For the first time in about four years we decided we would have a holiday this summer; a proper one, not a 'I'm not at work but I'm holidaying from home' staycation, but one where you actually travel to somewhere different and live there for a while, enjoying the new sights, sounds, experiences and relax a little.
This was the first holiday we've had since moving to France and also the first holiday since owning our second dog, Papy, so it was always going to be a bit of an adventure into the unknown. And it was this that got me wondering...
What do other folks do when they want to go away? Do they pack up the whole family (including pets) and leave en masse, or are other alternatives used?
For us and our circumstances there was only ever going to be one set of choices we'd make – find a self-catering cottage, or 'gîte' here in France, that takes dogs and set off in the car to somewhere new, while some very kind and generous daily help fed the birds for us and kept the veggies watered. That was going to be 'interesting' enough for us!
But what do you do? Do beloved pets get found a loving temporary home while you go away, be it pet-sitters or professional boarding arrangements? Do you get house-sitters? If you take a pet with you, what sort of living arrangement works; cottage, pet-friendly hotel, camping? And most importantly how do you all cope with it? Is this an annual habit that everyone loves or does chaos and trauma ensue? I'd love to know.
For us, our first dog, Lady, was fine – she took it in her stride as an old hand and even reverted to the behaviour of a younger dog, with new smells and things to explore. Papy however, was a little bit more of a handful.
We knew the car travel itself would be a possible challenge as the distance would be greater than anything we'd ever done with him before. Up to this point most of our trips had been local and though he'd done OK, it had all been a bit 'exciting' for him. I'm pleased to say he did great in the car, after the initial restlessness of the new, he settled down during the big motorway stretch, so we were really pleased with that, even though we'd booked somewhere only a couple of hours or so away.
Meeting other dogs had always been a bit exciting too, but by the end of the week the gîte's owners' dog was less new and more like a potential friend. And a new place to stay and sleep wasn't that tricky either it turned out.
The one thing we did learn about him was that he's more upset by volumes of noise, traffic and people than we'd realised. We've taken him new places since we've had him of course – the vets naturally, walks other than the two daily ones – but when we attempted a walk from a village with tourist traffic and noise, we discovered he was exceedingly nervous, so much so that we had to abandon the attempt and return back to our holiday home. There was a bit too much shaking and hyperactivity for us all I'm afraid.
Anyway, we all live and learn and he was soon back to his normal self. Luckily we found another walk the following day where the starting point was a lot calmer for him and he did brilliantly. So we've learnt for the future, both what to avoid and where we may need to attempt to work to help him improve.
But all this of course got me to pondering, so please let me know what you do on your holidays, especially if you're a pet owner; I'm so interested to know.