Moving! Our story of moving with three dogs
Followed by TIPS to help your dog through the transitions.
For Sale Sign
The sign was on the front lawn. It was real now. Our house was for sale.
No sooner was the for sale sign up than the sold sticker was slapped on too. News spread like wildfire around Squamish. Many people were in disbelief. Astounded.
Whaaaaat?!?!? Really? Why? Where are you going to move to? Are you retiring?
What prompted the move? No one single factor. Time of life, mid-life itch, empty nest, housing market, busy neighbourhood, and just a general hankering for some change.
Change was coming all right and fast! We sold our house within days, and we honestly weren’t sure where we wanted to move to!
I had lived in Squamish pretty much my whole adult life and my husband had grown up there.
It was where we raised our two children, five dogs and other pets.
We had roots. Social circles. Support networks.
My business was thriving. My husband had a dream job.
Our perfect home backed onto a perfect creek, and we had access out the back gate to an amazing network of trails for hiking, mountain biking and of course dog walking.
We had done a lot of road trips and had been to pretty much every town in every region around BC. Where could we move to that could even compare to our beloved Squamish?
A realtor friend suggested we come and visit her in Powell River the very next weekend. We hadn’t spent much time there in the past and thought we’d give it another look. The Upper Sunshine Coast offered so much of what we loved about Squamish. Outdoor recreation of all sorts! No ski hill mind you, but the back country skiing and many cabins in this area were a good trade off! Being close to the ocean was topped with a bonus of 52 lakes, or more! It had the small-town community feel that we loved. It simply felt like home.
House hunting next. We cruised around the different neighbourhoods, viewed a handful of houses, and ended up putting in an offer on the first house that we looked at that morning. Lucky numbers were consulted. I visualized us living in the historic home. Like so many other home buyers during the crazy market times, we were on pins and needles wondering what the outcome would be and if there would be a bidding war. I had a good feeling though … and … We got it!
Yikes! Now what?!?
But … Yikes! Possession wasn’t until a few months after closing on our current home. We had to find temporary housing for a couple of months. Securing housing when you have dogs is not easy at the best of times, never mind three dogs. Rentals were scarce and it was summer tourist season.
I put the word out to my social circle and very soon I had an offer to live in a small, unfurnished house for most of the time that I needed. I would be moving to Powell River sooner rather than later! That still left over a week of being homeless, but I could figure it out even if we had to camp somewhere. My husband needed to stay in Squamish until he was ready to leave his job at Whistler. Again, thankful for having such a great network, he found an amazing suite. My daughters had some good options as well. Pretty soon I learned of yet another friend who was moving to Powell River and had room for my dogs and me for the remaining dates. I felt so relieved! The social support network was already starting to build in our new town!
My next big worry was how our three dogs would fare with the moving and multiple transitions. Opal is a 15-year-old Hungarian Wirehaired Vizsla. She is blind and deaf. She also tends to be anxious, so even if she could hear or see, there are times when she is too worried to process rationally. Trixie is also blind. She is small and can’t manage the stairs. Luckily, she’s a ten-pound pocket dog and I could tuck her under my arm if needed, but I only have two arms. As for Ivy, she has the energy of a firecracker. If I was going to be living in other people’s homes, I’d have to plan a few steps ahead so that she wouldn’t be a disruption and create havoc! Looking after the wellbeing of all four of us was going to be a full-time job for the next few months.
The final days of living in our old home, the dogs’ space gradually got emptier and smaller. Every time we moved the furniture, their environment changed. It didn’t change enough to stress them out much thankfully. They had at least a dozen beds between them, crates, gates, and portable fencing that they were used to and made their space seem almost the same as usual. I also made sure their days were structured with just the right balance of walks, play, rest, and companionship. This would help them with the transitions in the weeks to come.
Moving Day – During the Heat Dome!
Moving weekend was during the worst days of the heat dome weather phenomenon. My husband took on the last of the moving labour and nitty gritty clean up. I said goodbye – an emotionally charged goodbye to life as I had known it for a very long time. I loaded the dogs up in the air conditioned truck and started the next leg of the moving adventure and life. Towed behind us was a small trailer with necessities to keep all four of us content for the next seven weeks. It was full of items for the dogs such as carpet runners, gates, crates, ex pens, chew toys, fans, dog beds, chew toys, long leashes, short leashes, harnesses, temporary ID, etc. Items for me included running shoes, sandals, boots, bicycle, SUP board, kayak, bathing suit, books, computer, desk, etc. And a key item for the trip – a giant cooler! Ice and cold towels for the dogs. Ice and cold beverages for me. Time spent at the ferry lineups was hot but tolerable for all.
