dogs I have and an emergency number to contact. Plus one in my truck and one in my wallet.
Never let your dog off leash… ever. This only causes problems with your neighbors or park regulations. If it says,”keep your dogs on leash”, then keep them on leash and pick up after them (pet peeve of mine).
One rule breaker and it ruins it for everyone. Even little dogs can be terrorists.
Always carry one to two gallons of water (not every place has potable water). If on the road, stop
every few or so hours and let your dogs out to pee or go for a walk. It calms them down and keeps them regulated. Dogs like being on schedule.
That goes for eating too. No matter where I was at, I always pulled over and fed and walked my dogs at the same time (or close to it) every day.
Take along their beds or blankets that smell like home or something they are familiar with. When I was getting ready to go full time. I put their blankets and beds out in the trailer a week in advance and slowly introduced them to the surroundings by taking them out there with me when I started packing the trailer.
It’s actually not so tight. It is just me and the small dogs sleep under the table in their beds, my biggest has the couch that I have pulled out into a bed. My other two big ones sleep on the bed.
When I work camp or stay a few nights at a place I put the xpen around the front of the trailer and keep the door open, so they can go in or out. ONLY when I am at the trailer do I let them out in the xpens.
As I said above, dogs love and need a schedule. They can adjust to just about anything, if you follow a schedule and lay down ground rules.
6. I admire anyone who cares for an animal and provides a loving home, much less six of them. One issue that would be hard for most is the expense of owning so many dogs. And veterinary costs if necessary. Any tips on keeping costs down?
My dogs only go to a vet if someone is amiss and they get a once yearly check up.
I keep a separate savings account just for my dogs and also for the really big expenses, I have a “care credit” card. I keep them on flea and tick preventative that I get through Costco, because it has the same ingredients as the name brand only at a much lower cost.
I also buy my dog food from there. Although not every state has a Costco, in which case, I buy four or six bags and store them in my trailer in a plastic tub. (that is kind of a pain). My dogs love and I mean love veggies, so instead of expensive, fake ingredients and filler dog treats, I give them veggies.
I also make a lot of home made treats. Peanut butter is an amazing and versatile ingredient. I am growing a tomato plant just for the dogs, as they love to eat tomatoes.
This is the way I look at my dogs expense. It’s like filling up your vehicle with gas. It is a necessity that I have built into my daily life. I do not really give it any thought, because it’s an expense I have come to deal with like food, electricity, gas or rent.
You feed your dog high quality food, give them plenty of exercise and love and they do stay a lot healthier. Thats not to say things won’t happen, but build in an emergency plan, just like you would do if it were a family member.
I now feel a bit guilty for not only owning only two dogs, but for thinking when our now 14 year old Rat Terrier passes away, to not get another (I am already grieving, it will be a very painful loss).
You are inspiring to anyone who has loved a dog, and to anyone who would like to travel long-term with their pets. Thanks so much for sharing and all the excellent information, hope we meet on the road, Molly
More Articles on American Trip Travel Series:
Introducing Road Trip USA Travel Series
Interview with Tiny r(E)volution.us
Montana to Oregon Road Trip
Homeschooling on the Road
Workamping While Traveling By RV
Free Overnight RV Parking
Photograph courtesy of Michelle R., all rights reserved.