WHAT WOULD YOU DO? | THE INTERSTATE AND THE BATHROOM

By Monday, July 14, 2014 36 Permalink

Long distance trips by car are a familiar means of travel, but this was a first for just Harley and I. Halfway to my destination, I found myself in a rather “delicate” predicament.

Please read on – I’m dying to know “what would you do” if you were me!

It was the end of June, and as I fixed DD‘s (Doodle Dad) breakfast, I announced I was going to the beach. He asked when and I replied “tomorrow!” He thought it was an excellent idea, said a day at the beach for both Harley and I would be pawfect. I smiled because he was thinking “local beach” but I wanted to go to Charleston.

I love South Carolina and all things Charleston. I am hypnotized by her climate, culture, and her people. She was calling for me and I wanted to go. This was a spontaneous decision on my part, and even though commitments wouldn’t permit DD to disappear for a week, I continued to pack my suitcase.

I wanted to start creating new adventures with Harley – so early the next morning the Doodle and his Mom were I-95S bound. It’s an 8 hour drive from our house to my sister’s house. This includes a gas re-fuel near the North Carolina / South Carolina State line at the famous “South of the Border” rest stop…

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20 miles later as I approached the Welcome Center, I decided to stop, stretch my legs, and allow Harley to find a tree. Then it hit me! I also had to use the restroom, but I was traveling alone. OMD I didn’t have a plan!

Before I completely freaked out – I called DD. “What should I do?” I asked while rambling incessantly about rest stops, restrooms and Harley. After listening to me recount my dilemma, he assessed that I couldn’t go! Say what? I had already driven four hours and I had another four hours ahead of me. Not going – wasn’t gonna work. Between the tall pine trees lining the road and not enough bars on my cell phone, the call dropped as I pulled into the Welcome Center. I was on my own.

A parking space under some scattered shade from a really small tree was vacant. I rolled down all the windows and opened the sun-roof thinking I can at least cool the car down a bit while I take Harley on a walk through the dog area. He eliminated himself a dozen times, and we played his favorite “stick game” as we walked back to the car.

As he lounged in the trunk area eating his chicken chunks and drinking some cool water, I glanced at my car dash and gulped when I saw the car thermostat register 97 degrees…

Feeling HOT, HOT, HOT

Feeling HOT, HOT, HOT

OH MY DOODLE! I’ve got to use the restroom – what am I going to do? What would you do?

The “no pets allowed beyond this point” signs were visible and plentiful. I looked around at all the other pet travelers parked near me and I thought “huh, am I the only crazy person traveling 8 hours alone with a dog?” I saw couples, I saw family units. I watched as they handed off leashes taking turns going to the restrooms.

As my situation meter started to teeter towards “emergency” I could only think about what I was NOT going to do:

  • I was NOT leaving Harley in the car – wasn’t happening
  • I was NOT giving him to a friendly looking stranger to “hold on to him” while I went to the restroom

Six days earlier I lost Leo, now every ounce of my attention was on Harley’s safety and well being. He was my #1 priority and I was like a secret service agent assigned to POTUS.

 So here’s what I did  

I placed his chicken and water back into the cooler, locked up the car and headed towards the Welcome Center. Standing right next to the “no pets” sign, I held the door open for Harley. As we entered the women’s restroom, two ladies standing at the sink gasped “it’s a dog.” I smiled and said “yes it is” and scurried into the stall.

Poor Harley – he’d never been in a public restroom before – so trying to keep him from shimming under the door to visit the lady in the next stall was a challenge.

Our exit was swift, however we weren’t able to escape completely before bumping into the restroom custodian as she entered with her cart. She was not happy, but I remained courteous and pleasant as I acknowledged her with a smile.

People stopped to talk to me as we walked out of the building, they were supportive and shared my same sentiments. There simply was no alternative. I’m sure I am not the first or the last to travel alone with a pet. For me, endangering Harley’s life/safety was nonnegotiable.

We hung out in the parking lot for a little while meeting and talking to some really interesting pet people discussing how this one situation might be rectified. Then it was time to get back on the road. That was our last stop before arriving to one of the most enchanting cities on this earth.

The beach for us was just the right prescription…

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Harley walked around like he owned the place…

One day we caught a pawsome 4th of July sale at PetSmart…

We're still learning how to play by ourselves...

