Holiday Vacations

“Did you know that there are over three hundred words for love in canine?” – Gabrielle Zevin, Elsewhere


Porter sporting his holiday bandana… about as dressed up as he gets.


All of my family lives in CT. Holiday season is always crazy for me. There’s a lot of traveling and not much sleep. It’s crazy and hectic, but worth it, so I can spend the holidays with the people I love. Which, brings me to why I feel so guilty a few days before I leave: Porter doesn’t come with me.

As you can tell by now, I’m pretty no nonsense with my dog. Sure, he wears a bandana every once in a while, and he’ll also wear a coat if it’s too cold out, but I’m not the type to dress him up because “he’s my little boy”.

If he gets hurt, I don’t baby him.

I don’t cry when I leave him somewhere.

I don’t rearrange my day for him.

However, leaving him on the holidays makes me feel like the biggest jerk and the worst dog owner there is.


Okay, so he has his days where he likes to dress up like a Russian Grandmother…. it’s totally normal

I brought him home one holiday season. It was a 9 hour drive both ways. Although he was amazing on both legs of the trip, he wasn’t happy. It was stressful to be in one place that long without the option of getting some activity.

We then found our preferred boarding place. He loves it. He can’t get out of the car fast enough.

(Here’s some tips on how to say goodbye properly)

Every time there’s a holiday I start to feel guilty again. We spend the holidays with the people we love, and well, I love Porter, so shouldn’t he come with me?

I looked into if he could fit on my flight this time. Not because I actually thought bringing him on a flight would be a good idea, but because I just needed to know my options. If I could somehow shrink his legs, make him less anxious, and suddenly make him okay being cramped in a small place for hours we’d be all set!

Ok, so not the greatest option. Then I started thinking about how the holidays can get stressful. What would make Porter’s holiday the least stressful? What would be his ideal holiday?

-          Room to run

-          Hours and hours of outside time

-          Other dogs to play with (although dog reactive, he’s mostly dog reactive in the Mom, can I play with him now?? Pleeeasssseeee??? way now. See, Piloting does work!)

-          Food

-          People to give him tons of pets and attention

The easiest way to make his holiday come true is to make sure he’s not at mine. I can’t offer him those options when I’m running to visit relative after relative.

A picture that was sent to me from Porter's sleep away camp! He loves it there!

A picture that was sent to me from Porter’s sleep away camp! He loves it there!

We need to start reevaluating how we measure our love for our dogs. Some people measure it by how much time you spend with them, sacrificing lots of things to make sure you’re together. But guess what, sometimes loving your dog is making the decision that’s best for them in a logical and rational way. We need to let the judgments of other people stop clouding our mind. We have to learn to think with our hearts and minds instead of thinking just with our heads.

Same goes for Piloting. We learn to say no to our dogs because we think with our hearts and our minds. Sure, we’d love to give our dogs nothing but happiness…. But although they think that chocolate would make them happy, we know better.

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Porter beyond tired after a week of playing with new friends

Never feel guilty for making the decision that your dog must stay somewhere else for the holiday. Whether it be at a boarding setting, a friend’s house, or through Make the decision that will make the holidays the least stressful for you and your four legged friend. Start thinking with your heart and your mind.

Keep calm and pilot on

Danika Migliore
Darwin Dogs, LLC
Dog Training in Cleveland, OH

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