Monday, November 10, 2014


What's potentially wrong with this Airstream Interstate promotional picture?
Steppin' out and squeezin' in:  These shiny happy people are well-matched with their vehicle, but their designer dog might find himself a bit challenged by it.

Partial photo screengrabbed from the Airstream Interstate homepage.   
Imagine our considerable surprise when we discovered that our 45-pound Saluki mix finds the Interstate claustrophobic despite the fact that she is completely contented in our much smaller Toyota Sienna.
Mild-mannered in a minivan:  Teenager with ever-present iPhone sleeps across the middle row of seats while dog relaxes among the luggage.  The dog traveled serenely this way for six thousand miles in the summer of 2014.    
Here is the essential (to a dog) difference between the two vehicles:
She basically has to fold in half in order to turn around in the center aisle.  There is no such restriction anywhere in a minivan. So even though the minivan is a much smaller vehicle, she sees it as much less of an imposition. 

She can turn around, but she can't do it quickly and evasively, and so she feels a bit trapped.  
We have had our dog for almost five years now, and she is a cherished member of our family, so I needed to discover workarounds for this situation - ways to make her feel more comfortable in the Interstate, like she belongs in the space.
It was very rewarding to be able to take her from Houston Texas to far northeastern Canada this summer.  It's such a long distance that we normally leave her in a Houston kennel, fly up, and then spend our entire vacation saying, "Gee, wouldn't the dog absolutely love this place?!"  Here she is swimming confidently in a northern lake the likes of which she had never before seen in her subtropical life.  She absolutely went joyously bonkers on that trip! 
I started this thread on Air Forums Sprinter and B Van Forum to get some ideas on how to ease her vehicular transition, but I also moved a custom dog bed project to the top of my priority list.  One of the ways our dog achieves relaxation is in being provided with her own well-defined space, which usually includes a bed (she is not permitted on human beds or furniture at home).
I mostly work from home, and this is the Serta dog mattress that she enjoys beneath my desk.  These mattresses are great, have a cover that is removable for washing, and are often available for a good price at Sam's Club.   
There will be no room for large, luxurious dog beds such as that one on board the Interstate, however.  We needed to do some doggie downsizing just as adult adjustments are also required.
I was hoping that I would be able to purchase a crate pad or a bed of some sort off the shelf, and have it be close enough to fit the available floor space options.  Alas, everything was either too large or (as with this example above) too small.  
Having found nothing suitable on the market, I realized that I needed a custom solution, and this is what I came up with.
That gray rectangle on the floor is the bed, and the scrunched up white blob is basically just a twin-sized microfiber blanket that she also likes to sleep with. 
And she likes it!  She recognized it instantly as another bed option for her.  This was her yesterday as we traveled at 70 mph through Houston's freeways.    
In the sections to follow, I will provide instructions as to why I decided on this simple design, and how I constructed it.  Bear in mind that if you do not have the sewing skills or a sewing machine yourself, this is a very simple job that you could contract to a tailor for very little money.  If you are involved with any of your local social media groups, there are usually stay-at-home Moms who have crafting skills and many offer their services, also for very little money.

And in the mean time, if anyone has any other suggestions that helped their larger pooches adapt to their new Interstate traveling worlds, please comment below or email me via - at -  Thanks!  Woof!

Custom fit dog bed with removable cover - steps and procedure:

Remnant resourcefulness:  I did not wish to make this project expensive (I did not know if our dog would even decide to use the bed) and so I went straight to the scrap table at my local fabric store.  These stores often have good-quality upholstery remnants for less than ten dollars.  Make sure you choose a piece that does not require dry cleaning.  Heavy poly-cotton blends and canvas work well.
Pretty simple ingredients:  2" foam cushion, fabric to match our Interstate's color scheme, thread, and hook and loop tape (trade name Velcro). These materials came to about twenty bucks.   
How large to make the dog bed?  At its narrowest, our AI has a 19 inch aisle.  
I cut the foam pad to fit this space, just in case we want to place it here...
...and then made sure that the same piece could also be wedged between the seats up front, because we simply will not have the space to carry more than one dog bed.  
I initially placed the foam piece here and there in the AI to try it out before I made the cover for it, and she mostly ignored it.  
It's a tight fit but she did set herself up here at least briefly.  So far in actual AI driving, she prefers to nestle between these two front seats, which is why I wanted the bed to also fit here.    
I am mostly a by-feel seamstress.  I usually start a new sewing project by sketching out rough measurements, but then I fit the workpiece stage by stage as I go along, rather than sticking to a set of pre-defined numbers.  
I use the term "pizza box" in my headspace sketch above, but this is more properly referred to as a box cushion cover that I am making.  If you Google that term, you'll find an assortment of instructions that may be clearer than what I've provided below.
Basically what you do is take a sheet of fabric that's a bit wider than the foam, wrap it around the foam, and add long rectangular pieces in the sides to account for the foam depth.  
Here is an example pic where the main piece of fabric is folded around the foam's top, back side, and bottom, and I have pinned in one of the rectangular side pieces to check the fit before stitching.  
Again, I am not fond of using exact measurements, because I tend to screw them up.  Better to just fit step by step.  Here I was forming the square side corner at the back.  The one pin pointing in the opposite direction to the others marks the center point of the back side.  
If you decide to tackle this project in a manner similar to what I have done, your iron and ironing board will be your best friends.  Still forming the back corner here.  The center line pin has been replaced with a small blue Sharpie marker tick mark.  
First box corner as stitched.  Now I have to continue and fold / stitch under the bottom to complete this side.  
Finished box corner.  Not perfect but the dog won't hold it against me.  
Fitting the other side's box corner much the same way.  
Making this cover removable and washable was essential because I expect it to get filthy.  I planned a simple hook-and-loop closure with the trailing ends of the side pieces simply folded inward.  There are fancier ways to do this, but I was aiming for simplicity.   
Here you can see that I have completed one flap with the hook-and-loop sewn in, and you can also see how I intend to fold in the side stubs when closing this.  
Folded in like this, seen here as I am fitting the other piece of hook-and-loop.  
Again, I'm a fitter, not a measurer because I find it to be an easier method for projects that do not demand precision.  Here I have pinned the second strip of hook-and-loop onto the work piece and closed the side to ensure that it's all in proper alignment before I stitch the hook-and-loop in place.  
Finished work piece.  I intentionally constructed this cover to be loose because I may decide to increase the thickness of that foam pad and I don't want to have to sew another cover.  As many have noted in discussion forums, the Airstream Interstate rides like a truck, and can be very rough on bad roads, especially in the rear.  It will increase our dog's comfort to have maximum padding, even in a minimum space.  


  1. This is awesome! I enjoyed reading your solution for your furry family member.

  2. You are one talented lady!
    I will be traveling in my Airstream Interstate with: one husband, 100lb. Rottie, 40lb. mix, 20lb. mix and a 10lb. mix.
    Hey, they are family members, what can say?