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Off the Leash: Adventures in Dogland

Words by Amanda Zuydervelt

Many of us dream of travelling with hound in tow and no clear aim in mind. Here’s a list of people who did that, then came home and wrote about it.

Travelling is fun, but doing it alone can be a grind. There is one ingredient certain to give any journey that extra dash of pep and pleasure: a dog. Because they always have their guard up, they let ours come down as we venture off the beaten track.

With a faithful hound in tow, we feel safer, make good friends, and have a better time. Here are the tales of a few plucky-and-lucky souls who just set off one day, with a song in their heart and four legs trotting by their side.

A Dog Abroad, a journey to the heart of Europe.

Ben Fogle, £11.95

The respected vet Bruce Fogle lived in London for 40 years before setting out to ‘rediscover’ his native North America accompanied by his Golden Retriever. The intimate and heart-warming Travels with Macy, charts a journey filled with desert trekking, river swimming, and tongue-lolling attempts (by Macy) to catch salmon and jack rabbits. Fogle followed up with A Dog Abroad, a journey to the heart of Europe.

Fogle’s inspiration was John Steinbeck. Toward the end his life, the Grapes of Wrath author set out in a camper van with his Standard Poodle to tour the United States. Moved by the experience, and shocked by America’s rapid embrace of technology and convenience, Steinbeck committed his journey to print. Travels with Charley is a great – and under-rated – travel book.

Travels with Casey

Benoit Denizet-Lewis, £12.47 

Benoit Denizet-Lewis’s Travels with Casey (we’re spotting a theme here) sees the New York Times writer head into the American wilds with his lovable-but-moody nine-year-old Labrador mix. Like any couple, the pair bond and bicker, and venture off-road, visiting dog whisperers, hanging out with wolf-dogs in remote Appalachia, and meeting homeless teens and their hounds in Washington.

Travel with Dogs

Lonely Planet, £5.75 

Lonely Planet’s Travel with Dogs is a simple but helpful guide to how to travel the world six-legged. A sort of golden-rule-book for dog-assisted travel in Europe, North America and Australia, it covers the essentials: how to take your dog on a plane, which vaccinations you will need, where to stay and go, and places to avoid.

The Call of the Wild.

Jack London, £3,46 

Finally, for those who love their hounds big, boisterous and fictional, there is Buck, star of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. The canine equivalent of Homer’s The Odyssey, it follows him from his kidnapping in California, to a chance meeting with John Thornton, an outdoorsman who rescues Buck from dog-sled slavery. Stark, beautiful and wild, told through the eyes and mind of a dog – this novel has it all.

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