Bad Weather and Illness When Travelling With a Small Dog
I want to take a moment to talk about the less than glorious side of travel. You know — bad weather and illness when traveling with your small dog. It’s a fact: the weather Gods can truly be against you. Combine getting sick with poor weather conditions and misery can ensue — if you let it.
Yeah, because you know what? It happens. In fact, it happened in a rather epic way for poor Mom during our 4-week tour of Croatia. For 3 weeks of our 4-week trip, Mom had a horrid cold with a harsh persistent cough that kept her up at night. Fun, right? And for the last week of our trip, the temperatures dropped far lower than we expected (and had packed for) and the rain would just not stop.
Bad Weather Happens
I will start with the one thing we have no control over, and that is the weather. We are rather fond of sunshine and as such, we try to travel at times when the odds of getting sunny days with blue skies run in our favour. You can do this by searching the internet for precipitation levels for each country you’ll be visiting. You’ll get a chart that shows you what you can expect. You can do the same for temperatures. I like Holiday Weather as a resource.
It’s important to look up weather for each stop along the way. For example, the Dalmatian Coast was a lot warmer than, say, Zagreb, which is further north and inland. How big a difference? About 15 to 18 degrees Celsius! That meant that in Split, the weather might have been a comfortable 20ºC but in Zagreb, it was a chilly 8ºC. That, Dear Reader, is a completely different wardrobe for the bipeds and for me! At 8ºC, I need a sweater!
And that is what happened. Mom had not counted on that temperature drop and once we arrived in Zagreb, she had to buy a pair of shoes. Her footwear was just not up to snuff. Not that she was really too upset about buying new shoes. (Humans.)
The bipeds’ clothes were not warm enough either. Not even in Split when the temperature dropped uncharacteristically low. Both bipeds had to go shopping. Not something either particularly enjoys, to be honest. Dad bought a jacket, Mom a thick sweater and some leggings. It was all a bit frustrating. These were expenses we hadn’t anticipated and the purchases added an element of stuffing to make everything fit into our carry-on bags. We still managed but it was close. I had to sit on the suitcases to help Mom get them shut!
… AND they had no warm sweater for me. Or rain gear. That was a bigger problem because there were no pet boutiques that we could find. So no easy shopping for me. That meant that far too much of the trip, I was bundled up in a scarf, blanket, or towel, or under a plastic poncho.
Nature is fickle and the weather can be unpredictable.
… Then there was the rain. The bipeds had not counted on nearly two weeks of showers. It was not in the norm — not part of the statistics. So we had no umbrellas or raincoats. It made for some very soggy shoes.
In addition, the weather added a challenge for taking photographs. Everything seemed flat and dull with skies not even producing particularly dramatic cloud formations. Just flat light. And then there was the challenge of keeping water off the lenses of our iPhones. (Yes! Our only cameras are our phones! Cool, eh?)
Pharmacists Are Your Friend
I have talked about a canine first aid kit before, and you know I always make sure to have a list of vets — preferably ones that speak a language the bipeds speak — at the towns we stay in. If like us, you also like to sail, then I can’t stress enough the importance of also taking a first aid course. For humans and canines too.
On the whole, we have been very lucky. So far, I have only visited a vet once. That was in Sofia and was an experiment to see if I could get a European Union Pet Passport. I did get one but it’s not legal since I am not a EU resident. But it was interesting to have a vet show us the process. North America really needs something like this. But I digress … .
The bipeds have yet to end up in hospital while overseas need to visit a doctor when travelling, but we have fellow travel bloggers who have and so we know that either is a very strong possibility. What we do visit often when travelling are pharmacists. In Europe, pharmacists seem to have a bit more umph. They do basic registered nurse type consults. It’s brilliant when you think of it. Instead of clogging up doctors’ offices with folks who have coughs, sore throats, and basic aches and pains, the pharmacist assists.
For Mom, after two weeks of getting a bit worse every day, she finally sought out some help in Split. The sailing was over (and she had to deal with seasickness for that!) and we were settled into our cute apartment in Split to use as our home base, so it seemed like the time was right to get this cold under control. The pharmacist took a look at Mom’s throat, put her hand on Mom’s forehead … saw the bags under Mom’s eyes. And after pantomiming some questions and answers, Mom was sent home with a bunch of goodies, including a cough syrup that she assures me tasted awesome and helped her sleep.
The pharmacist had a few choice head shakes and finger wags to give Mom. We interpreted the message as “Why didn’t you see a pharmacist sooner?” The other clear message was, “You need to REST!” Mom nodded, and then we went out and continued our adventures.
I think Dad tried to slow things down. We spent an extra day just walking the old streets of Split for a second time. Mostly taking it easy and enjoying the coffee shops and gorgeous promenade. But I could tell Mom wasn’t going to have it. Because Mom wanted to see and do everything. There were old monasteries to visit and towns to explore. There was so much to see and we had no idea if or when we might return, so I could tell Mom was not liking the feeling that we were missing out — not maximizing our time there.
