A DogCars.com reviewer gets one, maybe two new-old cars

October 8, 2009 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

JudithAnntheVanThe folks here at PetConnection.com also run DogCars.com, which is a site for reviews of new vehicles from the point of view of a dog-owner. In other words, we don’t care how many kids from the soccer team you can get into that minivan or how many cupholders there are in that sedan– we want to know about how crates fit, if the seats fold flat and if the air conditioning gets to the back of the vehicle.

The concept that anyone would review a vehicle based on the needs of dogs was very new when we started, and it caught the car companies by surprise. They soon realized they had been underserving  a prime customer segment, and not long after that, some of them — most notably Honda, Volvo and Toyota – started adding dog-friendly options and promoting the vehicles in ads actually aimed at dog-l0vers.

I drove a test vehicle and wrote a review every week for about three years, but around the time my father was dying last year I just got tired of all the coordination of vehicles and started to fall behind in writing the reviews. Kim and Keith took over the driving and reviewing, and I went back to driving Forest (Green), my ‘98 Plymouth Voyager.

Apparently Forest resented being left in the driveway while I was testing all those lovely new cars, because not soon after I started driving him again he started falling apart. (Yes, I can hear the voice of my father from the great beyond, saying, “If you’d take better care of your VEE-hicles, they’d serve you better and last longer.” What can I say? Father knows best.)

I had one thing fixed, then another. Then I parked the car after the door panel became so overheated I knew I had an electrical problem I couldn’t afford to fix this month. I borrowed my brother’s “spare” vehicle, a stripped down, manual-tranny, four-cyclinder  ’84 Mazda pickup named Roger. My brother drives Roger to his job as a high school teacher, because the students vandalize the teachers’ cars routinely and he doesn’t want the punks at his school to trash his prized T-Bird  convertible (Danny, as in Steely Dan, and yes we do name all our cars in my family).

Now, Roger’s a great little truck, but even the best little beaters have their problems, especially when they’re getting up in years. So it was that on the way home from saying goodbye to Heather, Roger broke down. Yes, there’s nothing quite so special as a day when you have your car break down on the way home from putting your heart dog to sleep.

One tow truck and a ride home from a friend later (thanks, Sonia!), I had: One car in the shop and one electrical-fire-to-be sitting in the driveway.  And, of course, one less dog in the house.

Not a good day. Really not.

I hate car payments. Hate them. My plan when I bought Forest in ‘98 was to put a little aside every month to pay cash for his replacement, but that was a plan that didn’t work out quite as well as I’d hoped.  Times have been pretty lean the last couple of years for most of us, and I’m no exception.

Now, I knew what I really wanted: The latest, dog-tagged version of our first DogCars.com Best In Show Dog Car of the Year, the Honda Element. I still think it’s about the best DogCar ever made, although I’d sure love it in a hybrid for better gas mileage. (Hello Honda: Are you listening?)

But this isn’t the time for a new car for me, so I just did what I usually do when faced with a decision that wasn’t that likely to have a solution I really wanted: I curled up in a fetal position with the pets. (Sans Heather, which just made everything that much worse.)

And then things started to happen.

The phone rang. It was Judy, my wonderful neighbor.

“Come see my new car,” she said.

“Don’t wanna,” I said, but I did anyway.

In Judy’s driveway, a 2007 GMC Acadia, also a fine DogCar, may I add. (I test-drove the Buick Enclave version of this vehicle.)

After enough oohing and aahhingg, Judy asked me if I want to buy her van. “I know you’ve been having problems with yours,” she said.

Now Judy actually listened to her father, and she takes great care of her vehicles, and even keeps all the service records. And her old van is one great DogCar: a ‘97 Toyota Previa. So we talked, the mechanic checked and …. it’s now mine, at a friend-to-friend bargain price.

Frankly, I’m delighted. It’s really a lovely clean van, and even with 117,000 miles it should have a lot of life in it. I’m looking for a smaller used car to complement it, so I can have a fuel-efficient city drive-around car and baby the Previa for when I need to take all the dogs somewhere. I even have a pretty good idea which little car I’m getting — and it’ll likely be the cute little 2004 Scion xB (a/k/a “The Toaster”) that belonged to Christie’s late mom.

Maybe someday I’ll buy a spiffy brand new DogCar, but I’m certainly not in any hurry. The dogs are happy, Judy’s happy and I’m happy.  And the tow truck drivers will have to get along without my business for a while, God willing.

Funny afterthoughts: Drew doesn’t like the new van, and didn’t want to get into it. He loves going places, so I couldn’t figure … ? And then I realized: Judy grooms him. So when he saw the van and I asked him to get in he thought he was off to get a BATH!

Also: Judy left two jumbo-sized VariKennels in the van, since they won’t fit in her new Acadia.  How utterly cool is that? A van that comes with crates!

Image: JudithAnne the Van, my new old DogCar. Long may she roam!

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A DogCars.com reviewer gets one, maybe two new-old cars Flea-control product glues dog to inside of crate

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