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Guests’ Corner SPECIAL: The Downward Dog

As part of this special instalment in Guests’ Corner, a local and international travel interview segment on Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, I chatted to Erin Maxson, passionate blogger and dog lover of note.

Erin Maxson and her adorable, brave rescue dog, Rory, are an inspirational travelling human-dog duo. Together, the pair travel the U.S. (soon in an Airstream trailer!), enjoying all the sights and sounds open to them. Every day, they hike, play, swim, nap and more side by side.

Adventures aside, Erin and Rory also have an exciting, ‘dog-friendly’ blog called The Downward Dog, which tells a poetic, visual tale of the unshakable love between this woman and her dog. Home is where the dog is – and this is something Erin (and Rory, too) definitely believes.

Follow The Downward Dog for some insightful pet travel tips, moving stories and personal accounts of Erin and Rory’s journeys around the States!

1)  Tell us a bit about where or when the concept and journey of pet travel first started for you?

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After I rescued my dog, Rory, I realised that she had a heart for adventure just like I did. I lived in Texas for a while and spent a ton of time with Rory as my only sidekick.

We then decided to move to Arizona where I began taking her on hikes, which she immediately fell in love with, so I knew I had to take her everywhere with me.

2)  Your beautiful dog, Rory, seems like quite the adventurer… Does Rory ever challenge you to push yourself more or to be braver when you travel?

Absolutely! Rory can run laps around me when we hike – it’s embarrassing! But I absolutely adore her adventurous spirit, so when she heads off on a new trail or finds an unexpected waterfall, I follow her lead.

3)  Have you had any states (or countries) where pet travel with Rory was either impossible or ill-advised? If so, where – and why?

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We haven’t been out of the country yet, but there are some areas out in the wild that dogs are not advised to visit. Places in the U.S. that are particularly picky about pets are national parks. National parks were created for a reason: to protect native nature and wildlife. Dogs (and all pets, for that matter) have a tendency to make a place their own, which scares off native wildlife and can often harm plants and vegetation, too.

We always follow rules and regulations – but it does make travel more difficult on the occasion when we find something I want to do but can’t bring Rory along with me.

Usually, I make a plan to come back and visit when I have someone to watch Rory and I can make a short trip to do it alone.

4)  What are the three most memorable trips you have taken with Rory by your side? (Please give some insight into where they were)

1. On our way to move from Texas to Arizona, we stopped in Alamogordo, New Mexico to visit White Sands National Monument. This monument had been on my list for a while but it had always been a little outside of our travel range to make it there.

When we had the chance to drive right through it, we stopped and Rory and I basked in the glory of the world’s whitest sands! Rory and I romped, played, and slid down the huge mounds of sand… It was one of the most beautiful sights – but also one of my fondest memories, as it was the start of our new beginning together.

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2. Rory and I took a trip to Sedona, Arizona, for a day hike called Bell Trail. It’s an 8-mile hike round-trip so we headed out early in the day. We scooted along the trail together in hopes to see water and, as soon as I heard the bubbling brook to our right, I saw Rory tear through the tall grasses to see it. Rory loves to swim and I knew she would be excited to see her first swimming hole since moving to Arizona a few months earlier.

We continued down the trail until we came to the swimming hole, where Rory and I both hopped from rock to rock seeing all we could see in the water we had been so anxiously awaiting. Even though the water was freezing, we both sat on a rock together and sunbathed for a few hours before happily returning to the car, with her tail wagging behind us the whole way home…

3. Our last trip that we took together was to the highest point in Arizona in Flagstaff. We summited Humphreys Peak (12 635 feet in elevation) together and it was exhilarating! It took us about eight hours to get up and down as the weather conditions included ice and snow, but Rory ran laps around us the entire time.

Rory loves snow and it was only her second time witnessing it, so I spent the whole day laughing at her chasing snowballs and sliding around icy patches. Dogs and humans that hike together stay together… And she helped us find the right trail home, too.

5)  Sustainability is a big element of your travels (which I love!) and your travel motto is, “Travelling lighter, going further” – what inspires or motivates that most admirable desire for you personally?

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My first backpacking trip really made me realise that I over-pack on a regular basis. I also set a goal for myself to be more environmentally conscious this year, so it just made sense to learn to pack only the essentials. Not only does it save myself from overload, it also saves the environment from excess trash and disturbances.

I’ve noticed a huge difference between how I look and feel when I pack light. It also allows me to carry back some of the coolest souvenirs!

6)  What tips on sustainable and eco-friendly travel can you give readers?

Avoid overpacking. Overpacking makes it inevitable to leave something behind.

We do our best to avoid using Styrofoam (this kind of material never biodegrades) when we travel and always bring reusable bottles for water and food items.

Travelling with a pet means you need some way to dispose of pet waste. We use biodegradable dog poop bags every time we travel as regular plastic poop bags are bad for the environment.

