6 Ways Living With a Dog Is Like Traveling to a Foreign Country

As I prepare to leave the country in a little over a month, I’m reminded how long it’s been since I traveled internationally.

As a young person, I traveled throughout Europe. When I got married, my husband and I honeymooned in Canada (no, Canada is not just like the U.S. but more polite). My husband traveled to Bosnia without me. Even that’s been more than a decade ago.

Why haven’t I traveled more?

Well, a big part of it is how difficult it is to leave the dogs. And since 1991, I’ve always had dogs.

Maybe I haven’t missed much. After all, there are some uncanny similarities between living with a dog and traveling to a foreign country.

Honey the Golden Retriever worships her ball.

When traveling, it’s useful to remember that not everyone worships as you do. This lady’s deity appears to be a blue and orange sphere.


How is Living With a Dog Like Traveling to a Foreign Country?

Glad you asked.

1. It might involve shots.

Recently I got three shots and a typhoid vaccination to take home for later. It felt like a DHP booster with a worm medicine chaser. Except no one put cookies in my mouth to distract me from the big needle.

2. You spend a lot of time humbled by the beauty that surrounds you.

Botticelli’s Venus is amazing. The Swiss alps are magnificent. Few things are more gorgeous than a Paris Patisserie.

But not one of them is half as beautiful as a damp black nose, liquid brown eyes, and a fuzzy belly.

3. You may spend a lot of time avoiding stomach upset.

My drink of choice is water. I hate the idea of avoiding it to keep from picking up pesky microorganisms.

But it will take me less time to adapt to drinking other things than it does to gradually switch a dog’s food from one brand to another.

4. Communication starts out with lots of stumbling for words, hand motions, and smiles.

My high school Latin helped me read snatches of museum signs and menus in France and Italy. My college German helped me translate road signs and order dinner in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even the Netherlands.

But nothing prepared me for two barking dogs that just refused to understand English.

Honey the Golden Retriever shows off her grass stain tattoo.

Some people mark their bodies in culturally meaningful ways.

5. You keep asking yourself, “why do they do that?”

Whether it’s planning for banks that close in the middle of the afternoon or remembering that it’s bad manners to visit a village without getting the head man’s permission first, you spend a lot of time realizing how different every other culture is from your own.

Luckily, other travelers will point out important customs.

But I have yet to find a satisfactory explanation for why dogs eat grass and then throw up or why Honey likes to hump her stuffed lamb before bed.

6. Although you try to fit in, you still look stupid.

Unlike most Americans, I did not trek across Europe in jeans and sneakers. But even my cute skirts and expensive walking shoes couldn’t make up for the pungent smell of mildew that clung to me after two months spent camping in the rain.

My fantasy is to walk down the street with my dog close by my side. But even with Honey, we only look awesome together as long as she doesn’t stop and refuse to walk home or no one sneaks up on us when I’m saying silly things to her.

Honey the Golden Retriever shows off her grass stain tattoo.

Did you have trouble seeing it? Here’s a close up. The marking is made when the subject rolls on her back and side in newly mowed grass. I don’t know the cultural significance of this marking.


Traveling Without Ever Leaving Home

In 22 years of struggling to make myself understood, asking “why do they do that?”, and admiring stunning beauty, I’ve had an adventure as great as any journey.

I guess if I want to experience a new culture, I don’t necessarily have to travel any farther than dog land. Or, if I really want an adventure, cat land.

Your Turn: Have you traveled outside your home country? Does anything about traveling remind you of living with dogs?

Update: It wasn’t until she reminded me on Facebook that I remembered Edie Jarolim introduced her book, Am I Boring My Dog (click the link to see the cutest video book trailer ever), by explaining that as a travel writer, she was well equipped to write about exploring the mysterious world of dogs. I have to give her credit for the concept which has been rolling around in my head for years.

And if you want to know how a witty and funny travel writer tackles everything a dog person needs to know, check out her book.

And yes, this is an affiliate link. I’ve bought a couple copies of this book and loved giving it away to friends. If you decide to buy one I’ll make a few cents but the book won’t cost you any more.


