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How to Road Trip With Dogs and Cats

September 29, 2016

I’m no dog whisperer. And I’m certainly not a cat queen. But I learned a thing or two this summer that I hadn’t set out to master. And that was how to drive across the country with two dogs and a cat.


As many of you know, we moved from San Diego to Terre Haute in July. Of course, the packing and saying goodbye to friends and family was stressful, but the part of it all I was most stressed about was driving my pets across country for three to four days.

Flying was not going to happen since Cody, our 3-year-old boxer/Shepard mix, was too big to fly in the cabin and there’s no way I would subject him to the baggage hold. So road trip it was!

I turned to Google and the Interwebs to see what others have done, but I didn’t find too much information that was of value. Our veterinarian was wonderful, and did give me some super helpful tips for traveling with pets, especially our cat, Tess.

In this post, I’m detailing how I prepared for the road trip, and what I learned in hopes it will help others who may need to travel across country with dogs and a cat.


The Preparations

My vet reassured me the dogs will be pretty manageable since they are content as long as they’re with their owners. Yes, they would be nervous being away from their home; but as long as I was there, they wouldn’t be too anxious. And that’s exactly what happened with Cody and Casey.

Cats, however, are a different story. Tess would require some preparation before departure day. Our vet said we need to get Tess used to thinking her crate was the safest place in the world (a feeling she clearly did not have at the time). To do this, here’s what he said to do:

1. About one to two weeks before the departure date, start Operation Move the Cat. Place the crate about a foot behind the cat’s food bowl. About twice a day, spray a dose of Feliway, a soothing cat pheromone, in the crate. The spray is designed to soothe cats and reduce stress.


2. Each day after the first, I would move the food bowl a little bit closer to the crate. And I’d continue to spray the Feliway in the crate. He also suggested spraying it around the cat’s liter box and in the car.

3. Once the bowl is directly in front of the crate, start moving the food bowl into the crate with the goal to eventually have it at the back of the crate. This would force Tess into the crate to eat, but she’s feel comfortable doing so.

I was skeptical about the process. Tess is a pretty smart cat who NOT a fan of the crate. I was sure she’d see right through this plan and go on a hunger strike to protest. But you know what? IT WORKED!


The Big Road Trip

The day before the big day, I filled our Honda CRV with the dog’s leashes, dozens of plastic bags, our large plastic bin of dog food, bag of cat food, container of dog treats, many bottles of water, their food and water bowls, and the liter box (packed the morning we left). I tried to keep things consistent, bringing their regular food and same bowls. I also packed in the car a blanket we used on the bed so they had something with the smell of home.

The dogs hopped right in the car, thinking they were just going on another car ride. Tess did meow and tried to scratch out of the crate every time we started up each day. But she calmed down fairly quickly and seemed soothed by the dogs’ presence. The three of them had the entire back seat since Sophie wanted nothing to do with the “dog car” and elected to ride with the kids in the other car.


We typically started the day around 8 a.m. and drove for about four hours. I took the dogs out on their leash and let them stretch their legs. I offered the dogs water at each stop. I tried offering water to Tess, but she wasn’t interested. In Tuscon, Arizona, we actually found a dog park, which was fun for about 15 minutes, until the 103-degree heat forced everyone back in the car. And then four to five hours later, we’d stop again for potty breaks and water.

The hardest part of driving across country with dogs and a cat was a lack of restaurants that had any type of outdoor seating. And since it was late July in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, it was way too hot to leave the animals in the car.

While I didn’t expect the pit stops to be like the trendy SoCal spots that welcomed dogs like children, I was surprised at the lack options for people traveling with pets. We were on interstate highways, and surely not the first to be making cross-country trips with dogs.

But we made do, and I was extremely grateful to my friend, Jessica, who helped me with pet duty. We’d take turns eating inside, and the other would sit in the air-conditioned car with the fur kids.


At night we stayed in La Quinta hotels, which are pet friendly. Everyone seemed to enjoy their hotel stay. I was a little worried about letting Tess out of her crate for fear she would find a place to hide and I’d never be able to get her back into the crate. But she was amazing! She came out of the crate, used her liter box, ate her food, sipped some water, and slept on the bed with me, Sophie, Casey and Cody, just like at home.

