Friday, February 15, 2013

In search of the perfect eco-dog vehicle

Those of you who have stuck with me over the past few weeks know that my hippie/soccer mom van, which has brought me and the dogs and Florian on many an adventure and has accommodated all of us comfortably for camping, sleeping, shlepping large and medium dogs of every variety and enormous scores of dumpster goods, and even driving on road trips as far as Colorado and upstate NY, was stolen, and then returned. 

Though the van was recovered only about three blocks from where I live, it came back with major damage and is totaled. We are going to have to get ourselves another dog-friendly means of transportation. 

I have given some serious thought to just getting by without a car, as I know some of you do. I don't use it very often, and it should be relatively easy since Florian has a car, and I get around by bike, and there is a great Flexcar system near where I live.

On the other hand, I am trying to grow a business that depends in part on house calls, and I can't bring my dogs with me on my bike. Florian works 5-6 days a week and is with his son on alternate weekends, and there are plenty of times in the past few weeks when I have wished for a car to conduct my business and take the dogs places.

So the happy medium solution seems to be to take the insurance money and get myself a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle with as many dog-friendly features as I can find. 

The hippie/soccer mom van was nice because it had foam and pillows in back, and they could sprawl out after a tiring hike. But it had no windows you could open in back, so when noses had to stick out front windows, the dog that was attached to the nose had to be on my lap. 

So so far, the criteria are roll-down windows in back, and interior space enough for three dogs and two humans, with a hatchback so Lamar can relax on some pillows and be comfortably separate from the others in back. Preferably a manual shift, so the thieves won't know how to steal it.

The other day, when I was driving a rental car with Star and she was sticking her head out the widow, I had the horrifying thought that I might absentmindedly press the button and make the window go up, trapping her head. So I thought, I'd better get a car with roll-your-own windows. Does anyone else ever worry about such things? Has that ever happened?

We have been looking at a few nice wagons and hatchbacks, including the Honda Fit and the Toyota Matrix. We would welcome your feedback as to a dog-friendly, relatively fuel-efficient car. How do you and YOUR pups like to travel?


  1. Our dogs were our #1 criteria when choosing a car. E had a Honda Prelude that was 2 door, and that was so hard to get the dogs in and out of. I never had a car for 10 years, living in the city, and E is able to bike everywhere, so we were able to get just 1 car. For our 1 car household we ended up with the Honda CRV and we love it. It drives like a sedan, but it has so much room. Though one day we dream of getting a Bakfiet so we really can all bike together.

  2. I love my VW wagon but fuel-efficient it is not. My next car will likely be another VW or Subaru. I think it's required here in Portland that you own one or the other. :)

  3. I'm pretty casual about locking my car when I'm out and about, but I think having a 5-speed transmission has been more effective than a burglar alarm. Thieves seem to be pretty lazy or stupid.

  4. I've been thinking about this recently too. I have a Jetta and I love it but I feel bad that my dogs are stuck on the backseat. I have power windows and just call their name when I go to roll up the window to get their head in. I got to drive my mom's jeep for a few months and I loved it so much. I could put the back seats down so the whole back was flat for the dogs and the rear window could be opened too. Plus it drives great and isn't too big.

  5. We got our huge SUV to accommodate Rufus and Jordan, it had to be high enough so Rufus wouldn't have to bend his head when he was standing up in the back (which he loved to do). We wanted a window that would roll down at the back but there were none available here at the time. The car just sits on the road in front of our house now, gathering cobwebs and birdpoop because we mostly walk, take public transport or use the bike! If we had a flexi car system near by, we'd probably sell it. It's great for emergencies but unnecessary otherwise and an insurance guzzler.

    Georgia likes to be a co-driver and it's an ongoing exercise to keep her out of the front. She's gone through several soft and hard barriers and car harnesses. We just got her a hammock last week, thinking she might enjoy it. First trip out with Cushion - she was in the front by the time they got home!

    Happy shopping! If it was me, I'd go for a 60s VW van painted with psychedelic flowers ;)

  6. We've got a Kia Soul and are quite happy with it to haul our two boys around. Although, three dogs fitting in it might be a stretch. We are actually going to look at a Kia Brego as our next vehicle.


  7. I accidentally rolled my basset hounds' ear up in the power window once. It was awful. And sometimes the hounds roll the windows up and/or down with their big feet when they stand on the button and I don't have it locked. But I would think manual roll up windows would be a hassle. What if it starts to rain really hard and you need to roll up? You would have to stop to roll up manual windows. Just saying.

    Good luck.

  8. Hi Kirsten, yes the roll up your window and trap the dog's head has happened but not with us. We had a Ford Explorer and that worked fine as there is a second row where most of us were, strapped in with our car harnesses either on the seat or on the floor. My sister sat on the front passenger seat (because she's "special") but my dad had to sit with the rest of us in the second row. And of course there's a cargo section where you could have a mattress or some foam for cushy rides. But the Explorer drank gas like it was crazy. So we bought a Honda Pilot and it's great and my dad gets to sit in front. So our suggestions for vehicles are: Subaru wagon, Mazda 5 wagon, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, Toyota 4Runner, Ford Flex...just test drive a few and then compare. Better buy a steering wheel club/bar too

  9. Subaru is really pushing their cars as dog friendly right now. :-) They are good on gas and will last a lifetime. ;-)

    You will just need to make sure the window lock is on so the dog doesn't accidentally stand on the knob.

    But yes, I once rolled up the window without realizing Delilah still had her head out the window. I cannot tell you how awful I felt. Now I always turn back and check to make sure they both have their heads inside the car.

  10. Deciding which vehicle to purchase is such a hassle isn't it? With a Toyota Camry pushing 350 000km/217 500 miles and some mechanical issues developing, a new(ish) vehicle is in our future too. The pack is always crated when traveling and of course a Camry cannot accommodate them all. So, a van is likely what we'll get to hold four crates.

    As for the windows being manual, is it even possible to get a vehicle with manual windows?! The previous Camry was a 1989 and it had power windows which incidentally did trap a head (before crating became mandatory). There was supposed to be a safety feature that would prevent that, but being an old car, it didn't work. Something to check before you buy. Also, the window lock is a great idea since one time the back window was put down by a dog paw. The window controls will be on the driver's side so you can easily put the back window down and lock it.

    Happy shopping!

  11. I don’t have a dog, so I wouldn’t know the best car for them. But by basing on your needs, I think a wagon would offer ample space for your dogs. In choosing what car to buy, I want to suggest to have a list of preferences. Make sure that you will end up with the one that checks most if not all in the list. Happy shopping!
    Prince Moss

  12. Interesting post. Buying a new car is a huge decision and it’s very important to ensure that the car you are getting is the right one for you. Thanks for the post! read here


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