Going on Vacation? What Happens to the Dog?

And fess up: Just how guilty does your pup make you feel about packing that suitcase?


If you’ve ever gone out of town and left your dog behind, you know that special form of guilt reserved for dog owners. It’s like dogs all have a degree in it.

Jake, my normally cheerful, smiling yellow Labrador retriever, has a master’s in Guilt. As soon as he hears a suitcase roll out of the closet, he knows someone from his clan is going to be leaving soon. Or maybe all of his humans will be hitting the road, taking him to a friend’s, or having a relative come over and watch him and the house.

And he gets the look you see in the photo above. It’s a killer. His eyes sag, his jowls get extradroopy, his head hangs low, and he mopes around the house like his world is ending.

This can last for days if I drag out a suitcase super early. So I usually leave packing until the last minute. Which is what I am doing as I write this. The suitcase is out and ready for packing as I get ready for my trip to New York City to promote my book Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America’s Canine Heroes, which is being published tomorrow. (I am excited!)

Sure, I’ll talk to Jake on Skype when I call the family, and he can watch me on Fox and Friends on Thursday morning, or MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday morning. (You can, too, but I know you won’t miss me like he does.) And my hubby and daughter will be staying home with him and keeping him grand company. But he will still mope. I won’t feel too bad, because he’ll be with His People. But I still feel a twinge of guilt, since he seems to miss me so much.

It’s way worse when we all go on vacation and leave him behind. We’ve never kenneled him, because we rescued him from a kennel nine years ago and we don’t want him to think he’s going back. (Yeah, I know, softies!) So he packs his own bag and goes to a friend’s house, or someone stays here with him.

When possible, we try to take him with us. This can work well for road trips within California, since I know the state’s dog-friendly places extremely well. (Credit my authorship of the 1,000-page book, The Dog Lover’s Companion to California, for this expertise.) It doesn’t work so well when we go to Tobago.

There are more places where you can take a dog on vacation then ever before, thanks to the fact that dogs are now really considered part of our families. Businesses are recognizing the golden opportunities to accommodate people traveling with dogs. And for times we can’t take our dogs, our cities and suburbs abound with stellar kennels with so many luxurious amenities that I wouldn’t mind staying there for my own vacations. (A massage, room service, and heated pool? Where do I make my rezzies?)

Friends and family can pitch in, too. And for those of us who don’t want to bother our pals and kin, there are services like Dog Vacay, which provide real, vetted homes for your dog to stay in during your absence –- literally a home away from home.

Back to Mopeland Central. I leave in just a few hours. And Jake will follow me to the door. And he will sit at it and stare at me through the beveled glass, his lonesome, glass-distorted visage haunting me as I load up and head off. And even though I’m stoked for my upcoming trip, I’ll leave with a little twinge of guilt as I drive away.

This got me wondering whether you go through something similar when you go away. Has your dog been to Guilt University, too? How does it make you feel? And that got me thinking about what you do with your dog when you go on vacation: Do you take him with you if at all possible? If you leave him behind, does he go to a kennel or stay with Grandma — or do you have other arrangements?

Let’s talk! I can’t wait to read about your experiences! I wouldn’t wish Jake’s guilting (a new verb, thanks to him) on anyone, but I hope I’m not alone in that department.

1 thought on “Going on Vacation? What Happens to the Dog?”

  1. Maria, it’s so true that it can be hard to leave your dog behind. My husband and I got a dog about a year ago and are planning to go on an extended vacation. We usually ask my sister to watch your pet while we’re out of town, but she’ll be on a trip the same time as well. I appreciated that you shared your experience. I’ve heard that there people who use Skype or FaceTime to check on their dogs if they leave them with pet boarding services.

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