We’re still learning how to play by ourselves…

Every night around 9:30pm I poured myself a glass of wine and relaxed with family because this little Doodle was knocked out…

I love this little cuddle bug

I love this little cuddle bug

Those few days away didn’t cure what ailed us but it helped redefine our roles. Harley is my therapist (I talk to him when I’m sad) and I am his anchor (his mainstay) and that’s our “new normal” for right now. When my week was up, we were ready to come home.

Our return trip was uneventful, I skipped my morning coffee, and I chose a different Welcome Center – BOL.

I am not a bad person – I don’t intentionally set out to break the law or bend the rules – but what else could I have done?

 What would you do? 

Thanks for reading, thanks for waiting…

36 Comments
  • DashLilly
    July 14, 2014

    Yep!! Been there and done that!! Dash, Lilly and I have visited quite a few rest stops on I 70 heading East and West!. Many times having to walk right by a sign and a custodian. Can’t stand breaking a rule but you’re right- I don’t want them in the hot car and I gotta go!! Lilly is my shy girl so she focuses on getting in and out. Dash is my social boy. I have to keep him tight by my side so we stay focused!! I always apologize profusely to everyone around me!! Being cute doodles helps I think!! Glad you had a good trip. Sounds restorative for both of you!

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 14, 2014

      Hello DashLilly – I love the fact that I am not alone in this situation. I love all the comments, suggestions, and confessions. It’s difficult sometimes to make the decision to abide by or break the rule. In this case, at least for me, there wasn’t any other choice. Again, I’m happy to be a member of such a large club.
      I did have someone on FB tell me that they get off the highway and ride a few extra miles to a Petco or PetSmart where your pet is welcome int he restrooms. That’s also a great idea. This way your pet can walk around and stretch his/her legs and even grab a treat or a toy to play with in the car. I just love sharing ideas! Thanks for reading, I cherish our online furrendship…

  • Sheila and Finnley
    July 14, 2014

    Bravo ! I would have done exactly the same thing. You da woman, and Harley’s da dood !
    I’m glad you were able to get away to try and renew you sole a bit. You keep writing, I’ll keep reading.
    Give that boy a smooch on the nose from me <3
    Hang in there girlfriend, better days will come.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 14, 2014

      Thanks Sheila – I did have tons of fun for a few hours after I left the Welcome Center. I imagined, getting into a fight with someone, getting arrested, making the national news, having folks rally around and protest for my release. We’d design a and sell T-shirts that read “FREE DOODLE MOM.” Animal advocates would start petitioning Congress for pet/human restrooms on the interstate. I know you’re cracking up right now aren’t you? Hey, I still had 4 more hours of driving to do, so it passed the time…
      Thanks so much for thinking and praying for me girlfriend, much love right back atcha….:)

  • Kathy
    July 14, 2014

    Yes, I’ve done the same thing. Can’t endanger our babies.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 14, 2014

      At the end of the day Kathy, you and I are still reeling from the loss of our fur babies so that’s probably why we do what we did (did that make sense?)… Hope you are the rest of your pack are getting stronger – we’re praying for you all too!

  • Kim
    July 14, 2014

    I travel a lot with my dogs, my spare keys are always with me when I’m on the road and I leave the car running with the AC on, I’m in and out and the dogs are happy in the AC.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 14, 2014

      Hi Kim, I thought about it because I have an automatic starter (didn’t think to bring the spare key), but I am still so scared after losing Leo – I imagined the AC not working properly and Harley not surviving. I know it sounds crazy – hey, it sounds crazy to me as I’m writing 🙂 but that was where I lived at the time. I love all the recommendations, and it feels good to know many other pet parents travel with a spare and leave the AC running. I don’t feel so alone anymore. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to share….

  • Kate
    July 14, 2014

    First of all Miss Cathy, I’m so glad you are back! We’ve all missed you so! I know everything is still one day at a time and it will be for a while, just know that we love you and are praying for you!
    Second, you did the right thing. You might get a couple of dirty looks or snubbed noses, but it is mugs better than endangering Harley (or any dog). A few minutes in a hot car can be detrimental. I would have done the same thing!
    Finally, you should tell your handsome hubby to get you an automatic car starter! They are wonderful for these sort of predicaments! You can keep your AC running on high for Harley and lock the doors so that you can do your business without worry! Plus you have it for the opposite situations in winter- when it’s cold, you can turn the heat on! The car starter was the best gift I’ve ever received! Haha!

