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Scotties on the Road

Our annual trek to the Cincinnati Scotty Friends Convention in June starts shortly after Christmas when Mother Worry Wart begins a renewed search for the safest way to transport pets by automobile on a 2200 mile round trip.

It began three years ago with our first trip to the convention as Newbies. Bella and Barkley were free range Scotties, having their way with the back seat. They slipped and slid on the leather seats, occasionally fell into the floor and generally made nuisances of themselves playing without any restraints. They were also in danger with ignorant adults in charge, but fortunately made that trip home safely.

The following year I discovered seat belts that hooked to their collars or harnesses online and bought two sets, one for each car. They were long enough to let them move around a bit, but would keep them from flying out of the car in an accident. This year, full blown paranoia for my precious pets set in after I joined the Board of Texas Scottie Rescue and read daily reports of the horrors visited upon dogs untethered in car accidents, escapes from moving cars, or dogs lost in the woods. I not only researched better seat belt controls, but purchased life vests for water hazards, should we run into any of those, too. (We do cross the Mississippi on the way). We started with the simple mesh harnesses that were most comfortable for the dogs, and clipped nicely into the seat belts I had already installed. However, I wasn’t satisfied with that, and decided that sturdier restraints would be safer. I Googled all the dog sites from BudgetPet to PetMountain and everywhere in between, settling on Bergan Dog Auto Harness with Tether and Mutt Gear Over the Head Harness by Doggles (with attached handle or tether). The hammocks, zip lines and other things looked too loose or too complex. After a two-day car packing job we were ready to take off and started “dressing” the Scotties in their new armor. Dave started the Bergan set with Barkley and Bella ran into our room to hide under the bed. Great. Off to a good start. I decided to take over and Dave found the instructions. The Bergan set was so twisted and maladjusted by this time that I could not figure out which end went where. Barkley was too wiggly to hold on to, the clock was ticking on our take-off time and we were all frustrated.

Bella was moaning from under the bed, not knowing if she was going to be left behind or put through the new armor torture test. We put them on the leash and left home, vowing to drive with extra caution until we made our first stop and THEN we’d put them in their proper armor. They happily fell asleep in the back seat, tethered only to their ordinary seat belts. At the first stop we were both too tired to fight with them and declared the day’s exercise over. Tomorrow would start bright and early when we’d deal with the new safety armor for our precious Scotties. The next morning part of the Bergan set was missing. We could not find the tether, so it was useless to try to figure out how to put the suit of armor on…there was no way to tether it to the seat belt. And how did we tether one without tethering the other? How do you choose which pet to save? This wasn’t “Sophie’s Choice”, so both dogs got the day off from new armor trials. By the third day in the car, we didn’t care if any of us got there safely or not. We just wanted to get there…no matter what condition we arrived in.

Once there, we unloaded our doggie play pen, another new purchase to take the place of their heavy, bulky steel crates. The hotel insists on crating your dogs at night, so we discovered a polyester eight-sided pen that folds flat and weighs very little, with a bottom and a mesh top so the carpet is protected and they cannot get out. Everyone was amazed with our answer to the travel requirements and we were proud of our clever ideas, too, until we came back to the room the first night out and were greeted by Barkley and Bella at the door. Barkley had “dug” his way out of the pen by finding the Velcro points and tearing them apart. He tunneled underneath and Bella gladly followed. The doggie play pen was intact, if sagging a bit on one side. My next strategy, (if they still make them) is to use diaper pins to reinforce the Velcro, but keep him from being able to open the pins and hurting himself. It may be fruitless…how do you outsmart a Scottie? On the return trip, all parts had been located and instructions read, but the Bergan set was too complex for either one of us to figure out. Not only was it a challenge to get it on the dog, the tethering was going to require some kind of permanent addition to the car that we were not prepared to make, and it was too much to undertake for one vacation trip. So, we turned all our attention to the Mutt Gear. I had purchased a small for Bella and a Medium for Barkley. They differ by about 5 to 6 pounds, but it’s enough to place them in different size categories. Dave had difficulty adjusting the belt on Barkley’s harness, so I took him and found he had put it on backwards, too. Once it was switched, the fit was a little better, but really too loose. Bella’s was too tight. But Bella had worn a harness much of her life, so she was not uncomfortable in it. Barkley, however, acted like a bucking bronco at first, then acted like a man covered in mosquito bites…he fell on the ground and tried to wiggle out of it. Then he rubbed against a wall trying to get it off. He pulled, scratched and bit at it, trying to get it off, but nothing worked…until they walked for a break. That’s when Barkley came running back sans harness! Dave was flying behind him with Bella and an empty leash with a limp harness hanging on the end, yelling, “Catch him!” All I had to do was say, “Hi Barkley, ready to go?” And he hopped into the back seat, ready to proceed without the safety harness. The Medium size was too large for his neck. All he had to do was stand still while Dave walked ahead and he pulled out of it. The little fellow is clever. He had it figured out before we did…all he had to do was wait for the next rest stop and take a stand. We let him ride the rest of the way home bare-backed. Bella kept her harness on, since she wasn’t complaining about it, and we just hooked Barkley to the ordinary seat belt. At least he would not be thrown from the car in case of an accident.

Outfoxed by the smart Scottie, I still haven’t given in on the safety issue. Another website,, had some of the camouflage Mutt Gear in stock last week, and after seeing it on two Scotties at the convention dressed as “Duck Dynasty” dogs, I couldn’t resist. So this time I got two Smalls. Barkley will just have to be a little uncomfortable on our next road trip. We’ll see what Houdini trick he comes up with to get out of this one!

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