And then the next day, we did it all over again.

We spent four days on the road before arriving at our new house in Terre Haute. The vet said it would take the pets about two weeks to feel like they’re in their home again. That happened much faster once our furniture arrived.


So there you have it: how I made a road trip from California to Indiana with two dogs and a cat. I can’t say I’d want to do it all again. But in hindsight, it really wasn’t bad at all. And those long stretches where I was driving with Casey, Cody and Tess, accompanied by my music, were actually quite peaceful.

Thanks for reading this long post, which was likely either super helpful to you, or really boring. Have you ever driven across country with pets?



Monday Musings ~ September 26

September 26, 2016

Happy Monday! Not to sound like a cliché, but how is it the last week of September?!


1. Indiana is known as the Crossroads of America, mainly because of the corner of downtown Terre Haute where the nation’s first major north-south and east-west highways intersect. At this historic spot, there are several plaques on the ground that contain inspirational quotes. Each time I visit, a different phrase stands out to me. On a recent visit to the Crossroads, the plaque above caught my attention. Perhaps that old adage is true: that you see what you need to only when you’re ready to take it in.

2. Rolling Stone released a list of the top 100 television shows of all time. I had fun going through and counting how many shows I’ve seen. I have mixed feelings about the top two picks. And while I do agree “The Sopranos” was breakthrough television, I’m not quite sure I agree where it ended up on the list. Did it truly pave the way for shows like “Breaking Bad,” “The Wire” and “Mad Men” that followed? What are your thoughts?

3. Do you know what your Patronus is yet? Mine is a Thestral and it’s supposedly rare. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, Pottermore released its new quiz on Friday so Harry Potter fans can figure out their spirit, or shield against evil. But the best part of all is this Buzzfeed article detailing how upset people are about their Patronus results. Read this! It’s hysterical, Mean Tweets style!

4. So although I’m a classic Generation Xer who grew up in the 1980s, I’m really not as nostalgic for that decade as so many others seem to be. 80s music? I’m honestly okay if I never hear it again. 80s parties? Not my thing (okay if we’re being honest, parties aren’t really my thing seeing as I’m an introvert). But nonetheless, this list of 39 things girls who grew up in the 1980s understand is pretty much spot on. Plastic charm necklaces, Tinkerbell make-up, My Lil’ Pony, Lisa Frank, Lip Smackers, Teen Works — I owned all that excess.

5. Finally, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen shares advice she’d give to new food bloggers, ten years after she started her blog. In the article she said, “I fully expected Smitten Kitchen to be a 6-month endeavor; nobody was going to read about cooking from an opinionated non-expert.” So does she think writers should start a food blog today?

6. Speaking of food blogs, “Julie and Julia” was on television the other day and I was reminded of how much I can’t stand the Julie character (in the movie and the book). Meryl Streep as Julia Child though? SO good!

What’s going on in your life? What are you thinking about this Monday in September?

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On Mental Illness, “Bates Motel” and a Culture of Violence

September 19, 2016

This summer I had the pleasure of binge-watching “Bates Motel.” For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it’s essentially a backstory of the relationship between the famous mother and son Norma an Norman Bates of “Psycho” fame. I LOVED this show! The rich storytelling and complicated characters drew me in and hasn’t let go yet (thank goodness there’s a final season in 2017).

But aside from the storytelling itself, something about “Bates Motel” resonated with me on a deeper level I was watching the last two seasons. And that something was a very clear message about mental health.


When Norma finally realized her son needed professional medical help, she went to a mental health facility to seek treatment. But she was met with resistance. There was no health insurance, no prior history, no solution. Norma was left to walk away without a solution.

While I’m aware this is a scene out of a television drama, unfortunately this scenario is all-too common in the real world.

Many years ago, someone close to me was in a bad state mentally. That person needed professional help. Like Norma, I tried to take action to get help. I called the appropriate insurance company and talked to a representative about bringing said person in to see a doctor.

Like Norma, what I was met with was resistance.

Sorry, the person needed to call themselves to get authorization, I was told. Once the person makes the class, we can refer them to a doctor to schedule an appointment.

But this person isn’t in a place to even pick up a phone, I reasoned. How on earth would they be expected to put on a cheery voice (or any voice for that matter) and call an insurance company for authorization?