The Cost of Pushing Yourself
You see, Dear Reader, the cost of pushing yourself is that you get worse. If Mom had just taken a day to sleep things off earlier on — stayed in bed, taken some meds, and let her body heal — I am certain the cold would not have escalated the way it did. But no. The fear of missing out meant Mom pushed and pushed. Even swimming in slightly too cold waters. Hiking and spending entire days on the go. And when you add in her being cold and wet … yeah, a recipe for disaster.
Or was it?
You see, here is where things get interesting. I actually admire Mom’s tenacity. She was in a good mood, smiling and enjoying what the trip had to offer. Even if coughing fits sometimes got so strong she got light-headed and had to sit down.
The rain drenched her over and over again. But she laughed it off (after a deep sigh) and treated herself to a cashmere poncho sweater as a consolation. And when the photos were not coming out the way she wanted? She reached out to her photographer friends for tips on what to do.
Mom’s upbeat attitude reminded me of how easy it is for humans to slip into an emotional “in the dumps” when sick. But some studies have shown that the brighter your mood, the faster the healing. And maybe … maybe, Mom was onto something when she refused to feel blue while healing. But maybe that was her problem: she wasn’t giving her body down time to heal. Ah, the conundrum!
Being sick reminded the bipeds of how happy they were that they were prepared for my being ill with a list of vets and their opening hours. In Split, we even had the number of the local animal hospital. Paradoxically, the bipeds also realized that although Mom pushed herself, she would never push me if I were sick. She’d stay home, or the bipeds would do hand-offs. I found that double standard very interesting.
So much of travel is a learning experience and I think there is no exception here. After coming back and settling into our at-home routine, we have had time to chat a bit about being sick for more than half of the trip. We managed to talk about the “bummer” of not getting the expected weather. We’ve learned a few things and so I wanted to share that with you.
- Bring some of your own meds and look up doctors as well as vets. Also, don’t’ forget to take some human and canine first aid. You never know. There are doctors who specialize in travel medicine; book an appointment before you go. See your vet as well and get your dog a good once over to make sure there isn’t some underlying issue that may become a problem once on the road.
- Take a look at your insurance and make sure you are covered for being sent home. It didn’t get to that for us, but it did make us think. So Mom and Dad checked and yes, they are covered. I however, am not.
- Do you have a plan for your dog if you are sick on the road? This is especially true if travelling solo with your canine. In our case, the odds are good one of the bipeds will still be okay even if the other is sick. But we do have a plan for someone to come and get me (and that includes having money for her flight set aside) should both bipeds be down for the count. Her name is listed as one of my owners on my microchip so she has no trouble crossing the border or flying with me. And the bipeds always have a letter drafted just in case. We also ask those from whom we rent our apartments if they would be willing to watch me should both bipeds be in hospital and to contact my caretaker. It is always good to have this sorted out ahead of time.
- Bring money for emergency supplies. This can include anything from warm shoes and a rain coat to a simple umbrella and cough syrup. Don’t travel with a budget so tight that there is no room for illness. This may include having to re-book airfare and hotel nights and so on. Be prepared.
- Leave room in your bag! We travel carry-on only. We like that best. We have learned that we should also make sure there is space for those extras that may need to be purchased. You don’t have to bring a sweater but make sure you have room for one if you buy one. Or, as Mom did, be sure you are okay to wear a lot of layers on your way home.
- Tips for photos in the rain! Here are the ones we enjoyed:
- Umbrella! Don’t just use it to cover your head and camera but use it as an accessory in the photo. A white one also reflects light onto faces better.
- Pops of colour! Look for that bright red umbrella, flash of yellow rain boots, etc.
- Looking from the inside out. Shots taken indoors looking out into the rain can be lovely!
- Find an overhead or awning! They protect you from the rain but also make great photos!
- Have fun with some backlighting.
- Have fun with reflections made possible by the puddles!
- Look for dramatic skies!
- Stay cheerful but do take time to heal! Getting sick sucks. Getting two weeks of rain? Also sucks. But it will suck a little less if you don’t allow it to ruin everything for you! This is very much a case of “smile until you feel happy.” And don’t let the rain stop you. It was pouring rain but we still went to Krka national park. And you know what? It was gorgeous! The rain also means fewer people, and as far as we were concerned, that was actually a good thing.
In review: Travel isn’t always puppies, sunshine, and blue skies. Sometimes it rains on your parade. Sometimes you cough through more than half of it and need to sleep it off and thus miss something. Bad weather and illness when travelling with a small dog or without – sucks! Mom ended up sleeping an entire day before flying home. Sacrificing a day of discovery in Zagreb for a healing sleep before a long flight home. Being on the road is always an adventure and it constantly provides you with an opportunity to grow and learn something about the country you are in, about your companions, and about yourself. Mom has learned she needs to be better at finding that middle ground between healing and not missing out. Dad realized just how willing he was to cut his trip short to fly back home and care for Mom or for me if necessary.