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It was a perfect December’s day on Clifton’s 1st beach. It was mid-December, and we had set up camp between two large Boulders, which provided a generous amount of shade as well as shelter from the wind.
The wife was engrossed in a thriller, my two children were building sandcastles, and my two dogs, Ben and Zoe were braving the cold water and wading neck deep into the waves. Zoe, the more intrepid of the two is a few metres further in. A slightly larger wave comes and for a moment she disappears beneath the foam. The water recedes and her familiar face reappears, albeit wet and bedraggled. She doesn’t mind – I think these two weeks she spends at the coast are the highlight of her year.
Unlike the other adjoining beaches, Clifton 1 is relatively empty. We are here because it is one of the few beaches in Cape Town which are dog-friendly, especially during peak season. Better still, it is one of a handful of beaches in the Mother City where dogs are allowed to run free, without the constraints of a leash or harness.
The City seems to divide it’s beaches into four categories; beaches where dogs are never allowed, beaches where dogs are tolerated at particular times only (Usually before 9am and after 6pm between November and April), beaches where dogs are begrudgingly welcomed but only on a leash, and finally, beaches where dogs are rightfully considered 1st class citizens and are allowed the freedom and dignity to explore.
Out of nowhere, a pot-bellied, white-haired in far too tight swimming trunks appears around the Boulder. He introduces himself and explains he is a tourist from the Netherlands. He was on Clifton 3 and saw the unmistakeable black and tan silhouettes of my Airedale Terriers. He has an Airedale back in Rotterdam, which he misses terribly, and could he please come say ‘Hi’ to mine.
Not many people recognise the breed, let alone own one. On our various road-trips throughout SA, I often get asked what breed they are, and sometimes even overhear people saying, “Look at those Labradoodles”. It’s almost like seeing a (Pagani) Zonda and asking the owner if it’s a misspelled Honda. They are my children, and I am very protective over them and their dignity!
I explain to Frederik (which I’ve now gathered is the Dutch man’s name) that we are from Joburg, and that every December we road-trip to the coast for two precious weeks of sea and sun. We’ve previously visited the North Coast, South Coast and Garden Route. This is our second trip to Cape Town.
Over the years we have become better dog-trippers! I remember the anxiety before our first trip, down to Ballito, of whether the dogs would manage in the car. The vet gave me tranquilisers just in case. The Sunday before our trip I put them in the back of the family station wagon and drove to Pretoria and back. I lined the floor with a plastic groundsheet in anticipation of the vomit which thankfully never came.
The afternoon before we left, I took them on a long walk to tire them out. A tired dog is a more restful passenger, or so I was told. This was sound advice, and for the most part, Ben and Zoe slept for much of the drive to Ballito.
We stopped roughly every ninety minutes as we weren’t sure how often the dogs would need to do their business. Most garages along the N3, be they Shell Ultra Cities or Engen One Stops or Caltex Star Stops have grassy areas and thatched picnic bomas and usually a water station where your dogs can quench their thirst.
A quick pit stop is healthy for everyone! While I spend a few minutes letting the dogs go to the bathroom, stretch their legs and play, my wife takes the kids to the toilet, buys snacks in the quick shop, and usually gets us both a Cappuccino Grande.
Dehydration is a real problem when travelling in the heat, so I encourage my dogs to drink regularly. I fill up a 5L water bottle just before we leave home, and keep it, together with a plastic water bowl and their leashes in the nose cone of the trailer. I prefer my own water to that of the water stations – the dogs are used to the water at home. The last thing one wants whilst on the road is a dog with diarrhoea because the E-coli levels in Villiers are too high for their delicate constitutions.
Rabies is also a consideration. Dogs must be vaccinated once a year against rabies, and when crossing provinces, you are expected to be able to produce an up-to-date rabies certificate if asked. Although I have never been stopped or asked, I always ensure the dogs are vaccinated and their vaccine cards stamped. Forget the legislation, I probably do it as much for me as for them – they are my best friends, and I can’t fathom them suffering or life without them.
Over the years, I have learnt my dogs and their behaviour patterns. We now only stop once every two to two-and-a-half hours. If they need to go to the toilet urgently, they let me know by being restless. If they want water or the aircon on higher they will stand up and pant. The more you travel with your pet, the better you will become at knowing what they need and want.
The hardest part of each trip is finding suitable accommodation. When Airbnb or SafariNow say ‘Pet Friendly’ it doesn’t mean that the accommodation is suitable for your fur kids. For me, Pet-friendly means that wherever I am going must have a fully enclosed garden for the dogs and that only I have access to the property. I need to be able to leave my wanderlust dogs securely while we go out to the shops or restaurants, and not worry that some errant tenant or gardener has opened the electric gate and my dogs are now running amok in the streets.
I was also once denied access to our Overnight accommodation in Colesberg because the owner and I disagreed on whether Airedales are considered ‘medium’ sized dogs. When booking the accommodation, I specified that we will be bringing 2 medium sized dogs. As far as I am concerned, a Scottie is a small dog, an Airedale is a medium dog, a Labrador is a large dog. When the landlady saw them, she told me they are “Large to Extra Large” dogs and are not welcome. I’d love to know how she would describe a Boerbul or Great Dane or Mastiff.
Nonetheless, I now contact all hosts or landlords before booking our December accommodation. The majority of the communication concerns the dogs. I specify that they are Airedale Terriers, I give google links to Airedale Terrier websites, I specify their individual weights in kilograms, and I state that Ben is 58cm and Zoe is 61cm tall at the withers. I ask about their pet policy and whether the dogs are allowed indoors or only outdoors. I ask about sleeping on the furniture. I ask how much shade there is at noon and whether there are any poisonous plants in the garden.
It's never too late to start road-tripping with your dogs! Here’s where you start:
Finally, enjoy every moment of quality time together. Who was it that said, “Dogs – they spend so little of our lives with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home” ?