Sorry, that’s all we can do, the woman said.

I don’t blame the receptionist on the phone. She was simply following company policy. It’s the policy and system that’s to blame.

If a person has a heart attack, you call 911 and paramedics immediately respond without question. If someone is sick and requires an emergency room visit, the hospital admits them without even needing insurance.

So why is it when something is wrong with a person’s psyche, that is called into question and it’s so difficult to obtain medical help?

“Bates Motel” did a great job of writing several scenes that illuminated this problem — that even when a person wants to get someone help, it’s not an easy task, especially if you don’t have the means or a willing patient.

This all leads me to the current state of our country with respect to tragic deaths and violence. It is becoming more and more clear that many of the individuals that commit horrible crimes and are behind massive shootings suffer from mental illness.

The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team published a fascinating, in-depth story on how the closing of psychiatric hospitals and the lack of replacement mental health care in Boston led to tragic and deadly consequences for families. There are reports the Orlando shooter was bipolar. The man who shot up the “Batman” movie theater in Colorado suffered from depression.

Now I’m NOT saying that if the Orlando shooter had gone to therapy, the atrocity wouldn’t have happened. Nobody – least of all me – can say for sure if a people suffering from mentally illness will go on to commit horrible crimes.

I appreciate “Bates Motel” for doing what they can to illuminate this issue, even if it’s just for entertainment purposes. And I’m grateful for journalists like the Spotlight Team for tackling this tough subject that many people don’t want to acknowledge. Perhaps we, as a society, can start looking at how the system plays a role in all this; how mental illness is still so stigmatized and how getting help is not an easy task.



Monday Musings ~ September 12

September 12, 2016

Happy Monday!


1. The Sycamore Farm barn photo was taken down the street from my house. It reminds me of the children’s board book, The Big Red Barn, by Margaret Wise Brown, which I used to read to Sophie when she was little. She loved that book (still does) and we always had fun trying to find the little kittens and Snoopy pail hidden in the pictures. It’s neat when a place reminds you of a sweet memory.

2. Did you do anything to commemorate September 11 yesterday? Last night I watched a documentary on CNN that detailed the minutes leading up to and after the attacks, filmed by a documentarian who was following several New York firefighters. The man was making a “day in the life of firefighters” story. But he ended up with something completely unlike any day.

Sophie asked me why I was watching something about the World Trade Center towers if I cry every time I see them. It occurs to me more and more that she will never share my feelings and understanding about September 11 because to her, it’s just something they learn about in school or seen in a YouTube video. It’s hard to believe it’s been 15 years since our world changed forever.

3. This story from ParentCo about talking to your kids about guns is a must-read! To be clear, I’m not against toy guns (or gun for that matter). Guns and children and safety are a reality in today’s parenting world. And like the writer says, no matter how much we tell our kids about guns and safety, we all know how well kids listen (read: sarcasm). This paragraph is spot on:

Play dates often come with a list of dietary restrictions or the occasional screentime policy review. And we’ve become accustomed to asking other parents if their child has allergies or other needs. … Asking about guns in the home should be that normal. Just an everyday question asked between parents. ‘Do you have guns in the house?’

4. I finally jumped on the #AmWriting podcast bandwagon and am now listening to all the old episodes to get caught up. #AmWriting is hosted by K.J. Dell’Antonia (New York Times “Well Family” columnist and contributing editor) and Jessica Lahey (The Gift of Failure). Each week they talk about writing, reading, pitching and getting things done. They offer great advice about writing and I’m finding their tips on completing projects and tasks extremely helpful.

5. Do you think mom blogs are dead? This article in PR Weekly offered a point / counter-point discussion about whether the contemporary mom blog is gone for good. I have a lot of opinions on this subject, which I’m saving for a future post. But I’d love to get your thoughts.

6. Finally, I watched “The Night Of” in two days. I won’t spoil the HBO mini-series, but I will say this: aside from the show being riveting, it did a great job of illuminating racial bias, and showing how the justice system really does convict and punishes a person before they’re even found guilty or innocent in a court of law.

