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We’re going to have to do what?!
If you follow us on Instagram then you probably already know about our recent nutty adventure up and down the east coast, but for those that don’t follow us … what are you waiting for? Just kidding! We’re happy to share here as well.
Our original plan was to fly down to Florida (where Zim was born and being trained), spend a little downtime at our favorite beach, get our little pup and then drive back. The reason we planned to drive back wasn’t because we love road trips. Yes, we can make them work, but we prefer to fly when given a choice! The reason we chose to drive was because Zim wouldn’t meet the size requirements for flying in-cabin (you can read more about those here) and we aren’t fans of shipping dogs via cargo if we have a choice.
The day came for our big departure, we’d just loaded up the car and then the email came. Essentially, JetBlue let us know a couple hours before our departure that they’d completely cancelled our flight and not rescheduled it. We’ll be sharing a whole separate post on this because it is quite the story, but the long and short of it was we ended up having to hop in a rental car, rebook all new hotel stays and make the long trek down the east coast to Florida only to turn back around and head home–stopping only to sleep. While our original plan included a little down time for our family, the new, last-minute scramble did not as Patrick had to get back home for work, so we spent 4 days driving over 2500 miles through 13 states (twice) to bring our little guy home.
We weren’t prepared for a road trip, but we did the best we could to quickly repack some things, grab all the non-perishable foods left in our cabinets and dash out the door.
Overall, it was a bit rough for the adults given the fact we hadn’t slept much the night before (we had a lot to do and originally told ourselves we’d sleep on the plane … obviously that changed!) and how tight our timing had to be (that much driving in such a short period is never fun in my opinion), but the boys were fantastic and rolled with it—no complaints, no attitudes. It’s times like those when I feel like we’ve possibly done something right along the way. These guys may not have amazing days every day, but when it comes to traveling they are growing into amazing little travelers!
Also, a GIANT thank-you to my sister and her boyfriend, who were so incredibly flexible and awesome about taking care of everything for us while we were gone despite the craziness caused by our flight being cancelled so last-minute. You guys are the best!
Hotels We Stayed With
Because we had to rebook all of our hotel stays to accommodate our new itinerary the day we left, we scrambled to find the best rates at the best rated hotels along our route that still had availability. You can see quick clips all of our hotel stays in our video above, but if you’d like to know a more about our experiences at each you can read brief reviews below.
Hampton Inn & Suites Richmond/Glenside Virginia
This was an exceptionally clean, well-kept Hampton Inn & Suites. We’d read past guests rave about how well cared for this particular location was and it definitely lived up to its reviews! Our room was spotless (I’m an absolute nut about this), the beds were fairly comfortable and the price was excellent even though we booked so last-minute.
Hotel Indigo Jacksonville, Florida
We had read that this was one of the top hotels in Jacksonville with past guests noting how clean and modern it was. It was definitely a gorgeous hotel, especially for a mid-level hotel. We absolutely loved that our suite had hardwood floors (not something we see many places, but something my poor allergies appreciated) and the bathroom was absolutely enormous. The only downside for us (we’ve already discussed this with the hotel who quickly addressed it after we left) was that the night front desk person was new and had no idea how to set up the sleeper sofa and unfortunately didn’t offer to help us figure it out. Additionally, the bedding for the sleeper sofa had food stains that looked very fresh all over it and it took over an hour to get some clean bedding for the boys. As we checked in later in the evening, it left us getting to bed around 1 am. Aside from this one issue, which we’d like to think was a one-time thing given how great the rest of the suite was, everything else was incredibly clean, well cared for and very comfortable.
Taking into account how the hotel dealt with our concerns when we discussed it with them (we reached out to the manager and she took it very seriously) we would definitely give them the benefit of the doubt and stay with them again. The hotel itself was in a great location and the King suite was fantastic in size and amenities.
The Jefferson Hotel Richmond, VA
The last stop on our trip was at one of our absolute favorite dog-friendly hotels–The Jefferson. Having just completed the renovations they’d begun during our previous trip, we were excited to see the newly refreshed suites. Our suite was gorgeous and maintained the same elegant charm was appreciated last time we stayed with them. We were very appreciative of the lovely tray of snacks that they left for us, especially after such a long day of driving. We enjoyed our best night’s sleep there and Zim did very well.
We’ve recommended them in the past (you can see our full past review) and would continue to suggest staying with them whether or not you travel with your furry family members, but definitely if you do!
