Running with the Pack

Over the years, we’ve observed that when you leave the congenial world of RVing, people tend to view full-timing with a fair amount of skepticism and apprehension. Perhaps there’s something about the nomadic lifestyle that makes some folks feel uneasy. I don’t know. But clearly, one of the most illuminating comments we’ve heard about full-timing has to do with our pets – specifically our dogs. Every so often, after people find out that we live in an RV with our pets, their comment is, “We could never do that to our animals”. The first time we heard that remark, we were a little surprised. After all, we’ve always considered ourselves to be animal lovers as well as sensible pet owners. So when someone suggests that we’re subjecting our pets to an inappropriate lifestyle – we get a little annoyed. But rather than shoot the messenger, I’ve decided to discuss the issue openly to see if, in fact, there is something morally wrong with imposing our nomadic lifestyle on our pets. Before we became full-time RVers, we lived in a large house in a residential neighborhood on the coast of Maine. Back then, our two dogs spent most of their time inside the house, sitting by our side. It didn’t matter whether we were in the kitchen or in the living room. Wherever we were, so were they. There were two activities that our dogs truly enjoyed. The first were walks. The second were rides in the car. As a practical matter, our dogs usually had three walks per day which consisted of a leisurely 15 minute stroll around the block. During these walks, our dogs would analyze shrubs; check out interesting smells; and investigate a wide array of suburban artifacts for recent activity. If they were lucky, they would get a chance to surprise a neighborhood cat. In the winter, the walks were often very brief because of the bitter cold. On summer weekends, we would frequently take our dogs to a park or the beach. If there was no one around, they would run without leashes. Our dogs love the water and are happiest when they are up to their bellies in water and mud. Like us – our dogs enjoyed a relatively secure and predictable existence. Yet at the same time, they also suffered from a detectable degree of boredom. For example, even though they had a large, fenced-in back yard, neither of our dogs wanted to stay out there. In fact, our youngest dog spent most of his time digging under the fence in an endless attempt to escape from his suburban lifestyle. Similarly, when they weren’t going on walks – our dogs spent a lot of time sitting around and moping. After a while, they even stopped chasing the cats. That was four years ago. Today, our dogs spend their time living and traveling in a 34-foot motorhome. In truth, I’m not sure whether they even remember what it’s like to live in a regular house. Yet in some ways, very little has changed for our dogs since becoming full-time RVers. They still spend the majority of their time sitting by our side. They love going for walks. And when we get into our minivan to explore new places, they yip and howl until we are forced to bring them with us. Yet in other ways, life is very different for our dogs. Instead of going on the same walk every day, our dogs now get to explore new environments all the time. Their walks are longer, more frequent, and infinitely less predictable. Instead of encountering the neighborhood cat – our dogs now get to see wild turkeys, packs of coyotes, snakes, deer, alligators, and an endless assortment of other dogs. Best of all, because we no longer stay in an area that has cold weather, our dogs get to enjoy extended walks 365 days a year. In January of last year, they were exploring the shores of a beautiful lake in southern Arizona. In past winters in our house, our dogs spent every night sleeping in front of the TV. This winter, they’ll sit in front of a campfire, under the stars each night. In short – our dogs get to enjoy many of the same advantages of full-time RVing that we do. Cesar Milan, the extremely talented dog behaviorist, (otherwise known as the “Dog Whisperer”) believes that dogs have a life-long need to move forward in an endless quest for exploration and discovery. It could explain why coyotes and wolves continuously move on to new territories – even though they have enough food. It might also explain why our dogs rejected their fenced in yard back in Maine. Even though it was spacious, it offered nothing in the way of exploration or adventure. Full-time RVing, while not perfect, does provide our dogs with a comfortable version of the adventuresome lifestyle they seem to need. Are there better lifestyles for pets than full-time RVing? No doubt. I’ve always believed that the perfect life for a dog or a cat (or a person) would be to work on a family farm in a warm tropical setting. But until we find some way to pull that one off – we’ll have to stick with cruising the nation’s back roads looking for something new and exciting. In the meantime, if you pass us on the highway and notice our dogs holding up a sign in the window that reads “SAVE US” – keep it to yourself. If you are interested in RVing with your dog and wondering how much it might cost, see RVing with Dogs - The Bottom Line.