2022 Vizsla National Specialty: Part 1, Getting There

It was going to be a three day drive: 1,200 miles, and Eggi, Fellow, and me, the only driver, because you know what? Dogs don’t drive. Without them, I could picture maybe, like, I dunno, doing it myself in two days, but, ok, the dogs were the point of the trip. So, a three day drive, with regular stops to smell the grass.

There is also the issue of wanting to be two states away the first night, because you aren’t making progress across this enormous country of wackos if you can’t get two states away from home the first day (sorry, Western/Midwestern America), so I simply had to get through all of Pennsylvania the first day. I don’t make these rules, they just are.

Something I brought plenty of: dog kibble.

Something I should have brought more of: familiar-tasting water from home.

Packing for the dogs: grooming stuff; two crates for riding in the car, two portable crates for sleeping in hotels, two wire crates and crate pads for the show; leashes and collars for walks, slip leashes for agility, show leashes; treats, poop bags, toys.

Packing for me: overnight bag for travel days with sneakers and clothes to compete in agility; two choices of outfits for obedience ring, plus shoes; three choices for conformation ring, plus boots; dress for banquet, plus other boots; raincoat, down vest, sweater, parka. Food, colored pencils, pens.

There used to be things to say about road trips across America. Regional sodas. Billboards for miles exhorting us to See Rock City. Now, we drive thousands of forgettable stretches of highway, following the blue line on the navigation app of the thousand dollar Chinese-made mobile device, hooked up to the car with the special white cord that always frays in the same place, jammed mindlessly on cruise-control between enormous trucks full of toilet paper and game consoles, great long reaches of endless pavement interrupted by exits for towns still named for native tribes long ago chased off the land by whites, but today a couple of streets, some potholes, a few sad but familiar fast food chains, and a drab purveyor of fuel and plastic-wrapped snacks as unmemorable as any other town on the way.

My traveling companions need to visit the rest areas to do their business, and we gain efficiency at every stop. Sometimes other people at the rest areas want to tell me things (my shirt matches my dogs), or ask me things (are they hunting dogs? is he a stud dog?). I walk them one at a time to control the chaos. But I wish I had found time to practice walking them together more, and I wish Fellow wouldn’t try to pee on his own legs or on Eggi. I say things to them about it. You could aim that, I say. Remind me I need to scrub those legs, I say. No one wants you to go there. Ok, good job, thank you for that, let’s go.

They get good at jumping in and out of the back of the big Ford, at waiting to pee until I encourage them to, at pooping every day at around 11 a.m.

The gas in Ohio is a dollar cheaper per gallon than everywhere else.

The dogs are good in the hotels and I didn’t do such a bad job of picking places the first two nights.

On the second day we arrive early enough to look for a park in Beloit, Wisconsin and actually go for a walk. The dogs are wild and hard to keep up with.

Anyplace I wear a mask, I am the only person in a mask. I am relieved to find that people are less likely to talk to me if I am wearing it.

The first day of showing will be agility. I have each dog signed up for three classes, two which count towards their point totals in the Iron Dog, novice standard and novice jumpers with weave (poles), and a third, which is called FAST, an acronym that means something like Fifteen and Send, where you do obstacles for points and have to send to a required element. The FAST event will be held first, and I intend to use it to familiarize the dogs with the venue and the equipment.

Fellow and I went to the Vizsla National Specialty last year, and he and I took an agility class at a big, new, unfamiliar place with strange (endlessly barking) dogs, a different instructor, and regulation mats and equipment for a few weeks in preparation. So, I am pretty confident he will get around the courses ok. He is game. Eggi is a year older, but is more sensitive, and has not had the experience of classes outside the supportive, familiar backyard place where we have been going since she was a puppy. I wanted to take her to the same class as Fellow, but I hadn’t been able to get it organized.

But, anyway, I make it all the way to Minnesota, and it’s still cold and windy at the end of April, and I marvel that I’ve signed myself up for this, and come all this way by myself.

Road Trip

We left Seattle last Friday afternoon, before the movers were done.  My husband and youngest son stayed behind to supervise and fly out in the morning.  We made it to Spokane in time for a late dinner. The next night we were in Billings, Montana, and the night after that Mitchell, South Dakota.  We stopped for the night in Joliet, Illinois and last of all, Jamestown, New York.

We followed a few rules:
1. Don’t drive more than five hours per driver per day if you’re going for more than a couple of days. Otherwise you will get too tired.  Sleep 8 hours or more at night, without setting alarms or having early wake-up pressures.
2. Get a really engaging audio book, a long one. Unabridged. The good ones are read by the author or someone super talented. We listened to Catch-22, read by Jay O. Sanders. There was a problem with the packaging, so there was glue on many of the disks, which caused skipping, but it almost didn’t matter.  We listened to both of the last two Harry Potter books on long car trips when the kids were younger, and they always made the miles fly by.
3. Eat the best food you can find. Be flexible. Our best meal was at The Pub in Jamestown, New York. It was full of locals watching the Yankees demolish the Indians on TV. We felt conspicuous walking in, but sat down anyway. Our waitress suggested the chicken salad, which was home-made and better than any chicken salad I’ve ever had. Really. 
4. Call ahead to hotels and be honest about how many pets you have and be clear about how big your trailer is. They will help you figure out parking, and they will charge you the minimum pet charge. Staff will also admire your knuckle-headed dogs even when they spazz out in the lobby, and you will sleep better knowing that your knuckle-headed dog who is barking in his sleep is at least not giving you away. 

5. Whenever possible, pets should ride in crates. Schwartz pooped in his within Seattle city limits, before we even made it to the freeway. We cleaned it out and he still screamed for a better part of the first day, but after a dip in the hotel room sink and a night of exploring the hotel room while everyone else slept, he was ready to go the next day. He now goes in his kennel without any trouble at all and only meows en route if we meow at him first. His appetite was off for a few days, but we made sure he had access to plenty of food and water at night and he arrived in the best shape of any of us. 
6. One of my biggest fears was that the dogs would wake up in the night and poop in the hotel room. We had limited ability to walk the dogs at all, and their potty breaks were brief and often alongside a busy street. After a day or two, they were both making one large poop morning and night after only the briefest of walks.  We tried not to leave the dogs in hotel rooms while we ate dinner, in many cases because it was forbidden.  They barked at people in restaurant parking lots, which was never good, but in five nights of hotels, we had no accidents.