Eating Our Way Up & Down the East Coast
While our trip to get Zim ended up looking very different from our original plans, we did manage to sneak in a few delicious food stops we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to make, so it wasn’t all bad. Our foodie sides were pretty pleased! To see all of our favorite food stops check the video above, but here’s a small taste…
If ever traveling up/down the east coast we highly recommend:
- Perly’s Deli Richmond, VA
- The Block Annandal, VA
- Brewer’s Cafe Richmond, VA
- JK’s House of Ribs Manning, SC
- The Potter’s House Soul Food Bistro Jacksonville, Fl
Playing Our Way Up & Down the Coast
As you can imagine, spending 4 days in the car wasn’t exactly every 9 and 11 year old’s dream come true! Thankfully these guys are excellent travelers and they brought plenty of things to keep themselves entertained. Both are in the middle of different book series–Seamus is nearly done with the Time Quintet series and Liam is enjoying the Minecraft Gamer’s Adventure series–and they made quite a bit of progress while we traveled to Florida and back. We also played quite a few car games from “I Spy” (I personally hate this game, but Patrick and the boys love it so I play for them lol) to finding the most uniquely colored cars (there are some interesting ones out there!). The drive down and back definitely takes us through some pretty interesting cities, which they love to see as well.
And of course both boys had their trusty Nintendo DS’s with them, which you can see make cameos in the video above! Those DS’s have gone halfway around the world with us over the years and they’re still going strong. Seamus plays on a 3DS (the LE Smash Bros one, which he retired his LE Gold Zelda one for) while Liam is currently on a 2DS. The reason Liam hasn’t upgraded to the 3DS is because he actually had one, but several years ago it broke and he thought the 2DS might be better for him because he used to regularly forget at the time to not leave it completely open on his bed (which is how the last one broke). He was also too little for the 3D function at the time, which of course is no longer a factor. He’s older now and planning to upgrade to the 3DS, especially now that they’ve upgraded them to include some new features, but hasn’t yet. We’ll update you on what we think of it when the boys upgrade eventually!
Seamus’s favorite Nintendo DS games currently include:
- All of the Pokemon games (Pokemon Sun is the one he’s most recently been playing)
- Smash Bros
- Mario 3D Land
- Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time
Liam’s favorite Nintendo DS games currently include:
The boys have been recording their game play for years and Patrick is working on finding the right editing software so they can launch their game play series, so watch out for that later this year!
Meeting Zim at Last!
The other upside to our crazy road trip was meeting Zim for the first time, which was amazing. We’d heard lots about him and watched him and his littermates grow for months, but to see him in person and interact with him was a totally new experience! You can see footage from our initial meeting in our video above.
While driving up the coast with two kids and a puppy in tow you’d think we’d have to make frequent stops for food, bathrooms and general whining. Honestly, they all did great! Everyone lasted hours between stops, nobody complained and even though Zim experienced a lot of firsts with us in the 48 hours he did fantastic.
In fact, on our trip back up the coast Zim experienced his first:
- Hotel stay
- Multi-day road trip
- Rest stop bathroom break
Oh, the things you forget about raising a puppy…
We’ve raised a puppy before, our golden came to live with us at 8 weeks old, but it’s been 8 years and to be honest the first week was a lot like having a new baby in the house after many years of forgetting what it’s truly like. You think you remember, but you have NO idea!
Our schedule and routines have changed—mine most dramatically. It’s been a juggling act to maintain our summer homeschool schedule and frequent puppy potty breaks. Our golden was easy-breezy when it came to potty training. I took him out every hour, then every 2. He just didn’t have accidents and often went right away when I took him out. On the other hand, our golden was always very timid in public and to this day prefers sleeping in an air conditioned house with classical music on in the background (I’m not kidding) over spending the day outside near noisy traffic.
Zim, on the other hand, has been more of an adventure when it comes to potty training—probably more typical of most puppies. We’ve had an accident a day with the exception of today (knock on wood) despite super frequent trips out and me watching him like a hawk. For a perfectionist like myself, this felt like a personal failure and I kept questioning what I was doing wrong, but his breeder/trainer has been amazing with answering our questions and letting us know that we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing and this is all par the course with a puppy.
Amazing how different puppies can be!
We’ve been working on training other skills daily as well and while we’re seeing some boundary testing, Zim is really doing well and has impressed everyone we’ve introduced him to—and strangers he’s met while we’ve been out.
