Traveling With A Senior Dog: An Interview With Paroma and Babu
When Babu the Tibetan Spaniel Mix was adopted from the San Jose SPCA, life was just him and his dad. Then Paroma came along. His new mom was initially scared of dogs, but Babu changed all of that. He showed her how great living with a dog by your side can be! Now, the 16-year-old pup can be found living his best life in San Francisco with his family and taking trips throughout California.
Read on to learn how Paroma travels with her senior dog, and continues to bond with him while on the road.
What inspired you to travel with your dog?
I love to travel and honestly leaving Babu behind would always turn out to be the toughest part of our travel plans. Being an anxious person by nature, I am still not comfortable with him going on flights with us because he is over the weight limit to be in the cabin and I really don’t think he is calm enough to qualify as an ESA. So whenever we fly overseas or out of state for vacation, Babu is left behind with our family in the Bay Area.
However, because I miss him a lot while traveling we decided to take him on at least three or four local trips every year so that we get more quality time with him and he gets to explore the world beyond San Francisco. Babu loves hiking – he is a very curious boy by nature – and does great on long drives. He’s very low maintenance, so traveling with him was the best decision that we’ve ever made.
How do you prepare your dog for the journey?
Honestly, Babu does great in the car so we really never had to bother about that part. We’ve had him in the car with his bed, food and water for two hours at a stretch and he has done fine (he just goes to sleep). We just make sure that we limit our destination to within four hours of driving and always take breaks every two hours to ensure that he gets some exercise.
What is the hardest part about traveling with your dog?
Finding dog-friendly hotels that do not cost an arm and a leg. Thankfully, with the arrival of Airbnb, we have more options now.
What’s your favorite thing about traveling with a dog?
The fact that I can spend some quality time with Babu exploring new places is the best part about traveling with him.
Babu is 16-years-old now and we know that we are living on borrowed time with him. So getting to enjoy beautiful destinations with him is our way of creating everlasting memories. Be it a hike, beach or a new restaurant, it is always more fun when Babu is with us. Plus, it makes me very happy to see him in the lap of nature where he can be himself.
We live in a crowded city (San Francisco) and although it is a super dog-friendly city, there is not enough nature and solitude to truly relax unless you get away. California spoils you with its sheer abundance of natural beauty.
The other thing about traveling with Babu is that it gives me a terrific chance to bond with him. I know it feels weird to say this but I grew up with a terrible fear of dogs and the fear stayed with me for 30 years of my life until I met Babu in San Francisco. Even then, our first days together were difficult for me because of my inherent mistrust of dogs, and for no fault of their own. Although Babu has converted me into a rabid dog mom with his unconditional love, I am still somewhat the proverbial adult who distracts the kids while the more responsible one keeps paddling a boat in the choppy waters. So planning for a trip with Babu and exploring new destinations with him makes me feel closer to my boy.
How did your style of travel change with a dog in tow?
I need to do a lot of planning when researching for vacation with Babu. The driving distance, dog-friendly accommodations, dog-friendly activities and restaurants are something I always map out for a particular destination. Babu’s comfort and well being comes first and we don’t want him to feel left out of anything. He goes wherever we go, so I have to make very sure that those places we are going to welcome dogs.
How do you find accommodations on your journeys?
I use the internet, and of course dogtrekker.com for all of our California travels as well as Bring Fido. These are all helpful resources. I sometimes ask a few of my friends who have dogs for references if they’ve been somewhere we are planning to go. The latter is how we heard of Murphys, a quaint little town in California.
We’ve also used Airbnb quite a bit in the last few years for dog-friendly accommodations and have really loved the experience.
What are some essential items that you pack for your dog?
Babu’s bed, a blankie, food and water bowls, his food and treats, doggie waste bags, his harness and leash. We are pretty low key when it comes to traveling with him. I have recently started using the Dogtrekker app to keep a tab on dog-friendly recommendations at our destination.
What surprised you the most about traveling with dogs?
Two things: finding a hotel that does not charge an exorbitant pet fee and the number of beaches in California that are surprisingly not accessible to dogs. No matter what, we are always respectful of all rules and never take Babu somewhere he is not supposed to be by law.
Babu is now 16 (wow!). How has your travel with him changed, now that he’s a senior dog?
Our travel has not changed much because the three of us are not into high intensity activities like long distance hiking or canoeing or wilderness exploration since we all (Babu included) are very much city folks, haha. Our vacations with Babu include long, leisurely walks and dog parks or hiking trails for as long as Babu enjoys them and mostly urban activities like eating out or visiting shops/attractions where he is allowed. Babu has not shown signs of slowing down yet (knock on wood) and as long as he does not show any signs of discomfort or pain, we will continue to follow our old routine.
Name a trip highlight.
All of our trips with Babu, from wine country to the Redwoods, have been very memorable, but the one travel memory that really stands out is when we went to see the mini old Faithful Geyser in Calistoga, Napa on Tubbs Lane. Dogs are allowed in there and we sat with Babu in the viewing area watching the geyser erupt periodically, like clockwork. There is also an enclosure where goats and llamas roam and you are allowed to feed them. Babu was very taken aback by the friendly goats and kept on getting in the way as we tried to feed them. I think he felt a little jealous.
What advice do you have for people who want to travel with their dog, but are nervous to do so?
Traveling with dogs is such a fun, liberating and joyful experience. It is not the smoothest or most convenient of all, but is intensely rewarding. The best way to start is by doing small local trips to test out how good your dog is in the car and his or her temperament in unknown places. Doing thorough research before traveling is very important to seek out places, accommodations and restaurants that allow dogs so that both humans and canines can have a fun time. There are quite a few pet-friendly travel blogs where pet parents like me provide first hand, personalized experience of their travels which can come in very handy for planning purposes. During your trip, make sure that your dog is always comfortable and is never left unattended in a new place since that can be scary for him or her. Finally, please be a responsible pet parent and follow all rules (hotels/public places) for an enjoyable and memorable travel experience.
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