My fiancé, Jesse, and I recently picked up our lives and moved from Boston to Milwaukee with our Dalmatian, Ernie. Moving always involves a ton of planning and includes that much more coordination when a pup is involved. The process can be overwhelming and it’s easy to become consumed by it, so it was important for us to prioritize our little man every step of the way. In this post, I wanted to share some pro tips from our move that you can hopefully take with you when you inevitably make your next move, even if it’s just across town!
#1. Find a dog-friendly apartment (if you’re renting)
If you’re like us and are renting before buying a home, start the apartment search early. Every city is different, but it’s fair to say that having a dog can make the search much more difficult. We had a lot of luck finding dog-friendly units using the Hot Pads app and highly specific Google searches for dog-friendly units in Milwaukee. If you come across listings that say “no dogs,” follow up anyway, as the unit we’re currently renting was actually listed as “no pets.” If it’s still a no-go, ask if they have any dog-friendly units available.
#2. Keep your pup in mind when renting the moving truck
No matter how far you’re moving (but especially if you’re moving halfway across the country), it’s important that you and your pup(s) are comfortable along the way. We rented a 3-seat Budget truck that certainly made for a cozy (I’ll go with that versus “cramped”) ride and offered sufficient room for Ernie’s bed in the middle. Despite the somewhat limited space in the front cab, we ended up having a good amount of room. Jesse and I even discovered what a perfect pillow Ernie makes. However, I will say Ernie wasn’t much help when it came to actually packing up the truck…
#3. Pack a doggy bag (literally) for the drive
Moving can be a cluster, so do everything you can to make the process easier for yourself. Having a bag of Ernie’s things handy made life much easier during our two-day drive to Wisconsin. With the back of the truck jam packed, we tucked a doggy bag under Ernie’s seat in the cab so we could easily grab it at any point. In terms of what to pack, I’d recommend: extra food, a small cooler for wet food (if it’s part of your dog’s diet), a collapsible travel bowl (this Outward Hound Port A Bowl is our go-to), a big bottle of water, plenty of treats, a toy or two, a towel, extra poop bags, and a lint roller if your pup sheds as much as Dalmatians do. I’d also recommend bringing a familiar blanket that reminds your pup of home to help keep them calm.
#4. Say your good-byes (or “See you soons” as I prefer to say)
Boston was my and Ernie’s home for more than 5 years, so we had PLENTY of “See you soons” before we left. We knew we were leaving over Labor Day Weekend, so we made sure to schedule plenty of meet-ups and play dates over the course of the summer. Ernie has a lot of aunties and uncles, so it was important that they had ample time to spend with him before we set off. It’s also important that people know that our door is always open in Milwaukee and that they’re welcome anytime. We know Ernie is a big draw to get people to visit us, so you know we’re already playing that card!
#5. Plan for dog-friendly pit stops
I’d encourage making pit stops at rest stops and gas stations that have grassy areas where you can get a good walk in with your pup. Being cooped up for hours in the front cab can be trying for anyone – human or dog alike – so plan stops every several hours to stretch your legs, recharge and refill your water. If you’re making a big move like we did, you’ll need to plan an overnight stay, too. We stopped in Pittsburgh for the night to visit a good friend and her family, but there are also plenty of dog-friendly hotels that make great options. Here’s a great website to search for a hotel that will readily welcome your pup. Don’t forget about Airbnb, too.
#6. Create dog-friendly space in your new place
As you begin building your life in your new city, also make every effort to foster a familiar, cozy environment to help your pup transition. We upgraded to a 2-bedroom apartment after living in a shoebox of a studio in Boston for several years (thank dog!). As we settled into our new apartment, we made sure to do things like put Ernie’s bed in a similar spot in our bedroom, place his treat jar on a window sill in the kitchen like he was used to, and set out the same blankets so he had some consistency from our old place. And now that we have significantly more space, we also dedicated a corner of the living room to Ernie’s toys and favorite armchair so he has his own space in the apartment. These intentional actions have gone a long way in making Ernie feel much more comfortable in his new space.
#7. Make new friends (and don’t forget the old)
One thing I quickly learned upon moving to Boston back in the day was how easy having a dog makes it to meet new friends and feel a greater sense of community in a new city. People are incredibly friendly here in Milwaukee (honestly, it’s the friendliest city I’ve ever been to), but having a pup makes it all the easier to meet and talk with people when you’re out in the neighborhood. So don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with folks on the sidewalk (especially when they inquire about your pup) or local dog parks. I’d also highly recommend doing some digging and you’re bound to discover yappy hours (dog-friendly yappy hours) and other dog-friendly events in the community. Social media (and Instagram in particular) is a fantastic way to learn about these kinds of events, too – it’s how we learned about a big annual Halloween dog parade and costume contest in our neighborhood. Instagram is also a great way to connect with other local dog owners. We’ve already met up for play dates with new friends that we’ve made on the platform. After just accepting a full-time nursing job, we’ll also be shopping around for doggy day cares, where we hope to find new furry and human friends alike.
That said, don’t forget about your old friendships though. We miss Boston immensely, but thanks to the likes of Instagram and other social media platforms we’re able to share updates about Ernie and keep in touch with many of the friends we’ve made over the years in Boston and beyond.
#8. Get out and explore your new city (or neighborhood)
Jesse and I have been all about getting out and exploring all that Milwaukee has to offer, which is a lot. There’s always something going in and around this underrated gem of a city. Having a dog not only allows you to meet new people and pups, but it’s also a great means of discovering hot spots around your new city. We’ve taken Ernie pumpkin picking, to dog-friendly patios for brunch, on runs along Lake Michigan and nearby trails, and hiking at an awesome nature preserve. Fall is beautiful in Wisconsin and Ernie is helping us soak up every bit of it. So try to incorporate your pup in your adventures around your new city.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. If you have questions or tips of your own, please share them in the comments below!