Taking My Dogs to San Diego

The Guy and I needed to obtain a copy of a document recorded in San Diego County. We could have requested it online, but the turnaround time stated on the county website for documents to be mailed is “several weeks”, a timeframe as impractical as it is ambiguous. So we decided to throw the dogs in the car and take a quick roadtrip; drive down Sunday, visit the recorder’s office Monday morning, spend the rest of the day enjoying a bit of San Diego, and drive home Tuesday.

“Dogs” plural has only been our reality for a few weeks. Lady Byng, our little girl Min Pin, has lived with us for a little over 4 years now, since she was about 2. And while we’ll never know what the first 2 years of her life were like, the past 4 have been pretty consistent. She likes patterns, she likes rules, she likes known quantities. The most recent addition to our family rattled her composure for a few days, but then she settled back down. That addition is Gilfoyle, a 9-year-old male Lancashire Heeler, also a rescue, also with an unknown history due to a mixup at the shelter. One thing the two have in common though, Byng as a learned reaction and Gil as something he knew immediately, is that leashes and harnesses and car rides mean good times.

We’ve never had either one of them in the car for more than half an hour, so we had no real idea how they would react to a long drive. Our plan was to make them as comfortable as possible, schedule stops about every 2 hours, and keep our fingers crossed.


It started out well enough.

Our dogs have a history of being perfect little angels in the car for about 2.6 minutes before the excitement becomes overwhelming and they let it be known that they really really really want to be wherever it is we’re going. Since where we’re going is usually a short trip to the dog park, this historically has not been a problem. However, on this occasion we were going considerably further than that.


When Byng is excited, she makes squeaky mewing sounds, nonstop but relatively quiet.

When Gil is excited, he does this.

Play that on loop at full volume for about an hour, and that was our life for the 76 miles between San Jose and Gonzales. We hadn’t planned to stop in Gonzales because there really is no place to stop in Gonzales, but we ended up squeezing into what was not a legal parking space in a lot across from an elementary school where a soccer game was about to start, just so the dogs could walk around for 5 minutes and hopefully settle down at least long enough to get us to an actual rest stop.


That brief break in Gonzales earned us about half an hour of peace before they started up again, and by the time we made it to the first rest stop, I was about ready to down this

and we were all reeeally happy to see this.

The dogs experienced what may well be their first rest stop ever at Camp Roberts. And after a lovely 20 minutes during which everyone had a chance to potty and stretch their legs and have a drink & snack, we got back in the car and the dogs were perfect little angels again

for about half an hour.

CAMP ROBERTS TO BUTTONWILLOW (94 miles): See “Gonzales to Camp Roberts”.

BUTTONWILLOW TO SAN ONOFRE (209 miles): To Byng, there is no such thing as an isolated incident, there is only the beginning of a new pattern. So by the time we left Buttonwillow, she seemed to have resigned herself to the fact that we lived in the car now, and that while there would eventually be another stop at some arbitrarily-chosen location, it was probably nothing she needed to get worked up about. Gil had exhausted himself with nonstop demon wheezing and was forced to limit himself to only sporadic instances of asking if we were there yet. All of this combined to make the next leg of our journey far more bearable than the previous miles had been, and allowed us to push a bit further than we might have otherwise, all the way to San Onofre, which evidently smells really good if you’re a dog.

Shortly before we reached our destination, I learned from a billboard that Metalachi is a thing, and it would be happening in San Diego, but sadly not during our visit.



We’d reserved a room in a reasonably-priced dog-friendly motel that was very proud of its “modern” decor. “Modern” in that context seemed to be defined as “a painting of a big face on an entire wall in every room” according to the photos of every room they showed on the website, so I was mentally prepared to enter our lodgings and say “wow, that’s a big face.” I was less than fully prepared to enter our lodgings and say

“wow, that’s a purple zebra that has successfully outrun its own intestines” because really, there are some things you’re just never fully prepared to say. But we were there, after a long and somewhat challenging trip, and wanted nothing more than to find some dinner and get some sleep. There were a couple of restaurants within walking distance of the motel, so after we fed the pups, we picked a direction and set out.

Fun fact about me: When I am on any sort of vacation, I want my first meal to be pasta. I don’t know why. It’s not like there’s some kind of pasta injunction at my house. I do the cooking. I even have a pasta maker. I can literally eat pasta pretty much any time I’m awake. I am hardly pasta-deprived. But you get me 50 miles from home, and you’d be wise to not stand between me and the pasta. On this particular vacation, the closest restaurant was a burgercentric place called Bunz, and I was concerned that I would not be able to have pasta because who makes a burger that is topped with penne Alfredo?

Oh yeah, that’s right, BUNZ DOES. So that, combined with the sheer class that is drinking Costco wine from a plastic motel cup

was how I unwound from the drive. The Guy did much the same, except with beer. Byng unwound by getting completely wound up and barking at every strange noise outside the room. Gil unwound by finding the closest equivalent to my desk at home, and sitting under it exactly like he does at home.

