Holiday Road Trippin’…

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I love a road trip. The love of being on the road was instilled in me at a young age traveling across the country far and wide seeing the Grateful Dead with my band of hippie brethren. I love the sound of the car, the feel of the road, the change of scenery and the slow progress of pavement under my tires every mile. I love the soundtrack I get to choose as I pass through the miles and miles… creating memories associated with tunes that last lifetimes for me.

This Thanksgiving holiday I was on the road for almost all of it. Sometimes things are bigger than you are, bigger than a feast of turkey and you need to forgo the norm and be present for something important that hopefully only ever happens once in a lifetime. A good friend, a sister of mine lost her brother in a horrid accident caused by a drunk driver that was senseless and sudden, and the family needed support. So off I went, piling Oscar in the car for the drive from South Florida to New Orleans and back for a funeral and some much needed hugs.

And that is what this post is about. Oscar and the road trip…

I have told you all before that Oscar is an odd dog. For me anyway. I have no idea his bloodline and I can only guess at best what he has in him that makes him so nutty. And this trip… being that it was close quarters for extended stints in the car, constant companionship and different scenarios… was like a crash course in who my dog is now that he is 15 months old.

Let me start off by reiterating his separation anxiety. He is a nutcase. If I have him in the car and get out to get gas, he loses his mind. He cries and whines and paces and gets shaky. This happens when I go outside the house to get the mail, when I leave him for a few minutes for anything. I mentioned prior that he has become destructive when I am at work, which goes in spurts. Some days he is really good and others he has destroyed things I had no idea he could or would. It is exciting to say the least. I got him around Thanksgiving last year and even though he has been through a “winter” here in Florida when I finally open up the house and turn off the AC, he does not clearly remember it. As soon as I opened up the sliders and let the air through the house he flipped out. He ran all over and did this odd “bark” constantly at whatever he heard. The neighborhood noises were just a bit too much for him I guess and he could not stop that wonderful “Bfffoff” noise that escapes from his chest every two seconds. Almost like a slight low energy protest bark.

So we have had a couple weeks of that on and off as it warmed up again and then cooled off again. Setting the tone for his anxiety for sure… and the road trip…

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So we piled in the car at 4:30am and took off in the dark for a very long drive. He was pretty sleepy so the first part of the drive was fine and uneventful. At times he would start to whine so I would stop at a rest stop and he would get out, sniff around but no peeing, pooping, eating or drinking. This was to be the state of things almost the entire trip. He barely ate anything and i had to pretty much force feed him at times, he would barely drink anything…. he peed and pooped ok but it was a lot of long walks and it was NOT warm out.

Ok disclaimer…. I live in south Florida. Right now it is average about 75 during the day… maybe 65 at night. This last weekend it was in the 30’s at times during this trip and I am not at all used to that temperature. So walking the dog in the cold back and forth, back and forth in a hotel parking lot was not at all what I wanted to be doing… and Oscar definitely was not in any hurry to do any business.

I took him to a state park in the Florida panhandle that first day to get him out of the car and to stretch our legs. We went to Falling Waters State Park and it was gorgeous! We took the nature trail around the forest and saw the largest waterfall in the state at 73ft… and tons of sinkholes. Sinkholes are stunning as long as there are no houses or roads built on them apparently! He did great too! He was off leash and ran ahead but stopped and waited for me whenever he lost sight of me. I wore him out and as we headed back to the car to start the next leg I tried to feed him. Nope. Not at all interested.

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We made it to Slidell about 7pm and stayed at a La Quinta Inn because it was way too cold to camp like I had planned. I did bring all the camping gear in hopes I would be able to stay at least one night on one of those beautiful panhandle beach campsites, but it never warmed up enough. So La Quinta it was and they are great, all pet friendly with no pet fees and the one in Slidell was awesome. Totally clean and new and had a great dog area. Louisiana people are always so nice and sweet. Always.

And this is when it really started with Oscar. He was a nutcase as soon as we got in the room. I am sure he could smell every dog that was ever in that room prior and he could not relax at all.  He paced and whined and did not eat or drink anything. It was pretty brutal. And this set the tone for the rest of the trip. I went to the funeral and left New Orleans around 3pm after the services. We headed East back to the Pensacola area, went to another State Park in Mississippi on the way that I cannot remember the name of (it may have been a county park actually), and did a nature trail, and then to Fort Walton Beach and stayed at another La Quinta. Same deal… pacing and anxiety and no eating or drinking.

I took him to Henderson Beach  State Park in Destin the following morning and we did another nature trail. This place was gorgeous too, and Oscar is a total beach dog. He loves sand!

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20131203-113729.jpgThen we headed to Tampa to yet another La Quinta, checked in and then headed over to Cigar City Brewery for dinner and beers. THIS is where I found my dog to be a complete stranger.

After trying to get him to eat dinner unsuccessfully in the room I gave up (he did eat little bits at a time during the trip OUT OF MY HAND and not the bowl I brought for him, but not nearly the normal amount) and we went over to the brewery. I have been wanting to go to this place for years now, I love their beer. They are doing some very unique flavors and I was excited to check them out and do some tastings. I was psyched when I called and they said they were dog friendly. I brought Oscar in and he was a handful right from the start. He would not do the bar so we got a table and he proceeded to crawl under it, shaking like a leaf and hiding from every person, male or female who walked by. When people would try to approach him in any way, even to give him a bowl of water… HE GROWLED!

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GROWLED!

My dog growled at people!!!! He acted like he was cornered and fearful, totally anxiety ridden and growled at people. ALL. NIGHT. LONG. I coaxed him to lay next to my chair and talked him down a bit here and there but there was really no reaching him. I was stunned. I stuck it out too… not letting him control my time and hoping he would settle in. He never really did.

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This is not the first time I have taken him to a restaurant or bar either. I have no idea what was going on. Maybe it was the entire trip combined that caught up with him, all this change and stress? Maybe the brewery smelled really weird to him? No idea…

I hung out for a while, ate some yummy food truck food, tasted some fine beers and bought a t-shirt and a couple six packs, and we went back to the hotel. I sat on the bed with him and he was simply EXHAUSTED.

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The next day we headed home after stopping at a farmer’s market where he yelped the entire time I was in sight buying fruit.

We have been back home for a couple days now and he is totally “normal”… eating like a small horse and being destructive as usual when I am at work. I am truly at a loss at what all of this was about. I cannot have him growl at people or be threatening in any way, and I do not think it was simply aggression. I think HE felt threatened. But when dogs feel threatened they are unpredictable and that scares me. I do not want him biting anyone… although I am not sure he has it in him to get that far. I had him in my reach the entire time and I scolded him for reacting that way… but who knows. I definitely was not certain I was in control when he growled and coward.

I guess I just need to get him out there more so he gets used to people and busier places… and I can test the situation again.

I also may try a DNA test on him to see what breeds are all mixed up in that nutty head of his. Everyone that sees him, that tail and the spots on his tongue say he is part Chow.  And Akita is also known for the curly tail as well. Chows definitely have interesting personalities and it may explain some of his weirdness.

Anyway, it was an intense get-to-know-you-better type of road trip with the boy. I now have a list of things to work on with him that I was not really aware of prior. But as with any pet, you take the good with the weird and the odd and you love them through it… that is what it is all about right? He loves me unconditionally even though I am a freak show… so whatever this is… we will get through it together…

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~ by Michelle Sammartino-Zeto on December 3, 2013.

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