31 May 2008

Crate in the Car--Lots of Rides Lately

Life hasn't been so exciting for Molly lately. Thursday we had to go for a long drive to a treatment for me and she had to wait in the car during it. Today was another long drive to a meeting with people setting up a service dog organization here in Denmark. It should work out really well, but the host's dog has recently had surgery in her knee, so guest dogs had to stay in their vehicles for the duration. It isn't how host or host dog had hoped to do things, but was essential under the situation. With the host dog in training and so newly operated, vistors would just have been too risky.

It's been really hot lately so we replaced Molly's car basket with a wire crate. We'd tried before without much success but now we have a plan to make it more comfortable. We also got an extra crate free from a friend, so we are able to make a permanent stable setup in the back of my car and still have her home crate undisturbed. That's a big help.

Now some people would say that a plastic crate owuld be sturdier and more comfortable for transport. The reason we want wire is to increase the air circulation. It isn't possible to open the windows in the back of the car and there aren't air vents there. So the only way we get air to her in hot weather is from the front, either the vents or the windows. She needs a wire crate so it can be open as much as possible.

The first thing we did to make the crate comfortable was to position it well and tie it down securely. It does not move at all when we are driving now. DH took care of that. Only the door in the short side is accessible, but we have that turned towards the back and positioned so that she jumps up onto the car then goes into the crate. This should prevent injury and make entry and exit more comfortable for her. She can sit in the crate to wait to get harness and leash put on and removed. We don't want to leave the leash on her when crated and the front lead harness isn't a big deal either way, but it is easy to remove, so we usually do just to make her more comfortable. Once her vest is here, she will also need to have it taken off when in the car for her comfort.

The next thing is to make the bottom comfortable. I took an old blanket and cut it in half. Then I made each half into a crate pad with four layers of blanket and quilted it by sewing it on the sewing machine. With two of them, they can be washed or I can have one inside and one outside. If I want to, I can cover the pads with old comforter covers. As soon as I get time, I will probably take an old comforter cover and turn it into two crate pad covers for warm weather so it is cooler to lie on and can be washed even more often.

Another big problem with the crate is that it gives her no support to lie up against when we drive. That's what she likes best about a basket--she can curl up against it and be supported in curves and stops. Our ultimate plan is to make a curve inside with a strip of foam about the same height as a basket. We can make comfortable curves in the corners by holding the foam in place with cable strips. We'll also put a piece of carpet on the bottom of the crate to make sure her crate pad can't slip, although it doesn't seem to. We haven't had time to do that yet, but as a temporary measure we put a blanket up against the end with extra in the corners to give the curves. It does the job and gives Molly support when we drive.

We've always had sun shades in the two back windows to keep the worst of the sun off her, but it isn't enough. So for this really hot weather, we've also covered her crate in the sun's direction with a white cotton sheet. It reflects the sun so it won't bake on her black coat or the black bottom of the crate, but breathes enough to still allow air flow.

So Molly was able to enjoy today's trip despite the heat and the time in the car. DH parked in the shade and moved the car as necessary to keep her in it. We kept tabs on her condition throughout and gave her plenty of cold water.

After the meeting, we found a shady place to stop and eat our sandwiches where Molly could come out on her leash and be a dog for a while. She found sticks to chew on and pine cones to play with and a walk with DH let her stretch her legs.

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