It was past dinner time when I drove my truck and trailer up to the cute little temporary house. I didn’t expect such a long, steep driveway. Even though the neighbours were watching, and I was not very experienced at backing up trailers, I took the time to back up, inch by inch, back and forth and eventually close enough. The dogs were starting to get a bit bored and restless, but they were patient. I summoned up a little more energy to unload the important contents of the trailer. Fencing, gates, crates and carpets and dog beds were quickly set up to make a safe, comfortable space on the shady side of the house. Potty and bathroom breaks for all and then time to relax and settle into our new surroundings. Fresh water and chew sticks for them. Folding chair and refreshments from the cooler for me. I was so grateful to have found dog friendly accommodations! Everything seemed to be working out fine!
Dog Days of Summer
Over the next few days, the four of us found a rhythm. Structure to our days but flexibility too. All three dogs were content. The medications that I had got in advance for Opal in case of increased anxiety ended up not being needed. I managed to get out exploring almost every day when the senior dogs were having midday siestas. Ivy of course accompanied me almost everywhere, whether forest, mountain, or sea! In the evening it was cool enough to take the oldies out for a drive, a walk or sometimes a swim. On the way home I could do a short grocery shop. Evening elimination walks under the stars were relaxing and magical. Sunrises and sunsets and dog’s needs shaped the days.
The days turned to weeks and soon it was time for the move to the next temporary space. It was smaller but it did have the bonus of a nice little fenced yard! No more tangling of leashes and wishing for a third hand to pick up dog poop. Before Opal and Trixie lost their vision it was easy to ask them to sit while I scooped but at this point in their lives it just wasn’t fair to them. I was amazed yet again at how well the dogs adjusted! Even sound-sensitive Ivy rarely erupted in barking when she heard subtle neighbourhood noises. I often had speakers playing calming music to help settle the dogs, but it was more conditioning than blocking sound. Another week or so went by of sniffing, swimming, walks, exploring and flowing with the rhythm of the long summer days.
The Final Transition to Our New Home
The day finally came. We got the key and possession of our new-to-us, 100-year-old house. We unloaded the moving truck which was crammed full of possessions that had been in storage and would transition us into our new life.
One more transition for the dogs. This time my focus couldn’t be on them as much because I needed to help move. We had done this before though, so I wasn’t worried. The doggie morning routine was done. The den area on the main floor was covered with familiar old carpets and well-loved dog beds. Calming music on. Gates up. In went water bowls and chew toys. In too went the dogs for a few hours while friends helped place furniture and boxes. All three dogs settled in well, never seeming to even question whether this was their new home or not. They knew.
Home is where the heart is and wherever the dogs are. 🏡 🐾 🐾 🐾
Moving Tips to Help Your Dogs’ Transition
Our move was successful due to several factors. If you have a move coming up, consider as many of the following as possible to help make it a success for all!
- Set up the right sized environment in a location that isn’t too stimulating or too far removed. Don’t make their world too big all at once.
- Have familiar beds and objects around. Some novelty items for interest but some old comfy and smelly stuff too!
- Early and ongoing positive experiences to socialize your dog to a variety of different environments, places to sleep, bowls to eat from, vehicles to drive in, etc.
- Train your dog to go to their bed/mat on cue – hand signal, verbal or even by vibration and scent … can be helpful for senior, deaf or blind dogs.
- Set your dog up for success and teach them to settle when barricaded in new surroundings or contained in a crate. This could even start with different areas in your home.
- Get your dog used to eliminating (both pee and poop) in different environments, on different surfaces, whether they are on a leash or not.
- Have a predictable daily routine but not too rigid of a schedule that your dog gets stressed if timing is off.
- Train your dog to wait at doorways and gates as a default behaviour or at least when cued.
- Walking calmly at your side and not pulling on leash takes time to train but is very helpful in many situations.
- Become a trusting partner. When your dog is unsure or excited and looks to you, keep them safe or engaged. They will look to you more often for guidance.
- A solid trained sit or down position, on a variety of surfaces is a key skill.
- Take the time to train your dog to stay in one spot and relax until you come back and release them. Always ensure the dog feels safe and don’t let them out of your sight.
- Having a dog that accepts handling can be especially helpful and perhaps even lifesaving in an emergency. Get lots of positive practice with harnesses, towels, grooming, etc.
- Meet your dog’s physical exercise needs. A tired dog is often also a good dog. Be careful not to overstimulate too often or that kind of behaviour can become the norm.
- Meet your dog’s mental enrichment needs. Some brain work, training or puzzle toys can help round out their day and prevent them from finding inappropriate jobs of their own!
- Dogs are typically more active at dawn and dusk so the middle part of the day might be the best time for you to get things done while they rest.
- Have temporary ID tags made for your dog or buy ones that you can change yourself.
- Have a contact card in your wallet with your dog’s name and details in case you are injured.
- Know the location and contact info for the nearest veterinary services.
Other things that you may consider depending on your situation.
- Talk to your veterinarian about calming medications or supplements
- Take your dog to a friend’s house or boarding place for a few days until you’re settled.
- Hire someone else to move your possessions while you vacation with your dog ☺