Have you met Dusty? If you aren’t familiar with this furry guy then pop on the kettle, grab your favourite pack of Tim Tams, sit back, relax and diving into a chat with our friends, and the people/dog behind Dustys Trip of Aus (@dustystripofaus).
1. What challenges did you face while travelling with your dog? What set-up are you currently running to help overcome those challenges?
Depending on who you chat with, the worries of the challenges you may have to face when travelling with your dog can be so confronting and really turn you away from the idea. From the day we decided that one day we would do this trip, it was not up for debate as to whether Dusty would come along with us or not. The trip would simply not happen if Dusty couldn’t come. We were nervous, we had heard horror stories galore and we were told numerous times that we would miss out on so much. We were particularly nervous about the threat of 1080 baits, what we would do if Dusty was unwell, or where he would travel in our car. Building our setup to suit Dusty was super important to us.
We wanted to make sure he had somewhere safe to travel, and sleep and a space where we could lock the door if we ever needed to leave him. We are currently running a 1000mm half-dog box which has been super durable and is able to be locked. Having this box for Dusty was a game-changer for our trip.
Picture being in the middle of a rain downpour, in the middle of the muddy bush and working out where in your setup your pup is going to sleep... we would’ve lasted about 2 weeks if we ever had to have Dusty covering the cab or our tent with mud, water and sand! We were able to utilise the dog box to leave Dusty for our regular day-to-day stuff - groceries, laundry (sometimes a sneaky national park hike) or for him to just have some time to himself when he was super tired. We often wonder how worried we would feel leaving him in the car with the window down a touch. The days get hot, and theft in some areas can be confronting.
2. What necessary item(s) did you need to bring for a successful and safe journey?
Success wise - a good tent! We were hesitant to spend a fair bit of money on a tent and tried to keep it within the budget. Please keep in mind you are going to be sleeping in this thing every night, in all kinds of weather. We learnt our lesson pretty quickly with our tent that failed to go up on the third night because it was too windy. We made the decision to upgrade to a bush company tent when we made it to Perth which made a world of a difference for our trip. Splurge where you need to if you, it makes such a difference long term.
Safety-wise - we were lucky and didn’t find ourselves in many circumstances where we felt unsafe. But for those few times, we spent nights where we didn’t feel great, having secure locks helped us sleep at night. All our belongings and Dusty were always locked away safely. We did have one night when someone got into our fridge (which was on the tray) but luckily all we had was some healthy food and they were uninterested. We took a satellite phone-type device with us too. Touch wood, we never needed it, but it felt good knowing it was there if anything were to ever go wrong.
3. What areas of Australia were most enjoyable for both you and your dog?
It’s a very close tie between the Eyre Peninsula in SA and WA. We spent two weeks on the Eyre Peninsula and couldn’t believe how insanely underrated it is. Being home and being able to reflect on our trip, The EP offers almost everything that WA does (apart from the warm weather at that time of year). The Eyre Peninsula is mostly dog-friendly and the majority of the camps are free. We’re talking cliff-top camps, no one around, looking out at some of the clearest water we’ve ever seen!
Western Australia was at the top of our list for what we were most excited about prior to leaving. We’d spent about 2 and half years watching an endless number of videos and looking at insane amounts of photos of all the places we wished to visit in WA. It did not disappoint. It’s exactly as you expect it to be. Laid back, hot (north of Perth) and has some of the prettiest landscapes and sunsets you’ll ever see.
Warroora Station on the Ningaloo Coast takes the cake for us. It’s dog friendly, very cheap, there’s surf, it’s remote, there’s no phone service and you can snorkel the Ningaloo Reef straight off the beach. I’d be back in a heartbeat.
Broome/The Kimberley’s holds a special place in our hearts. There are a number of free dog-friendly camps along the Dampier Peninsula that don’t compare to anything else I’ve ever seen. The red cliffs that meet the aqua water it something that really must be seen. There is something so incredibly special about that area of the country that I find so hard to explain. If you know, you know.
4. Was it difficult to find dog-friendly attractions or activities in the places you visited?
Not at all! We went into our trip understanding that we may miss out on some things due to having Dusty with us. Missing out on say, 10% of the attractions to enjoy 90% of our trip with Dusty, heavily outweighed leaving him at home for all that time to enjoy a few extra activities. We were able to do the whale-shark dive as we made friends who loved Dusty as much as we do and were happy to have him for a day. Other than that, when you really look at it, for every beautiful national park beach, there’s another beach just around the corner that is just as beautiful and dog friendly. Our home life revolves around Dusty. If he couldn’t come, we simply wouldn’t do it. This has never bothered us, and it was never something that bothered us on the trip.
5. Did you have to worry about your dog getting harmed by the native wildlife?
Unfortunately, yes. Early in the trip, we were about an hour out of Esperance at a pub when Dusty started to seem a bit off and began shaking and lost the use of his legs. This may have been the scariest moment of the trip. We rang the local vet and raced him into town to make it there before the sun set (kangaroo’s galore out there!).
On that hour-long trip, we feared the worst knowing that there was 1080 in the area. We had to have a conversation on what would happen from there if it was a worst-case scenario. We never agreed on anything, but I’m 99% sure we would’ve had to turn around and go home.
After numerous vet visits, they eventually decided that it was some kind of spider that had bit his paw and the flesh was slowly wearing away inside as the infection travelled up his arm. Dusty was in stitches for the next 3 weeks, had 2 operations and plenty of follow-up vet visits. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect that period immensely. Dusty wasn’t happy, he didn’t want to be around other dogs, it was pouring down with rain, and we had to do our best to keep his paw dry. Despite this, we managed. It felt like the end of the world at the time and that he’d never get better but that first day having him back in water was so bloody exciting.
As much as you can try to avoid things happening, unfortunately, you can’t stop everything. Other than this niggly little spider, we had no issues! The vet was nice enough to send us on our way with some emergency antibiotics and some emergency anti-inflammatory’s. Looking back, it would’ve been a good idea to take some from the get-go.
A few months later Dusty ran into our friend's boat trailer when we were remote in the Pilbara and he was limping really badly. He had an anti-inflammatory before bed that night and came springing out of the dog box the next morning as happy as can be. From then on, we always made sure we had enough first aid for Dusty as well as ourselves!
6. Is there any advice you have for fellow travellers looking to bring their dog along for an Australian adventure?
My best advice is to not rely on people’s advice too heavily. We had nothing but negative responses when we told people we were travelling with Dusty. Most of these people have never travelled in general, let alone with a dog, so take it with a grain of salt. People like to focus on negative ‘what could happen’ scenarios rather than the positive.
As I said earlier, I’d rather have 365 days with Dusty by our side during the trip of a lifetime, than leave him at home and spend 350 days kicking ourselves saying ‘Dusty would’ve loved it here’ and to be able to spend those 15 days seeing/doing things that weren’t much better than the dog-friendly things.
It’s obviously so dependent on you and your dog. We trust Dusty so much, and we are lucky with how good of a dog he is. It would’ve made things a lot harder if he was a barker, restless, unfriendly, or just not well-behaved in general. A particular setup is another make or break. If we had a wagon, I think we would have struggled. Having a space for Dusty that was purely his, removed the stress of keeping him clean or being squished in the car with us which made a huge difference. If you want to make it happen, you can. Your relationship with your dog will never be more positive and beautiful than it is when you’re on the road with them. We’ve always loved Dusty, but a special kind of love grew from being with him every single day on this incredible journey. You’ll never regret it.