This past Thanksgiving my family decided to make the 12-hour drive from Atlanta to Philadelphia to spend a week with my husband’s family for the holiday. In addition, our dog sitter backed out last minute so our 1 year-old puppy, Wally, came along.
Since my husband’s family has 3 dogs of their own and have never had a baby in their house, we did a lot of co-planning ahead of time to make sure things went smoothly. To help introduce their dogs to Sadie, we sent some of Sadie’s things a few weeks prior to our arrival so the dogs could get used to her scent. My husband’s family baby-proofed their house by covering all of the outlets. They also graciously offered to buy a crib and provide dog food for Wally so we didn’t have to worry about bringing those things in the car.
There were a couple extra things I packed that went a long way on our trip: blackout curtains and the pack n’ play. We ended up putting Sadie’s crib in our bathroom because that was the quietest space in my in-law’s house, but it had two high windows that made the room really bright. Using some tacks, I easily hung the blackout curtains and made the bathroom a dark, sleeping oasis. Even though my mother-in-law bought a crib, we brought the pack n’ play just in case. That way, if we ever needed a place to quickly put Sadie down, we wouldn’t have to worry about her with 4 dogs running around. It ended up being a great place for Sadie to play and practice standing while still being able to see everyone, and we could keep her toys there when she went to bed so the dogs wouldn’t steal them.
A 12-hour car trip with a 10 month-old is rough. Obviously, Sadie slept well when it was nap time because the motion of the car lulled her to sleep. However, entertaining her when she was awake took a lot of energy. I sat in the backseat with her and would alternate singing and playing with her to letting her play on her own when she wanted. I saved her favorite toys for times when she started to get ornery. Whenever we’d stop, I’d change her and let her crawl around the backseat for a few minutes to get her sillies out. For the one meltdown she had, the most important thing was to keep the whole car calm – it can be very stressful when you’re in a confined space with a screaming baby. Especially in traffic. I would tell my husband what was going on and told Wally it was ok. I kept trying different things to calm her down but of course nothing worked. Eventually, I put a blanket over the side of her carseat closest to me so she couldn’t see me. Then she was able to calm herself down by looking out the window and fell asleep. (Meltdowns can be exhausting!) Wally actually behaved very well and slept in his bed on the floor for most of the ride. (Tip: We stopped feeding him the night before so he wouldn’t have anything in his stomach in case he felt carsick.) Thankfully, we all made it in one piece.
When we first arrived, we introduced each of the dogs on leases to gauge their reaction to each other. Wally got along ok with 2 of the dogs but the third dog, Tyler, was not as friendly (which we expected). To slowly get them used to each other, we’d keep Wally in his crate when Tyler was out, and put Tyler away when Wally was out. After a few days of that, we tested having them both out on leases and would correct Tyler with a water bottle if he growled or bared his teeth at Wally. By the last couple of days, Tyler and Wally were able to be around each other no problem.
We introduced Sadie to each of the dogs as well. It seemed to help that they were used to her smell. They were either very friendly or didn’t show any interest in Sadie. Ultimately, we just had to make sure they didn’t play too close to Sadie so she wouldn’t get knocked over.
Even though driving and family holidays can be stressful, in the end we made a lot of great memories and had fun doing it! We were able to bring everything we needed, Sadie and Wally both loved all of the attention, and I enjoyed getting little breaks. 🙂