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  1. It’s like a 2 year kid that always asks “Why did they do that?” It looks like Honey just got brushed too. Happy Friday! Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  2. Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says:

    Good Morning! Enjoyed reading this post. Yes, I have travelled to foreign countries; but until I read your post, I never really thought about the similarities between traveling and living with dogs. Probably because all of my travelling was done when I was still living at home, in my late teens, and Mom was the chief dog guardian and caretaker. I spent the summer between my junior and senior years of high school as an exchange student in Lima, Peru. Then, in the summer of 1972, I went to Bogotá, Colombia, for a month to visit with the young man who had lived with us after my brother spent his student exchange summer in Argentina. From Fernando’s home, I travelled to Rosario, Argentina, and spent 5 months living with the family I brother had lived with. It was great! And, in between those travels, my parents, brother, and I spent a few Christmas vacations in Bermuda. That was fun, too. Now you’ve got me thinking about the similarities between foreign travel and living with dogs. Especially the language barriers. I took 4 years of Spanish in high school, so it helped. It also helped in Argentina that my hostess knew English a lot better than I did Spanish, so she could always help me out when I struggled for the right word or phrase. It wasn’t quite that easy in Colombia b/c Fer’s command of English was about equal to my own command of Spanish. But, it was fun. Years later — after Mom had passed away — I had the opportunity to meet up with Fer, his wife Luisa, and their 3 boys for dinner in NYC. When I was in Colombia with them, the oldest son was only about 8 months old. When we had dinner that night, the oldest was going into his freshman year of college and his younger brothers were in high school. All 3 boys are married now with their own kids. Time marches on.

  3. Great point. Mom traveled the world her entire life growing up and then being a flight attendant. She lived in Germany for ten years and since we moved back six years ago, we can barely get her to leave home. Seeing the world is fun but staying at home with us is just as interesting she says and often more challenging…that may be a slam at us dogs. I’m sure you will have a great trip. Travel is just so complicated these days, Mom has no desire to deal with it. Unless she can pack us in the car and we can drive together somewhere, she doesn’t have much interest.

  4. Hi Y’all!

    Great post. My Human laughed out loud.

    She used to travel to Europe on business. Later she and my Human Papa lived in Canada for several years.

    She’s spent her life with dogs and horses and the occasional cat. She never looked at life at home in the southeast U.S. quite this way. I’m sure she’s move appreciative of me now.

    Y’all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  5. Not long now. We have travelled a lot but not anymore with Pip being so old. We don’t mind. LOL another good roll Honey. We will have to start up the Rock and Rolling Club. LOL. Have a fabulous Friday.
    Best wishes Molly

  6. You made me laugh Pamela. Four shots huh? Maybe I need to re-think Ireland. I’m quite content in dog land.

  7. It’s the “foreign customs” that get me every time…For example, why does Gizmo hump the grass (which I tell people is him doing pushups)? I could list a bunch, but yes, it is like visiting a foreign country and trying hard to learn the language…That video for the book is priceless so thanks for sharing that

  8. Love the post…particularly your description of the beauty of dogs (damp black nose, liquid brown eyes and a fuzzy belly) :) I haven’t travelled overseas for the last 5 years, because no matter what beautiful sights there are out there, I’m happiest at home with my two angels.

  9. Yes, I’ve traveled a lot (and also lived) outside my home country and the language barrier is definitely very similar to living with a dog. The sleeping situations can be similar too – I often don’t sleep well in a new, strange place, and I often don’t sleep well if the dog’s in the bed! Off to check out the book trailer.

  10. Why thank you, Pamela. What a nice plug, um, endorsement of the book! As for who had the idea first, you know what they say: there’s nothing new under the sun. When I decided to write a dog book, I would get paralyzed by the idea that I couldn’t possibly compete with all those other dog book authors, who actually knew what they were talking about. And then I just slapped myself upside my head plugged ahead, trying to live up to the dictum of Alexander Pope (yes, reading authors like Pope is a whole other phase in my life) to write “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.”

  11. We haven’t travelled much. Perhaps in the future I’ll get my pet passport sorted out so we can head to France. But for now, like you, being at home with humans is often like being abroad BOL

  12. Another great analogy post Pamela. I had time for two today, and they were both good ones. :-)

    The longest I traveled was ten days, and while I was homesick and missed the four-leggers, I did have an awesome time – and was home before I knew it.

    May your vacation be fun, fast, and unforgettable!

    P.S. This little tidbit I did not know, and it really made me crack up: “Honey likes to hump her stuffed lamb before bed.”

  13. I used to be filled with such Wanderlust, but these days, even a 5 day trip to Vegas is too long and too far. I ache to travel to Italy before all my favourite landmarks crumble and I’ll just have to work up the courage to tear myself away from my favourite foreigners: Koly & Fe.

    PS – Speaking of strange customs, can you tell me why Kolchak likes to pee on Felix’s head and why Felix LETS HIM? You’d think after 6 years, he’d learn to move the woof out of the way, which leads me to believe that he either LIKES it or it’s some weird custom I will never understand.