    I’m so glad you were able to get away for a few days. Charleston is a very enchanting place, I love it. When I think “South”, my mind automatically things Charleston. ❤️

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 14, 2014

      Thanks Kate – everyday’s a struggle, but my faith and memories are helping me climb out of this rabbit hole. I love you too! Trust me I wouldn’t have cared about the “dirty looks”, actually I was still so raw inside, I almost wanted someone to say something to me! (must be the New Yorker in me!).
      Because I never traveled solo with the Boys, I never ever thought about this scenario before. I really wanted to know what others might have done in this situation. So far, I’ve gotten some great suggestions. I do have an automatic starter for the car, but I’m always skeptical about it shutting off suddenly. Perhaps I read too many “manufactory recall” articles BOL. But then again perhaps it was just my state of mind at the time.
      Charleston was fabulous as always, and like I said in the post, it didn’t “cure” us, but it did make breathing just a little easier. Thanks so much for your love, prayers and support – it means the world to me.

  • Amanda
    July 14, 2014

    I think you handled it as pawfectly as could be expected! I also just wanted to let you know that I am SO proud of you and Harley for being so strong and moving forward to new adventures. Reading this (and your other recent posts) have all brought tears to my eyes, and I simply cannot tell you how many times I have thought of you and your family these days. Your story has reminded me to cherish every tail wag and every face lick, and to give thanks for the opportunity to be a doodle’s human. I am so sorry for your loss but so thankful you are finding strength to continue to inspire all the rest of us and bring a smile to our days with your great posts! Hugs!

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 14, 2014

      Oh Amanda – thank you for such loving words. Thank you so much – the strength you see comes from my faith, but I have many moments. I’ve accepted that this journey will be a long one. Now I don’t look at each new day wondering why I feel so bad, I celebrate the little things like I’m smiling a little more and crying a little less. Thank you so much for reaching out and hugging me with your words. I consider you a blessing in my life. Not completely sure where I’m headed with this website, but I plan to continue to write, so you just keep on reading, Harley and I promise to share it all…

  • Karen
    July 14, 2014

    Without hesitating, I would have brought Mila into the bathroom with me.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 14, 2014

      I know you would Karen, I can see you marching right through that door!

  • Emma
    July 14, 2014

    My only concern was bringing a boy into a ladies room? LOL! Truly, Mom is the fastest woman in the bathroom and out. She even dresses for road trips so she can be fast. Normally she has to go in to pay for the gas, so she leaves us locked in the car under the canopy. It is only a few minutes, she hates to leave us, but she can see the car most of the time, and her bladder is one of the weakest ever made, so she has to stop!

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 14, 2014

      Emma, I told Harley not to look at the ladies but I think he peeked a few times BOL….

  • Caren Gittleman
    July 14, 2014

    I would have done the EXACT same thing. Anyone who knows me knows that I have chronic bladder/kidney stone issues due to a medical condition that I have. That translates to “when I gotta go, I gotta go!!!!” That’s it…plain and simple. That’s another reason I don’t share hotel rooms with anyone other than my husband who I can barge in on in the bathroom if I “gotta go!!” xoxo

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 14, 2014

      Caren you are too comical – thanks for making me smile. I’ve been receiving great alternative suggestions. But at the end of the day I would do it again in a New York minute. Next time I might shout out “when I gotta go – I gotta go!” as I walk in there… Thanks for reading, hugs to Dakota.

  • Stacey
    July 15, 2014

    This happened to me once and I have auto locks so I left van and air running with it locked. I was only gone five minutes and they were cool but if I could not have done that, I would have done what you did. Sometimes, rules are made to be broken and this sounds like one of those situations.
    So glad to see you back! Glad you were able to enjoy some one on one time with Harley … I’m sure you both needed it!

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 16, 2014

      Hello Stacey! – I have auto locks too but because of my “state of mind” I just wasn’t thinking very clearly. But would I do it again? AbsoDOODLEtutely! Harley and I enjoyed our time away, I’m so happy I did it. Take care my friend…

  • Bethany
    July 15, 2014

    Since I almost always travel alone, this has happened to me many times and I just don’t go! (Your husband saying that made me both laugh and cringe.) Your idea was genius but would never fly with THREE dogs! What I do is travel with a camp toilet… It’s light, convenient and I can go when I need to without worry about shade, temperature or no dogs allowed signs!

