Life On the Road With Pets & Kids

July 31, 2009

by Julee Meltzer
as appeared in Woodall’s & Camping Life – The Navigator, July 2009

When we first decided to become full-time RVers, we never imagined that we would find ourselves playing defense for a way of life that we love so much. Needless to say, full-time RVing isn’t for everyone. Space is tight. Fuel is expensive. And even though you’re living out in the margins of society – there are still deadlines to meet, bills to pay, things to fix, and lessons to learn.

However, when we first started writing about RVing with pets, we ran into an unexpected form of resistance from other pet owners that disapproved of the treatment of our traveling companions. The criticism, it seems, stems from the assertion that cats and dogs were not meant to spend their lives moving from place to place.

At first glance, I found their comments (usually delivered by e-mail) a little odd – given the fact that cats and dogs have accompanied travelers since time began. Explorers routinely took dogs along (and still do) for both companionship and protection. And without cats, ocean voyages would have been nearly impossible due to uncontrolled rodent populations that would have devoured essential food supplies and spread disease. Today, cats and dogs routinely accompany people on houseboats, yachts, RVs, cars, and everything else that move from place to place.

And yet the criticism still remains. And then, when I gave birth to my first child last year, people were amazed that a couple living in an RV could cope with the challenges of bringing a baby into the world. (Of course, they weren’t the only ones). But it was only a matter of time when a familiar criticism made its way into the conversation. And once again, the criticism stemmed from the assertion that children were not meant to spend their lives moving from place to place.

Once more, we looked for evidence to support the idea that life on the road was a potential detriment to a child’s well-being. After all, we would want to be the first to know if our actions were morally or otherwise irresponsible. But like so many things involving people, things aren’t always as simple as they appear. As it turns out, our decision to become full-time RVers was largely influenced by the needs of my husband who suffers from debilitating chronic pain; we needed to find a way to stay in warm weather all year. So when we are sporadically criticized by other people as a result of our unorthodox lifestyle and the effects on our pets and children – we take solace in the fact that we are, in fact, making the most out of a difficult situation.

That being said, if I were a cat or a dog, I would like nothing more than to spend my days and nights living and traveling on the road. When we lived in a house and maintained a “regular” life, our pets invariably had to endure the consequences of a lifestyle that was comparatively more stressful, more hectic, and less stimulating. The cats and dogs spent much of their lives napping or waiting for meals. And, while our dogs loved to go for rides in the car, we were unable to accommodate their passion due to the fact that we spent most of our days at work.

Today, our dog gets to travel continually. On big trips, she is so excited, she hardly eats or sleeps. And best of all, she never has to spend her days at home waiting and listening for our car as it pulls into the driveway. As for the cats, they are continuously surrounded by their family and have all of the comforts of home while traveling and living in a life of endless summer. They get to spend their days in a screened-in porch and their nights listening to the calming rhythm of crickets and peepers through a screen door.

We won’t be full-time RVers forever. Our child will need to go to school and make friends with other children. But, until then, we intend to travel to every place in the U.S. that we’ve ever wanted to see and experience. From the natural beauty of the Maine coast to the garishness of Las Vegas – it’s hard to beat traveling in the comfort and familiarity of your own RV.

Our animals show their appreciation in other ways. They’re never sick and they have never been more content than they are now. In fact, our very old, diabetic cat keeps coming up with new lives. Every year we think it will be his last year, yet he somehow manages to come back to health to enjoy some more time in his screened-in porch or the comforting heat of the dash of the motorhome. Our little stray cat has just finished spending all of her spare time sitting on the back of the couch, watching the lizards on the trees inches from our windows. And, our dog is always happy to explore the next new neighborhood. And, lastly, our newest pet (our little girl, Rose) is learning to meet new people from all walks of life who are enjoying their leisure time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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