How to travel with dogs

Southern are sorry to announce…

The least suprising “event” each day: “Southern are sorry to announce that…” The great words that proceed the announcement that your train service has been cancelled. Again.

I wonder if the lady who recorded that particular announcement voiceover realised how many times a day her track would be played? By now it surely must be worthy of best hits treatment. It’s certainly more familiar to me than Lady Gaga.

Given this high uncertainty, it was pretty easy to rule out taking the dogs on a long distance train journey this weekend. So instead we’ve decided to drive.

The question is, what do you do with 2 dogs on a 5+ hour car journey? My preparatory thoughts below. I’ll give you an update (if we return) on how it went.

Dog travel plan

Taking two dogs on a 5 hour car journey is new for me, so I’ve done some thinking and come up with the following ideas.

1. Plan some walking breaks a short distance from motorway exits

Stopping at motorway services for short and depressing on-lead walks around a car-park is not going to keep your canine pals happy. However with smart use of Google Maps you can scope out good walking locations easily accessible from your route. Limited detours and a good break for 4-legged and 2-legged passengers alike.

For our upcoming trip, I estimated where we would be be around lunch time and then scanned around Google Maps for green looking spots. I found an interesting looking spot using Google Maps right next to an A1 exit. Further inspection revealed this to be Twyford Wood, a Forestry Commission woodland site. We’re going to break our trip there. (Let’s hope it’s not haunted!).

2. Stop somewhere before your final destination to “unwind” your dogs

Our trip involves renting a cottage. My pooches get very excitable when they’ve been in a car for an extended period, and they are liable to zoom around, bark and act crazy on reaching their final destination. This isn’t good when task one at said final destination is to collect keys for your rented property, with the owner getting increasing worried that your crazy dogs are going to destroy their house!

So we are going to try stopping close by and running the dogs around, before loading them back into the car and doing the final short hop to the accommodation. Hopefully this will allow us to present a better behaved and less excitable pack. We are using the same Google Maps strategy to find a suitable spot.


3. Pack plenty of water

It’s summer, and dogs get hot quickly. There’s nothing worse than sitting in the back of a car panting. We’ve got a little hamster like water dispenser so they can drink directly in the back of the car. Alternatively taking a bowl and stopping periodically to refill it from a bottle is a good idea.

To take this to the extreme, you could even bring a whole paddling pool.

A dog paddling pool may be overkill!

4. Don’t argue!

Squabbling over directions is pretty common in our household. But dogs get very stressed when the pack leaders seem to be fighting. Crammed in the back for a long car journey and out of their usual environment, this could get them very anxious.

5. Don’t forget some poo bags

Whether an in-car accident (unlikely) or car-sickness (more likely), or a quick out of car emergency, you’ll want to be able to do rapid clean up. People say its best not to feed dogs large amount before travelling as many are susceptible to motion sickness. The same goes for treats while moving.

6. Bring dog toys for the trip (just not squeaky ones)

When you are flying, the airline provides movies and entertainment: so give some to your 4 legged friends too! Also worth bringing their favourite bed or blanket to help them relax.

That’s my plan!

So that’s it. I’ll let you know how it goes!  Hopefully the dog tolerate the trip, they appear sane to the people we are renting the cottage from, and everyone generally enjoys themselves!

Sink holes

The Southern sinkhole

I live near Brighton and use the UK’s worse train service, Southern, to commute to work during the week.

For Southern, cancellations and delays are just business as usual.  They recently amended their timetable, removing around 300 services, just so they wouldn’t have to cancel them every day!  Genius solution huh?

However Southern always feel the need to try and blame their delays on external factors, in the hope that their passengers won’t blame their extreme incompetence.  And they clearly put a lot of creative effort into this, often with elaborate backstories of downstream delays, signaling issues, track maintenance, ambient temperature and gremlin uprisings.

So when I heard last week that trains were cancelled due to the emergence of a Sink Hole between London Bridge and East Croydon, I initially thought this was just a wild fantasy their line controller had concocted to conceal some other screw up.

But it turns out that there was, indeed, a genuine sink hole!

Okay, so maybe there is a genuine reason for delays this time!  Apparently the sinkhole was 4 meters deep, and was caused by a sewer under the track which had collapsed.  So sounds like not only is it a sinkhole, its also a sh*thole!

Still, I’m glad it’s not me cleaning it up!

Sinkholes worldwide

So this got me thinking, what other interesting sinkholes have appeared around the world?

A youtube channel has put together a 14 minute compilation of big sinkholes emerging over the last 5 years with live-action footage, including another railway example at 4:20 in video.  These are all much bigger and nastier than our Southern Rail friend.

However the footage I found that had the best combination of being deeply shocking while also slapstick hilarious (which I feel guilty about!) is the following.  The video is from a public bus’s CCTV camera in South Korea.  A couple steps off the bus onto the pavement, and then are swallowed up by the ground beneath them.  Initially I thought this must be a hoax, but the video I link to below is from accredited news service AFP, and googling it funds numerous serious news websites (BBC, etc) covering the story.

The Zombie Apocalypse?

I was talking to my mum about this.  She’s a traditional kind of gal, and she doesn’t have a lot of time for “geology” and “science”.  For her, sinkholes are about the end-of-times and are possibly connected with an impending zombie apocalypse. It’s an interesting perspective, but probably not the main driver here.

What causes sinkholes?

Okay, time for the educational bit.  What causes sinkholes?

I’m not a geologist, but some quick research suggests that:

  • Sinkholes generally occur where water seeps through the surface and slowly dissolves soluble bedrock like limestone or chalk.
  • As small chunks of rock dissolve, naturally occurring fissures expand and create cavities.
  • The surface layer can hold firm while deep-lying holes continue to expand.
  • But eventually it does “pop”, and the surface layer collapses into the cavity created.

That’s the case for naturally forming ones.  When you have a sewage pipe that collapses, that’s a whole other kettle of cr*p!