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 16, 2014

      Hi Bethany – You made me chuckle when I thought of you dragging three dogs in the Welcome Center! Never thought about the camp toilet, I will have to look into that one. It could come in handy. I love all the comments and suggestions – I really do. Love this community of pet lovers. Take care and thanks for reading…

  • Mary from YourDesignerDog
    July 16, 2014

    You definitely made the right decision. You and Harley’s safety and well being are way more important than a few little signs. I’m almostalways alone with Sadie, so I’ve been in the same predicament a time or two. I’ve noticed that people ae less likely to complain if the dog is not walking. I usually carry Sadie whenever possible. I also keep her travel carrier in the car so that if I unexpectedly need to go somewhere that I know is not pet friendly, they may not notice or complain if she’s in her carrier. I’m glad you were able to get away and relax and enjoy some summer fun 🙂

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 16, 2014

      Thanks Mary – Sadie is so adorable, you could carry her w/o the carrier and people would just smile. I have no regrets, I just couldn’t leave Harley – not happening. Thanks for reading…

  • Rachel Sheppard
    July 16, 2014

    I 100% agree with your decision, definitely the best thing to do!

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 16, 2014

      Thanks Rachel – I’ve gotten some fantastic suggestions for future trips. But I still don’t have any regrets for my “rebel” behavior…

  • Ann Staub
    July 16, 2014

    Well, I guess it would have never crossed my mind either! You know, maybe next time you could find a pet friendly store like PetSmart or Home Depot for a potty break (for yourself)… Those things are everywhere. I would have done the same thing as you.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 16, 2014

      You’re the second person to suggest that Ann. I never thought about that – but I will definitely keep that in mind for future trips! Shopping malls with pet stores and Home Depot can even been seen from the highway a lot of time. I love all the suggestions… Thanks 🙂

  • Pamela
    July 16, 2014

    I don’t often find myself in this spot because I hate driving and to me an 8 hour car trip is a special torture reserved for people who do really bad things.

    But I have been known to take Honey to the restroom with me when it’s late at night or off-season and there’s no one else around. It’s a tough call because there’s no way Harley could harm a thing by accompanying you into the bathroom. But you also don’t want to give crazy anti-dog people any ammunition for complaints.

    Since I’m an avid camper used to using a tree, I might wear a skirt for the trip and find a discreet place off in the woods, if possible.

    BTW, Harley looked like the host at the beach. So masterful. Honey would not be half so dignified.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 16, 2014

      Pam, you’re a braver woman than I. I was once stuck on the interstate for well over 24 hours one winter in the mountains of TN with my family. By 2am I couldn’t hold it. I stepped behind my car, pretending to look in the trunk, and pulled up my skirt. Of all the times for the 18 wheeler to want to be helpful and turn on his high beams OMD. I’m still recovering from that and this was 20 years ago – BOL!
      And yes, Harley did act like he was hosting a beach party, he always helps me meet so many people. Love it and him…

  • Tenacious Little Terrier
    July 16, 2014

    I would just take Mr. N in with me. He’s gone to a ton of public restrooms with me. And if I thought people would complain, I’d just put him in his carrier and put a jacket over it for a minute.
    If you don’t have a small dog though… there’s always the crazy astronaut option.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 16, 2014

      HA! I had someone actually send me an email – had me cracking up, she said “two words: Adult Pampers!” I think I’m going to stick with just braking a rule from time to time.

  • Ariella
    July 16, 2014

    Oh man! I think about this all the time. I wouldn’t take a trip that long alone, but odds are even on a short trip I’d have to use the bathroom. If I had no other choice I could leave the car running with the AC on. I have remote start so I can start the car and lock the doors without leaving the key in the ignition. I could do that and crank the AC. That being said I probably wouldn’t take the chance and just bring her in with me. That’s the safest thing to do.

    • Cathy Bennett
      July 16, 2014

      Ariella – I have auto start, but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. I just kept focusing on “I’m alone – what will I do?” It’s so nice to hear from so many other pet parents that when all else fails, you would take your fur-baby inside with you too! Love it!!!!! Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

  • Tiffany
    August 12, 2014

    It’s really no different than at home. Your bathroom buddy has now crossed state lines 🙂

    • Cathy Bennett
      August 12, 2014

      Touche’ that was a good one Tiffany!

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