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Lisa Unleashed: On the Road With Linx & Adele

Published: June 25, 2016 at 12:00 am

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Packing up the dogs and heading out to a National Specialty, a dog show hosted by a national breed club of one particular breed, is an event on every serious purebred dog breeder and exhibitor's bucket list. It's usually held annually and attracts several hundred to several thousand entrants, depending on the popularity of the breed. Esteemed judges, many times from the breed's country of origin, are invited to officiate and evaluate dogs. Breeders who have spent decades, if not a lifetime, breeding for healthy temperaments and structures so their breed can perform its original function such as hunting, herding, or in the Norwegian Elkhound's case, tracking moose for miles across rugged Scandinavian terrain, bring forth their best to show.

Last week I packed up two of my "elkies" 9-year-old champion Linx and 2-year-old bitch Adele and headed to Illinois for the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America National Specialty. A ten-day odyssey not for the faint of heart. This is my seventh National and each year brings new friends found and old friendships reunited. As much as it's a dog show, it's also a social event as well as a networking opportunity to meet the breed's most knowledgeable experts from all over the world. Inevitably, participants find themselves after a long day of dog showing discussing the day's events over drinks in the hotel bar. It also leads to reminiscing about the fun events at past shows.

 

Travel Learning Curve

My first specialty was 20 years ago and all the knowledge I've gained on how to properly travel with dogs had not yet been gained. After I packed three collapsible wire crates into the hatchback area, I loaded three freshly bathed dogs, still damp, into the back seat of my Honda Civic and took off to Milwaukee. This was before I learned how to blow dry my dogs with a high-speed blower that removes shedding coat with ease. In the old days, I'd have to brush it all out by hand. I was running late and thought I could brush them out when I arrived in Wisconsin, 14 hours later!

But as I drove West that year, I rolled down the front windows just enough to get a little fresh air into the stale dog breath enveloping me. The air flow was just right to create a circular pattern into the back seat over the fuzzy dogs. Soon, an inside "furricane" was reaching category five strength. By the time we reached Ohio, my head was covered, my eyes were stinging and my mouth was breathing in all of those little gray elkhound coat hairs. I stopped to by a Dust Buster to try and vacuum those same hairs off the cloth seats to no avail. Four years later when I bought my first minivan, a proper dog show travel vehicle, I was still digging out small gray hairs from the carpet and crevices of the Honda Civic.

 

Routine Rules!

As I packed this year, I loaded four plastic Vari-Kennels into my second minivan, a Honda Odyssey, which has now traveled almost 200,000 miles. These crates are the best for containing any errant dog hair as you crank down the climate control to 65 degrees to keep the heavy-coated dogs comfortable as we travel. Also, bathing and blow drying the dogs a few days prior to departure keeps furricanes at bay.

It's important when traveling, I learned, to keep dogs on their same routine if possible. Feeding at the same time. Walks at the same time. Sleeping at the same time. Understandable, this isn't always possible on the road. And remember that dogs can get stressed out a bit when they travel, so plan a walk and water break for them every three to five hours when traveling long distances. Basically, when you think you need a break, they do too.

My number one rule when on the road to keep dogs in peak condition is to carry plenty of bottled spring water with you. At one specialty in the distant past I foolishly fed my dogs water from the tap at the local hotel. Soon, I had to manage diarrhea on four dogs. It seemed like all I did for several days was walk dogs outside to relieve themselves and using copious amounts of poop bags. I even made trips to a local vet to get medication and then a local Chinese restaurant to make loads of white rice and boiled chicken for my pack. This experience was something I never wanted to repeat for me or my dogs.

As I headed West last week, I had packed ten gallons of spring water, five rolls of poop bags, a box of their food and, of course, their favorite toys for playtime in the hotel room. It's Adele's first big road trip and she will be taught the fun art of jumping between double beds while on the road. This tradition, taught to generations of my dogs, keeps them entertained. Stay tuned for next week's installment about our experiences this year at the show and on the road. I will prove that no matter how well prepared you are and how many miles you have traveled, if something can go wrong, it usually does!

Lisa Peterson - lifelong equestrian, show dog breeder and award-winning podcaster, communications professional and journalist - writes about horses, hounds and history at lisalnleashed.com. Reach her at elvemel@gmail.com or @LisaNPeterson.

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