Digital Nomad Life: Pupdate!
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
From the 'Raise Your Game' monthly newsletter
Our little VanPup is now 6 months old and to celebrate, I thought I'd put together a little piece on how we decided if a dog was for us, what she is like to live with, the adjustments we've had to make and when having a dog has become a bit more problematic than we expected while travelling.
How we decided to get a dog
When thinking of an animal companion to suit not only our new life of travelling but also which is child friendly and generally accepted in most social situations, a dog ticked all the boxes for us! We already spend half our days outside, our 2-year-old daughter needs at least a couple of walks a day otherwise she gets cabin fever in the van very quickly and we very rarely go somewhere a dog can't go for more than an hour or two altogether (think swimming baths or eating out), so when it came to talking about what kind of furry friend to get, a dog made the most sense!
Great! That's the big picture. We'd like a dog and it could fit in with our lives right now when everything is going smoothly, but what about those other niggly details like:
Where would it sleep? (not on the bed!)
Where would its food go? Would we have to pack up the food every time we drove somewhere (sometimes multiple times a day)
How would we keep it from just trekking mud in from outside?
Where would we store all its stuff? How much stuff do you NEED for a dog? How much does it cost every month?
Where do we want to go, where dogs aren't allowed? How much of a problem will that be for us as a family?
And a lot more...
By slowly working out as many of these smaller issues as we could think of, we got a much better sense of how exactly this pet ownership thing would work well for us and the doggo.
Cue, Eva Puppy!
All about Eva!
We did a ton of research over months on the breed of dog, temperament and kind of breeder to look out for and finally, we found a great ad in Nottingham for a litter of 6 fluffy white Bichon Frise's, who were being raised around a family with 3 kids! The breeder was lovely, Eva was the only girl with 5 boisterous brothers and the sweetest little thing when we visited. We were all smitten straight away and when we finally got her home, she took to our daughter Freya instantly and they've been best friends ever since (Including all the bickering about whose toys belong to who... although that's mainly one-sided from Freya).
She's a very friendly dog who rarely barks and loves nothing more than meeting new people and trying to lick their faces. She's excellent with Freya having a seemingly high tolerance for being pulled and poked when my back is turned and Freya used to wake up in the night and open her own door.. but soon learned the only thing it got her was some slobbery nighttime kisses! she is just a big snuggle bunny after a good walk. She's going to stay on the small side, about knee height and due to those little legs, doesn't need much walking before becoming a fluffy, snuggly couch potato.
So far, her only health issue has been the brown streaks under her eyes. These are because her tear ducts are blocked due to her size, therefore the fluid to clean her eyes which would normally drain away just spills over and stains her fur. As she gets bigger, they may open up but for now, we've been working on just cleaning her eyes regularly and keeping her face groomed.
Changes we've made to the Van
Bed: We have a little issue with space (I may have mentioned this before) but my awesome husband with his Masters in Engineering found the perfect spot behind the driver's seat to build a little pup chalet! It featured an extendable base for when she gets bigger and a good chunk of storage for all her doggy things underneath. It's a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Does the dog use it? Sometimes...
Lead hook: We’ve added a lead hook under the van door so once we hook her on in the morning, she can come and go as she likes (when in a safe location)
Dog equipment: Not just food, leads, bowls, etc, but to accommodate Eva on our various travels we've bought a doggie bike basket and doggie backpack (that she goes in, not that she wears) to make sure she can come with us everywhere we travel!
Shoes: Chris had to build another storage cupboard to keep our shoes off the floor… because puppies love chewing up shoes! That was something we found out later...
I would say that our lives haven't changed much more than the usual stuff new dog owners face, like puppy potty training, Freya loving us playing with Eva one minute and then being jealous of my attention the next (toddler brains!) and doggie separation anxiety (thankfully Eva doesn't really mind being left for a while, I think she likes the quiet)
I think some of the stand-out differences are:
When we leave Eva alone we have to make sure the van is well ventilated to keep her cool
It's a bit harder to play video games as when we get excited so does she and we get pounced on just as we're about to complete a level or finish a boss fight (it's like extra, extra hard puppy mode!)
And having to separate the 'kids' when they get too excited! That happens a lot right now!
But when is having a dog a real problem?
We could say it's annoying when she thinks it's playtime at 10pm and has a barking fit.
We could say I'm not finding as much time to train her as I thought I would and walks are still a bit of a drag right now.
And we could say it's a bit disappointing not being able to go to some places when she is with us because they don't allow dogs.
But those are mild inconveniences compared to when travel plans go wrong and we're stuck in a pretty sticky situation.
We recently had a bad experience in Italy, when we worked out we could save a bit of time and money if we left Maggie in a secure park up in Florence and went on a weekend break to Rome by train.
We could save 6 days of driving, cut out an overpriced ferry and get a romantic night in a hotel in the capital of Italy, but after a lovely couple of days sightseeing, we had a train that was cancelled after waiting 8 1/2 hours at the station with a toddler, a puppy and dwindling battery life on our phones.
This is where having a dog got really problematic. Could we find a dog-friendly hotel at 10 pm on a Friday night? Could we afford it? Would the taxi take a dog? Did we bring enough food for Eva for an extra day away? What on earth were we going to do if not?!
We panicked but in the end, we were so damn lucky to get the last dog-friendly hotel for miles. We were lucky that Eva's travel bag makes her super discrete and the taxi driver was fine. And we were lucky that I packed extra because I'm so paranoid about these things happening! Phew!
Is she a good travel dog?
Yes, 100%! She has fully settled into van life now but even when we first got her, she would just sleep on the drives upfront between me and Freya's car seat. Her and Freya love exploring new places, running, jumping and climbing on everything they see. She is such a social dog, new people are so exciting and we meet a lot of dogs where we like to park, so she has lots of playtime! and she comes with us on every city break, up mountains, through forests and into castles. She's our daughter's best friend, my lap dog and my husband's playmate, always keeping us entertained.
We love her so much and can't wait for what the next 15 years will be like with her!