We also bring trash bags with us everywhere. We do a lot of camping and hiking so when we see other people’s trash they have left behind, we do our best to clean up even if it’s not our own. We want these places we travel to remain beautiful and wild for future humans and puppers to enjoy too.

Make better choices when you go out to eat… Straws, lids, and other plastic materials are harmful to the environment. If you can avoid using single use plastic bags while you shop or avoid the straw altogether at dinner, you can make a small difference for the world outside.

7)  What is the most rewarding part of travelling with your pet?

Seeing the light in Rory’s eyes every time we find a new place or adventure leaves me speechless. As humans, we expect to be overwhelmed by nature’s sights and sounds – but we don’t always give our pets credit for the emotions they feel too.

Rory is a little human trapped in a dog’s body and I truly believe that we share a lot of the same emotions and experiences. She reminds me to just let go and live in the now every time we take off on a new trail or hit the road for a trip. That in itself so rewarding to be able to share these memories with her. Even if we don’t speak the same language, we have an understanding of the awe that the world can bring us both.

8)  What is the most difficult aspect of pet travel? (Laws, restrictions, unexpected finances, vaccines or anything else that can cause a headache)

Depending on if you are travelling within your country or abroad, there are a lot of ‘difficult’ aspects of pet travel. Rory is able to fly on planes – but we have yet to do so because they require extensive medical records and a vet check prior to every flight. It’s also expensive to bring your pet with you on flights and not always super safe for them either. These are just a few of the reasons why we haven’t flown anywhere together yet.

Travelling within the U.S. there aren’t as many stipulations, besides breed regulations in some states. Rory is a suitable breed in all states but other dog breeds (Pit Bulls in particular) are not always welcome in some of the states we travel through. I have no problem with the breed or any dog, but there are still some obstacles to overcome if you are looking to travel within the country.

National parks have specific rules about bringing pets on trails within their preserved area, so we always double check with the front desk before taking Rory anywhere she’s not allowed to go. It’s always better to be safe than sorry… The last thing I ever want to do is put Rory in harm’s way or be at risk of fines/jail time.

9)  Currently, you are planning on travelling the US in an Airstream (travel trailer) with Rory: please tell us about that, what it is about and what it has involved for you all so far?

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For the last three months, we have been renovating a vintage Airstream Argosy for Rory and me to travel in. We are currently living in it but it hasn’t made it quite out of the driveway yet, as I am still getting practice with it.

I do love the tiny living aspect of living in a travel trailer, as it has allowed me to downsize quite a bit and work towards our motto of “pack light, travel further.” Rory absolutely loves trailer life and travelling so I am 100% sure she is going to enjoy hitting the road in the next couple of weeks.

Our first few stops will be within the Arizona/Utah areas as we are looking forward to visiting some of the national parks we haven’t been to before. Living this lifestyle allows us to be able to see the world together without much hassle, as we always have our home in tow.

10)  If you could advise anyone on pet travel, from your own experience, what would you want them to know?

Always think about your pet first. There are times as pet owners when we want to be selfish and do something for ourselves, but, when you travel with a pet, you can’t make decisions based on your own accord. We bring our pets with us because they are like family and the experiences we share with them are unforgettable. But when we find something we would rather do ourselves (that doesn’t allow pets), sometimes we put our pets in danger or at risk as we leave them behind.

Make every effort to do what’s right for your pet and you won’t have to worry incessantly every time you leave them behind at the hotel.

Things we do when we need to do human-only things:

  1. Find a local dog sitter or doggy daycare. Rover.com and other websites are perfect for this.
  2. Bring toys and other items that smell like home… Bringing a few things along that make your pet feel safe and at home are super important to keeping them calm while you’re away.
  3. Make sure your pet has emergency information on their collar tags. If something happens while you’re away, you want to be sure that someone can get in touch with you if need be.

11) (Optional) Bonus question: How has travelling with Rory changed your life? For better and/or for worse?

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Travelling with Rory has changed my life for the better. We have seen and experienced things as a pair that I wouldn’t have wanted to share with anyone else. She pushes me to be better, stronger and more courageous because she is already all of these things without thinking twice about it.

My family would say that it has probably changed my life for the worse a tad bit because I am always expecting for our trips to be dog-friendly! We definitely make accommodations for Rory to come with us as often as possible, and it’s just something everyone I know understands at this point, even though it can make planning things more difficult.

Overall, I think travelling with Rory has opened my eyes when it comes to seeing the world… I haven’t always been so ‘worldly’ or ‘outdoorsy’, but she has allowed me to see the world for what it really is in the current moment.

To read about and see all of Erin and Rory’s travel stories and experiences, you can visit their awesome blog. Or follow them on Facebook or either of Instagram feed, @the_dogwarddog and Erin Maxson (@withdogshetravels).

Thank you very much, Erin and Rory, for appearing in this special guest travel segment.

Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan

Content writer by day and blogger by night, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust, from her home base of Cape Town, South Africa. And, despite a national diploma in Journalism, in her free time, Tamlyn’s preferred niche remains travel writing.

Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the great outdoors.

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