We have a place on the Jersey shore that is our favorite get-away spot on summer weekends.
Unfortunately, we have a second floor condo and no yard, which is not very conducive to life with spaniels. Because we currently have 10 dogs living with us, we have to divide and conquer to make these trips.
Our cute little English toy spaniel, George, is everyone’s favorite. He is also low dog on the totem pole and is easily scared by lots of traffic and congestion. So every weekend in the summer he packs his little doggie bag and heads to the grandparents’ house, where he is spoiled by four daily meals and all-day belly rubs.
Our foster mommy dog has puppies that are too young to travel, so they win a stay at home with my son.
His cocker spaniel is the best watchdog, and tends to bark a lot, so she also gets to stay home.
The oldest, Lora Lu, is mostly blind and deaf, making it difficult for her to acclimate to new places; she also stays home.
That leaves four who get to make the trip to the shore. They love "going to the beach” and eagerly wait for a lift into the car when we are packing. Hue usually does the packing and picks me up from work on the way to the shore.
So far this year he has forgotten dog food one weekend (resulting in some fun homemade meals for the dogs), dog leashes one weekend (resulting in an expensive trip to the best pet store, Animal House in Ocean City, to buy new collars and leashes for everyone), and his underwear (resulting in going commando–TMI, perhaps?).
Once we are settled in our shore condo, the fun begins.
We have to walk dogs early in the morning or late in the evening, avoiding the heat and humidity that can result in burned paws on hot pavement, heatstroke from too much exercise, and dodging traffic when crossing streets.
Our midday foray is just far enough to accomplish the necessary doggie duties. We are extremely good about cleaning up after our pets and not allowing them to urinate on the few available lawns, going so far as teaching our dogs to use the gutters.
During the off season, when the dogs are allowed on the beach, we have to watch they don’t drink salt water, eat sand or swallow sharp shells. I have seen many dogs in my office suffering from salt toxicity, sand impactions and bowel perforations from eating shells.
I always marvel at the Labradors and golden retrievers playing in the surf and fetching balls. Our dogs run from the waves! Crazy Shayna enjoys chasing seagulls and anything that moves, sometimes chasing the waves, but always running when they chase her back. When we return from our beach walks, baths to rinse sand and salt water are the next order of business.
It seems like an awful lot of work to bathe four dogs, but they have so much fun, I guess it’s worth the effort. There are dog parks in most of the shore towns, but so far we have found them to be located in muddy, marshy areas no one would want to use, or sunny, paved, harsh areas too hot to enjoy.
Another issue at the shore is bugs.
When there is not a breeze, the flies, gnats and mosquitoes can be gruesome. We don’t spend much time outside at dusk, when the mosquitoes are at their worst. Besides being annoying, they can carry heartworms and encephalitis.
If we need to be outside when the insects are active, we apply a natural essential oil spray to ourselves and the dogs. But mostly, we just head inside if the pests are out.
Taking pets on a shore vacation can be fun for all involved, as long as you keep in mind the comfort and safety of your animals. If you are renting a house or condo, make sure your pets are good citizens, not allowing them to soil the rugs, chew the furnishings, or bark at the neighbors.
Dr. Morgan practices traditional Western medicine and alternative therapies at Clayton and Churchtown Veterinary Associates in Clayton and Pennsville, N.J., respectively.
She graduated from Rutgers in 1980 with a B.S. in pre-veterinary science and earned her DVM from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 1984. She is certified in veterinary orthopedic manipulation, a form of veterinary chiropractic, and in acupuncture, and attended the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In her spare time, you might see Dr. Morgan walking spaniels with Hue Grant at their home in Pilesgrove, N.J., or on the beach in Ocean City. Her animals include George and Lora Lu, the English toy spaniels, and Pookie and Shayna, the Cavalier King Charles spaniels. She also has two horses and often spends time with her daughter at equestrian shows and competitions.