By Mary Helen Berg
Tillman may be short, stocky, and a little slobbery, but his impressive skateboarding skills have earned him a special place in the hearts of animal lovers across the country.
A daring 8-year-old English Bulldog, Tillman stars in the Hallmark Channel series Who Let the Dogs Out. Each week, Tillman—The World’s Fastest Skateboarding Dog—and his friend, Norman (his scooter-loving canine companion) scramble aboard Tillman’s RV and cruise across the country in search of the most talented dogs in America.
Tillman and his crew of canine and human pals explore legendary locales ranging from The Grand Ole Opry to the Playboy Mansion. Along they way they encounter inspiring military K9s, humane society heroes, and special humans with canine connections. They also meet lots of celebrities on their adventures, including Ashley Judd, Harry Connick Jr., Mariska Hargitay, and NASCAR’s Greg Biffle.
Tillman gained fame for his killer skateboard moves, but he also surfs, snowboards, skimboards, and drives Segways and ATVs. As the Natural Balance Pet Foods official spokesdog, Tillman acquired a custom RV emblazoned with larger-than-life images of himself, making him hard to miss when he hits the highway.
If you feel the call of the open road this summer, follow these tips inspired by Tillman’s adventures. Remember that the most important thing, whether you stay in a Tillman-style RV, a tent, or a luxury hotel, is to plan ahead and be prepared for anything that might come your way.
1. Create a pet kit to keep all your pal’s essentials in one place. Include chew toys to keep him busy, grooming supplies, medications, and a full supply of food. Pack a pet first-aid kit, vaccination records, your vet’s number in case of an emergency, and a list of pet clinics on your route. (Don’t feel like carrying around a bunch of papers? The iPhone app MyPetED electronically stores all your pet’s documents for easy retrieval on the go.) Ron Davis, Tillman’s guardian, always packs Benadryl in case his curious friend runs into a beehive. He also recommends bringing duplicate collars, leashes, and water. (Davis explains that he has a tendency to leave things behind at rest stops.)
2. Break often for relief and exercise. Your GPS can locate parks and rest areas along the way where you can stop every couple hours for fun and potty breaks. Find open space where your pet can run. “Even though [stopping] makes my trip a little longer, it means at 10 p.m. Tillman isn’t bouncing off the hotel walls and wanting to go for a jog,” Davis says.
3. Check in advance that your destinations are pet-friendly. If you are beach bound, check restrictions and inquire whether the surf is safe for dogs. Invest in a doggie life vest. If you are in the ocean, beware of jellyfish and stingrays. If hiking is on the itinerary, keep your pooch on a short leash to avoid encounters with skunks, snakes, and painful burrs or foxtail. If you fear your dog might be exposed to rattlesnakes or parasites, talk to your vet about vaccination protection.
Some hotels will cater to your pal with pet treats, comfy beds, free dog-sitting, grooming sessions and even canine massages. Other hotels restrict pets over a certain size or don’t permit them to be left alone in the room. Ask whether your hotel requires a deposit for pets or if you will be required to pay a non-refundable fee.
Many campgrounds are dog friendly, but don’t assume every pup in camp has good manners. Follow campground etiquette and keep your pet leashed, pick up after him, and don’t let him bark after dark. RV campgrounds often welcome pets, but some may restrict size to 10 pounds or less.
4. Provide a secured travel crate for your canine driving companion, or secure your furry friend with a pet seatbelt. Tillman’s RV is outfitted with a secured crate stuffed with a cozy bed and blankets. After all, Davis says, “Would you let your kid lie in the back seat with no seat belt while you are traveling down the freeway?”
The Golden Rule: Expect the unexpected when traveling with your pet, and pack accordingly. Always bring more water than you could ever need. “Never take it for granted that the next town is there,” Davis says.
Who Let The Dogs Out airs weekly on Hallmark Channel. Check your local listings for times.