Byng spent a fair chunk of the night continuing to bark at every strange noise outside the room, but eventually we all got to sleep. Eviscerated purple zebra aside, the room was surprisingly comfortable.



After getting only a little lost because I recalled the address incorrectly and didn’t think to check where I had written it down until we were already lost, and walking slightly more than we anticipated, our business at the recorder’s office went smoothly, and it was time to get on with the “enjoying San Diego” part of our trip. The Guy had fond memories of Kono’s from his years in SD, so we decided to go there for breakfast and then take the dogs to the beach. We found a place to park, and happened across this on the short walk to the cafe

and I got a little misty because I felt it so much. Never has an instance of randomly-encountered sidewalk chalk love resonated so deeply with me. I was in a beautiful place, with my guy and my dogs, and the love was downright palpable.

We got to Kono’s, and you know you’re in a good place when you ask if they can scramble a side of eggs on a separate plate for your dogs and their only question is “do you want some cheese in that?”

and then it was off to The Original Dog Beach

which we actually missed the boundaries of at first and were wondering why there were no other dogs around, until a very friendly lifeguard politely informed us that Dog Beach was past the rocks and on our way back we needed to please not walk across this section of the beach.

It’s an off-leash beach, so after Byng got comfortable with her surroundings, we let her loose to explore. Gil is not allowed off-leash except in fenced and closely-supervised circumstances because he’s a little asshole and will ruin everything for the other dogs. And before you think I judge him too harshly, allow me to elucidate. Gil is roughly 9 years old. We do not know his history, but it’s pretty clear from his behavior that he was never properly socialized with other dogs. He was also not neutered until he was 9. So he had an unaltered male dog’s natural aggression toward other dogs going until he was already a senior, and that behavior is now so deeply ingrained in his personality that removing the hormonal cause of it didn’t do much. That combined with a lack of proper socialization has turned him into a little asshole. If you introduce him to 100 dogs, he will dislike 97 of them, and he is not at all shy about making his dislike known.

But even little asshole dogs deserve love, so we accept him for who he is and do our best to let him experience nice things without ruining them for other dogs. Hence his staying on his leash with me

while Byng wandered around the beach on her own.

It was difficult to tell if either dog had ever encountered an ocean before. Byng’s reaction was mostly surprise that the water was coming after her rather than sitting calmly in a bathtub like water is supposed to do. She’d slink away until she saw all that bitchwater going after her dad, at which point it required a stern reprimand. Gil ran when waves came toward him, but as soon as they receded, he would march in like the Pacific had just slandered his good name.

And at one point in the midst of all that, watching The Guy watching Byng watch him, watching Gil trying to take on the entire ocean, feeling the sun on my shoulders and the breeze in my hair and the sand between my toes and all that other cliche inspirational poster crap, I burst into tears because everything was just. that. fucking. beautiful.

On the drive back to the motel, Gil decided that the footwell in the backseat was kind of like the underside of a desk, and Byng decided that Gil’s side was obviously superior in every way

and when we got back to the motel, they both crashed really hard. Byng hardly even barked at any noises outside the room that night.


LEAVING SAN DIEGO: See “San Jose to Gonzales”.

Yeah. The dogs were well-rested and fully recharged. I, on the other hand, did not begin the return trip with the advantage I had going into this journey, a large travel mug of my own high-quality home-brewed coffee on top of a large cup of said coffee already in my bloodstream. I had one cup of crappy motel coffee to get me started and hold me for the first hour until we stopped for gas. As soon as the tank was full and the dogs had peed, I headed inside and straight for the coffee, where I procured something called a High Energy Mocha.

ICYDK: “High Energy” means “shit ton of sugar”.

I felt much better after that. Better enough to question, as I always do when I see the sign for it, the suitability of Pleasant Valley State Prison. I just can’t help but feel that’s… not a good name for a prison.

Also, Casa de Fruta needs to calm its shit down with tagging every noun in English to the end of “Casa de”.

Okay, maybe I didn’t feel as much better after my H.E.M. as I thought. But it was a bearable drive home once I realized that I could tell Gil “no, we’re not stopping yet” and he would actually quiet down. For about 6 minutes. I said “no, we’re not stopping yet” approximately 92 times on the drive home. I can’t fault the little guy too much, though. He just really wanted to get to Tejon Pass to find something like a desk to sit under

and see the trucks.

Over the course of that three days, we learned a bit about a dog we’re already quite familiar with, and gained some valuable insights into a dog we’ve only recently come to know. Byng will work very hard to transpose house rules onto an unfamiliar environment, and obey them. Gil will find anything that looks like a desk, and sit under it.

And I will always find pasta.

All in all, it was a good trip.

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One comment
  1. Casa de good story!


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