I also watched the movie “The Devil’s Knot,” a true story about the West Memphis Three who were convicted of killing three young boys. The movie was okay (I’m searching for the documentaries). But watching it made me want to quit everything and start working for The Innocence Project. Do you think they’d hire me?

What’s going on in your life? What are you thinking about this Monday in September?

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Remembering September 11 ~ 15 Years Later

September 11, 2016

Every year on September 11, I take time to consciously remember what happened on the day that changed America forever. Here is my account of that day, part of which I originally wrote on September 11, 2010.


It seemed like any ordinary day.

Nothing was different. No phone calls to our condo. The alarm went off to the annoying buzzing sound that it did every morning (the only way that I’d get out of bed).

Bryan left the house before 6 a.m. since Tuesdays were his early-morning day to teach spin class at the campus gym.

I got into my car around 7:40 a.m. to drive myself to work at San Diego State University. I got in the car; started the ignition; and turned on NPR, just like any other day.

But it was not like any other day. Something was different. I could tell in an instant.

I knew something dreadful was happening the minute I heard the NPR reporter. I just started driving to work waiting for information.

The reporter started talking about smoke, airplanes, confusion, towers, the Pentagon.

What was I missing?

Then I heard two words that I never much heard before on NPR. But I would hear so many more times – “terrorist attack.”

“WHAT?! What is happening?!”

I was shouting out loud to the radio, in my car alone. I was starting to panic. I had no idea what was going on in the world at that moment. I was already on the freeway; so couldn’t turn back to home and turn on the television. I just drove to work; trying to get to my office as fast as possible.

As I was on the freeway, the announcer finally started to recount what happened to the World Trade Center and Pentagon that morning. I was in utter and complete shock. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even cry at the time. I just drove with my mouth hanging open.

I sprinted to my office, turned on my computer, and by that time, nobody was doing any work. All anyone could do is listen; and watch; and talk to each other in utter disbelief.

While we now have an exact timeline of what happened that morning, at the time we didn’t know what was fact or fiction; or what was happening where. It was all coming through in pieces. Americans all learned together that we were under attack. And it was so scary; probably the most frightening time of my life.

The campus received an order from the chancellor of the entire college system to shut down the university at noon that day. I don’t think anyone was really concerned for safety. It was more out of confusion and a general feeling of anxiety. It was probably for the best since I don’t think anyone would have done any work that day. I drove home and sat in front of the television watching CNN for hours. I was hoping to learn something, anything, as I’m sure the rest of the world did too. That’s when the tears began flowing, and felt like they never stopped.

Later that day, the name and image of Osama Bin Laden began appearing on the news. The only recognition I had of this name was a story I’d seen on 60 Minutes a few months before. But I didn’t pay much attention to that story because I thought – like many others – What could that man possibly have to do with me? Little did any of us know. …


Those next few months – and years – were filled with a lot of fear. I didn’t go to High Holiday services that fall because I was so scared a terrorist attack would happen at the place I was going to worship. On the first anniversary of the attacks in 2002, I stayed home from work and planted myself in front of the television. Mostly in fear that an attack would occur again; and I needed to know the minute it happened.

It’s been 14 years since that day that changed America – and changed my life – forever. I still cry every time I see the images of the towers falling to the ground and I hear the horror in the voices and cries of the onlookers. My heart breaks when I read stories about the 9/11 families. I’m haunted every time I listen to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Grand Central Station, her beautifully-written homage to a September 11 worker sifting through the “holy dust” at Ground Zero. Tears fill my eyes when I hear Alan Jackson’s Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning? And who can forget the Saturday Night Live tribute that aired only a few weeks later, at at time when nobody knew if it was appropriate to laugh after such sorrow.

As horrible as a tragedy 9/11 was, I remember feeling closer to my country, my neighbors and the people around me. It was as if all those American flags that were on display brought us all together. Later that month, I went to the annual Harvest Festival (arts and crafts fair) and everyone was wearing red-white-blue and proudly displaying Americana items. Something was bonding all of us together. It was a feeling and sight I’d never witnessed before.

It’s sad that’s no longer the case. I fear that we – as a country – have let the memory of September 11 fade. The country is so divided today. Yet we need to our collective past and remember that tragic day. Because only in remembering will we never forget.

Where were you on September 11? How do you choose to remember the day?

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