We’ve had lots of people asking about Tasha and how she is adjusting to life on the road. Apparently tales of our own adventures aren’t enough, now you want to know about the aging shepherd! Well, no problem at all. For those of you who don’t know Tasha, let me quickly try to encapsulate her into a few facts:
FACT 1: She is somewhere between the ages of 5 and 9 and weighs about 45 lbs when she isn’t on one of her monthly hunger strikes. Food is not a high priority for her and there have been times when she goes for 5-9 days at a time without eating, dropping her to near skin and bones and developing a resemblance to Kristofferson from The Fantastic Mr. Fox. She gladly allows other dogs to eat her food who are visiting and she rarely finishes a bowl in one sitting. She eats EXTREMELY slowly too (as in it takes her at least 20 minutes to eat) and she will only eat if we are in the room, sitting next to her. She prefers to eat when we are eating and if anything should disturb her while she is eating (we drop a fork, we leave the room, the TV is on too loudly, a knock at the door, you name it), she is done for the night. She may or may not eat the next day. She simply does not care about eating.
FACT 2: She also can only eat 1 kind of food—Happy Hips Chicken and Rice from Dogswell. I’m sure you’re scoffing and thinking “Ok, yeah right, that dog is super high maintence, she can eat other food.” No. She cannot. And if you would like to test it, I would gladly allow you to see what happens. It’s not pretty. We joke that Tasha has a bad stomach for days if someone looks at her the wrong way, but the simple fact is, the lady has a sensitive stomach. To the most intense degree. If Dogswell is to ever go out of business, we’re screwed. Currently the only place I can find that sells it is Amazon, so, every 2 months, Tasha’s food arrives at the front door. Again, we are totally 100% dead in the water if this company goes belly up.
FACT 3: She sleeps at bare minimum 14 hours a day. When she is at home, it’s more like 20. People think we exaggerate this. Be trust me, this is a fact. My mom actually has posited that Tasha might have diabetes or be depressed because she sleeps so much. The vet said neither are true…she just likes to rest.
FACT 4: She has never barked, whined or growled in her entire life except for 1 time at a puppy and 1 time when she swiped the wing off of a bird. She does yawn very, very loudly and occasionally wakes us up on them middle of the night with her yawning.
FACT 5: She doesn’t like to be more than 2 feet away from me at any time. As a matter of fact, when I started writing this blog post 10 minutes ago, I was sitting in the “living room” of the Airstream while Ian and Tasha were still sleeping in the “bedroom”. I had closed the door to the room to keep the coffeemaker from waking Ian up, but within about 2 minutes of leaving, I heard a THUMP as Tasha padded to the ground off the bed (she sleeps with me) and a pawing at the door to get out. Now she is curled up tight next to me, head resting on my leg. To say she is attached is an understatement. Thankfully, though, she doesn’t whine or freak out when we leave her—she just takes another nap.
FATC 6: Tasha does not like to travel in cars. It’s true. When we first got her, she threw up EVERY time we traveled. We would line the back of the Subaru with towels and blankets and she would still throw up. After years of trying all sorts of remedies (medicine, not feeding her prior to a trip, taking her for a run first so she is tired, letting her sit in the front sit, sitting next to her in the backseat, you name it, we tried it) we sort of just gave up and accepted that we have a car sick prone dog.
In addition to getting sick in the car, she is also very nervous. We started letting her ride in the backseat of the car and truck rather than the cargo area of the Subaru about a year ago and so far it is working pretty well. We cover the seats with old horse blankets and create a lovely little nest for her—she doesn’t care. She is still totally nervous, despite being surrounded by cozy fleece and monogrammed cloth.
Her position of choice when riding in the back seat of the truck is to lie facing directly forward, with her two front paws GRIPPED over the front edge of the bench seat with her claws gripping as much as possible into the cushion. Occasionally she will put both from paws onto the floor of the truck and leave her in a sort of lurching forward position that would surely send her hurtling through the windshield. Sometimes I can get her to move around so that all paws are on the seat, but then she will lie with her head up, sphinx pose, looking at the door of the car. She does not want to be bothered when she is riding. We will pet her and talk to her, but it is very evident from the look in her eye as she regards us that she is merely putting up with us—she is not, in any way, enjoying herself or relaxed.
So, all of these facts combine lead to what we consider to be the very BEST dog anyone could ever ask for, but also a few complications—namely taking a car sick prone dog on a 5 month long road trip….yay or nay? Plus, when you factor in how much she likes to sleep and knowing she will not sleep in the car, but rather stare at the wall, is this a good idea? What if she can’t get her daily 14 hour quota?
When we decided to go on this road trip, we thought long and hard about if Tasha could come. We didn’t want to leave her behind and we knew she would enjoy the trip…but 5 months of dog throw up? It was a toss up. Finally after much deliberation we opted to bring her along, knowing that she could always stay home in January once we went back for the holidays if need be. We would test out of the first 6 weeks of the trip and see. She had been getting much better about the car and wasn’t nearly as unpredictable with her vomiting. So, into the car she went and off we went for our Airstream adventure around the country with a shepherd dog.
Now. This is a HUGE knock on wood moment and I am actually touching wood as I write this, but so far….she is doing really well. Not PERFECT by any means---not fully relaxing in the back of the truck and sleeping the day away, but definitely good. First, she hasn’t thrown up. And second she IS eating when we stop each night. She is still sitting up in the car and gripping the bench seat, but she DID put her head down for about 30 seconds 2 days ago. Granted we were parked at a gas station and the car wasn’t moving, but it was progress and we praised her and praised her. Then she picked her head back up. And kept it up for the next 3 hours of driving.
Every night when we stop, I make sure to get her area in the Airstream ready before we let her out of the car. That consists of making sure she has fresh food and water and a wool blanket to cuddle onto when she gets inside (I thrifted like….15 wool blankets before we left and let me say, that was a fabulous decision). After we unhitch and get settled, we take her for a long walk and then she settles in for her very, very slow eating. She stays in the trailer when we go into town and when we come back, it’s always clear from the warm spot on Ian’s bed that she has been sleeping and catching up on her rest.
Her favorite spot so far has probably been Tennessee when we went for a long walk through the cow pastures on Eddie’s farm. While we were tempted to let her off her leash, we didn’t and that was probably a good thing—she definitely would have chased those cows and (maybe) herded them into position. She did a lot of standing on her back legs to look at them—it was adorable. Then, after 2 hours of eating cow poop and looking at cows, she got in the trailer and took the HARDEST nap I’ve ever seen her take—to the point where she was actually snoring and had her head resting on the hard, uncomfortable Formica bedside table—she didn’t move a muscle for about 2 hours.
Fingers crossed that her cross country adventures continue to be successful. She is truly the best animal we have ever met in our lives, so having her with us has brought a lot of joy. She also loves to watch us cook and living in 200 square feet has shown us that having her in the kitchen is simply not going to work. We want to get her a bandana soon to represent her traveling—an American flag themed one seems appropriate. Basically, this dog is a total rock star. Right now she is sleeping next to me. Shocking.
If you want to see more pictures of Tasha, follow us on Instagram—I’m like the person who can’t stop posting pictures of their baby, except with my dog. She also has her own Instagram account where she roll plays as a CPS Central Office employee saying snarky things about expectations and data driven results--@Tashasgram--she’d love a follow!