So, one day I woke up and there were three Bernese Mountain Dogs in my house. You start out with one, realize they are the best dogs ever and then you need another and, in our case, yet another.
Clearly, my sexy little Mazda CX-5 wasn’t going to work anymore. We needed room for multiple giants and all the gear that goes along with them.
I do a lot with my dogs: obedience trials, conformation dog shows, nose work classes, all sorts of training, trips to the vet and socializing at the local hardware store.
I was clearly deficient in the dog vehicle department. I thought I might need a bus. I decided on a minivan – a dog van.
Search for the Bernermobile
I looked at many: Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town and Country, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. I knew that I didn’t need a new one.
So I scoured Craigslist, used car lots, Internet ads and dealerships and finally found a creampuff . . . a white 2004 Town & Country with 91,000 miles on it.
The cost? $5,100. It wasn’t perfect but darn close. Another $1,000 in preventive maintenance (after all, it was a 12-year old car) and we had the beginnings of the Bernermobile.
Designing a platform
I’m not much of a carpenter and neither is my husband, John, but we set out to turn this vehicle into a dog van.
I had seen other set ups which had crates sitting atop platforms that allowed room to store “stuff” underneath them. Lord knows there’s a lot of stuff.
So we removed the second and third row leather seats and measured to see how we could maximize our space.
A platform made a lot of sense.
We decided on building our platform in two pieces to maximize the space – and also because it’s easier to move two platforms in and out of the van rather than one big clunky one.
The goal was to be able to have two 42” long crates on two separate platforms with room underneath to store things like:
- a grooming table
- a grooming arm and supplies
- a ramp
- food bowls
- an area rug
Plus, there’d be room around the crates for a pop-up tent, a suitcase and, of course, cameras.
Best tip: Get the wood cut in advance
So, off to the lumber yard we went to buy wood and have it cut.
I love my husband very much, but he is no Bob Vila. When he has a saw in his hand, I feel like I need to have phone in my hand with the first two numbers of 911 already dialed.
He still has all of his fingers, thank God, but he scares me. So having a professional cut the wood for us was the best thing ever.
But more importantly, getting the wood cut in advance reduces both the chances of cutting mistakes and the amount of time it takes to do the job.
What we bought:
- One sheet of 3/4-inch, 4’ x 8’ plywood, cut into two 48” x 40” pieces. There was leftover piece that we will use on some other project later.
- Three 8-ft long 2” x 6” boards, cut into three 40” pieces and two 48″ pieces. They would be the supports for the plywood platform. And, of course, we had some wood leftover here too.
The goal was to create spaces that were sized to fit the items needed to be there, such as a grooming table, chair and ramp. Each of these items are different widths. The front platform had two supports of 48 inches running lengthwise, so we could store things from the side door. The rear platform had three 40-inch supports, allowing us to store things from the rear lift-gate entrance.
Once John completed building platforms, I covered them with cheap outdoor carpet, using a staple gun. Carpet installation was a piece of cake.
We realized that in order to keep the crates from sliding, we had to install a few 1″ strips of wood around the crates.
The inaugural run for the Bernermobile
The inaugural run of the Bernermobile was a 1,300-mile round-trip adventure from Pennsylvania to Michigan for the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America National Specialty in May.
The van ran like a charm, got fantastic mileage (25mpg +) and the trip was so easy to manage with two dogs and a load of stuff.
I thought I was long over the minivan stage when my kids grew up and left home.