Zim’s End of Week 1 Pupdate:
We’ve decided to start posting regular “pupdates” on Zim–what he’s working on, what he’s doing well in, what he needs more work on, what he likes, etc.–so that you can get a feel for what it takes us to raise a service dog in training and so that we can look back and see his development! We’ve included a chart (which I may change the format of down the line) and then an explanation below to better clarify.
Zim does exceptionally well in public with sitting or “down”. He loves going out with us and aside from some excited pulling when walking, handles people and new situations very well. He has gone on a number of outings and done extremely well so far during each! He even spent an afternoon with us at a cafe in the outdoor sitting area while we visited with family–he spent the entire time under our chairs, drinking his water and munching on snacks.
Zim also does incredibly well sleeping through the night in his crate! He whimpers a few times when he first goes in, then settles in with his Snuggle Puppy (get one if you have a new puppy that has any trouble sleeping in his/her crate at night) and sleeps until our alarm goes off.
Zim is excellent when it comes to baths–we’re trying out EarthBath puppy shampoo and mild conditioner and so far they’ve been fantastic. He’s a champ in the bath and laid on Patrick’s lap while he blow dried him–super cute! He’s also been excellent about letting us wipe off his paws and clean his eye goobers.
Zim also knows (very consistently with a treat):
- Sit at doors (though he sometimes needs a few reminders)
- Place (he has an elevated bed for place training)
He recalls as well, but distractions outside can make it a bit less consistent than other commands at times.
Zim’s Areas to Work On
The two things we’re diligently working on (aside from the general commands/behaviors we’re working to maintain) are potty training and consistently walking with a loose leash. He will walk with a loose leash for us, but the second he gets distracted he’ll start to pull. If we stop walking, he will eventually stop and sit, then walk forward with a loose leash until the next distraction. It’s a work in progress, but we’ll get there! Class should help with that.
When it comes to potty training, I think a lot of it will just have to come with time. We’re learning his body’s schedule and he’s learning our schedule, so there’s definitely some transition for us both!
He’s currently having his afternoon nap next to my chair, which is the only reason I have enough time to get this post finished without super frequent interruptions. 😉 Thank goodness for afternoon nap time!
We’re also working on:
- Leave it
- Drop it
- No Bite (he’s still going through a bit of a nippy phase at times, though it’s only usually with the boys when they first enter the kitchen where Zim spends his time at home, which is all par the course of this stage in puppyhood)
- Pack walks (our entire family plus our golden and Zim take regular pack walks and while he enjoys them, it will be a little while before he stops pulling on his leash and we can walk a bit more fluidly without stops)
- Wearing a raincoat (rain will start hitting us hard fairly soon and most days will be pretty soggy until it snows, so while this seems like an odd thing to work on, it’s actually going to be fairly important up here as he’ll be out so much)
Things we’ll need to work on in the near future:
- Wearing boots (Zim will go out regularly in very cold temps up here and it can be dangerous to doggy feet)
- Wearing his vehicle harness/tether (we have one from Mighty Paw we’re going to test out, but it’s too large at the moment)
- Potty Bell (we trained shadow to ring a bell on the door to request to go out back when he was younger and we’re hoping to do the same with Zim using a Tinkle Bell from Mighty Paw)
Since bringing Zim home we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out his favorite toys, preferred treats, etc. He’s a funny little guy and while he isn’t destructive with anything except fluffy beds (Oh, puppies!) he definitely prefers chewing on things that are a bit fluffier than super firm. He also really enjoys the treat dispenser we received from Kong and definitely need to try some of the slightly harder treat puzzles because I think he’d do well with them!
- Bully sticks (we prefer the odor-free ones because the regular ones can get quite fragrant)
- Kong Tiltz
- Kong Wild Knots Bear
- Kong Snugga Wubba
- Unstuffed Fox (this is similar)
- Puppy Kong (we put a little natural peanut butter inside)
The Next Step
Zim starts a socialization class next week and his next round of training begins shortly after, so there will be plenty going on soon and we should see a lot of new growth!
He’ll also take his first trip to the groomer for an intro session to get his acclimated in the very near future as well. We’re going to see how he does with the pet Dremel in the next week. We’ve had huge success with it with Shadow, so hopefully Zim feels the same!
I think you guys are all caught up for now! We’ll definitely update you again soon, share new products we try and let you know about any future travel we have planned with Zim.
If you have any fantastic puppy product recommendations we’d love to hear them! Things on the blog and Instagram have been a bit slower than usual because I’ve been so busy, but in the next few weeks I can hopefully get back into the swing of juggling it all.
Anyone else have a new puppy at home? How’s it going?