Travel ‘Tails’

The Asian Age.  | Cherylann Mollan

A couple who embarked on a trip across 20 Indian states with their two dogs.

Thanks to a four-month long journey, the adventure-loving Frodo and Cruise can now proudly claim to have visited 20 states in India.

Thanks to a four-month long journey, the adventure-loving Frodo and Cruise can now proudly claim to have visited 20 states in India. But this trip is special because Frodo and Cruise are not your average backpackers. Frodo is an adorable Golden Retriever and Cruise, a Labrador, and the two got to go on this 12,500 plus kilometer-long trip because pet parents Priyanka Jena and Tanveer Taj wanted them to experience the different sights, sounds, cultures and terrains the country has to offer. The trip, which commenced from Mumbai on December 7, proceeded along the periphery of India and concluded in the city on April 1 this year. Over the course of the trip, the four travelers explored a range of terrains, from sandy beaches, rocky mountains, deserts and lush green rainforests to snow-covered roads and plains. “We live in such a vast country with climatic conditions varying from place to place. So we had to pick an interval that would be pleasant throughout India,” explains Tanveer about the choice of dates.

Priyanka and Tanveer, who are avid travelers themselves and frequently post about their travels with their dogs via their YouTube channel Wheels & Tails – Live Life Off the Leash, decided to embark on this unique trip after their previous, shorter ones with their pets were successful and gained praise from fellow pet parents. But this ambitious trip required a lot more planning and funding and so, for the former, the duo invested almost a year of their time and for the latter, they turned to brands for sponsorship. “India, as a country, is not very pet-friendly and so we had to plan our trip to the T. We started off by making a list of pet-friendly places to stay at and visit. To travel, we settled on an SUV vehicle, which we customised keeping out pets needs in mind. We also carried about 100 kilograms of dog food and tried to avoid making stopovers in cities and towns, because it’s the smaller villages that are more animal-friendly. Additionally, we arranged to have our veterinarian on call throughout the trip, in case Frodo or Cruise fell ill,” informs Tanveer.

Despite the rigorous planning, the travelers endured quite a few obstacles along the way. Tanveer recalls how they encountered hotels across India that were marked ‘pet-friendly’ online, but refused to let their dogs stay because the hotels were ‘pet-friendly’, but not ‘dog-friendly’. Alternatively, some pet-friendly hotels had a ‘no big dog’ policy and so, the duo found it hard to find accommodation for their Golden Retriever and Labrador. “Once, we found ourselves stranded without a place to stay at seven in the evening and at another time, on a deserted highway,” reveals Tanveer. According to the traveler, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were the least pet-friendly states, whereas Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh were the most pet-friendly ones. Also, despite both, Frodo and Cruise, being veteran travelers, Cruise fell ill once because of faulty medication prescribed by a shoddy, government-run veterinary clinic.

However, constant encouragement from their online followers kept the duo motivated. Tanveer reveals how once, an Instagram follower’s home came to the rescue when they were stranded, while at another time, they stayed in a follower’s relatives house! This support and the happiness of their dogs kept Priyanka and Tanveer going. “Frodo and Cruise had the most amount of fun on this trip, while we did the most amount of hard work,” jokes Tanveer and adds, “For them, every day was a vacation. They met so many animals; they met an elephant and camel for the first time. The best reaction we got from them, however, was when they experienced snow for the first time. While playing with snowballs, they were so confused because the ball kept disappearing in their mouths."

Tanveer and Priyanka hope that this trip of theirs will inspire other pet parents to plan vacations with their pets and the travelers insist that planning such a holiday isn’t difficult because of the growing number of pet-friendly resorts, hotels, and homestays. However, it’s good to keep some precautions in place. “Before planning a trip, do a bit of research or talk to people who’ve vacationed with their pets. Traveling with your dog won’t harm it in any way because dogs love to be around you and are super adaptive. So, even if you expose them to different environments, they’ll adapt quickly just to be with you. Also, it’s a good idea to take your dog out for trips right from the time it’s a puppy. Associate your car with trips to a park or an ice cream shop so that your dog feels comfortable traveling in your car,” shares Tanveer. What is most important, according to Tanveer, is to think about how boring life in the city must be for your dog. “They sleep in corners and go for short walks. But dogs are meant to be free and to run around to their heart's content. Taking such vacations will help your dog experience this happiness, and this will make you happy too,” he concludes.