For the first time in three years, my husband, Shawn, and I were finally living in the same house, with our two beloved dogs, JD and Jersey, two rescue cats and two parrots. Shawn and I are both active duty serving in the US Navy and Marine Corps respectively. For the past three years, Shawn and I have lived on different sides of the country while I attended Naval Flight Training, and he was station in San Diego. We founded Dogs on Deployment during this time, and found building the organization together not only brought us closer despite the distance, but also gave us one more thing in common. But the biggest thing we have in common, is our love of flying!
Despite both being pilots, we differ greatly… I am a Marine. Shawn is in the Navy. I fly fixed wing aircraft. Shawn flies helicopters. I like dogs. He likes cats. We compliment each other quite well in our differences, and our similarities rest in our love for adventure, travel and of course, our dogs.
I should put a disclaimer on this post that (1) It is not recommended to put a Marine and Sailor in the same vehicle. (2) It is not recommended to put a fixed wing aviator and a helicopter pilot in the same airplane. (3) And most importantly, it is not recommended to go on a 9 hour cross country flight with husband and wife both flying! Despite breaking all these recommendations, we came back with fantastic memories.
Its difficult when you're in the military to plan vacations to see family in advance, especially when both spouses are active duty. Luckily, we were both able to take the Fourth of July holiday off, and planned to rent a Cessna 172SP from San Diego and fly up to South Lake Tahoe for the 96-holiday. We could have flown commercially, but that would have been half the fun. Plus, flying commercially put the biggest dampener on our holiday plans – we couldn't take the dogs. Our dogs mean the world to us, and every chance we have, we make sure to make arrangements so that they can join us on vacations. They are a part of our family!
While most would find it easier just to leave the dogs at home, we planned our entire trip around them. Despite our boy's reservations to car rides (anxiety barking), JD did extremely well once airborne. By time we were up and away, both JD and Jersey were lying down in the backseat and shortly fell asleep soon after. Some things to remember when packing for a canine flight:
- Doggie bags
- More doggie bags
- Dog-friendly water bottles
- Tons of treats
- Dog seat belts/harnesses
Once we landed in Tahoe, we visited our family on the lake. For two days, we spent cruising the water on the boat, with JD and Jersey enjoying the wind in their fur, frequent beach stops for swimming and diving competitions and even a quick hike up to the tea house in Emerald Bay. On the night of the Fourth, JD and Jersey got tucked into bed in a quiet part of the cabin, while Shawn and I watched the fireworks over the shore. It was an amazing moment. To be with your husband, and be so thankful that for one holiday, we're together, with our loved ones (human and canine), when we know there are many holidays ahead of us where we'll be apart. But we do so, because the sense of pride of being a part of what makes Independence Day so special, is worth it!
On Sunday, it was finally time to return home back to San Diego. Despite a poor start, where we forgot a bag back at the cabin 30 minutes away… we finally got the dogs packed up and heading back south. The pups were wiped, and so were we. After a grueling four hours home, turbulence and a few rain showers, it was relieving for everyone to finally get in the car to drive home.
This Fourth of July was a trip we'll always remember, and we're so happy our pups could be apart of it. Our dogs are always included in our plans, whether its to ensure their safety and care during our deployments, or just to have a fun, family vacation.