You can’t miss Kristina Williamson and her goldendoodle in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler.
“Maverick is my co-pilot,” said Williamson, co-host of “Broadway & Krissy in the Morning” on New Country 93.1 FM in Detroit that airs weekdays from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.
“I have the doors and top off the Jeep 24/7. He just sits in my passenger seat and watches people go by,” she said. “Everyone smiles at him at stoplights. It’s awesome during a pandemic because we could all use an easy laugh right now, and he brightens up every face that catches him when we’re on our way to adventure.”
Getting her first dog in April was “kind of perfect,” Williamson said. Maverick is a quarantine puppy. He arrived just a few weeks after the Jeep.
“The couch is ripped up. The rug is all ripped up that you can barely afford anyway because you’re on your own. I love the dog but everything is destroyed. I was going to put him in training but then COVID happened. I’m trying to figure this out,” said Williamson, 28, a New Jersey native who moved to Michigan for her dream job a year ago.
“Girl, this is probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever had — but it’s the best challenge I’ve ever taken on, raising my best friend,” she said. “The Wrangler has brought us together. It has bonded us, for sure.”
And the other 9 best ...
The 2020 Jeep Wrangler like the one Williamson now owns made the Top 10 list of vehicles recommended for dog lovers by Autotrader.com, a respected online marketplace for car buyers and sellers.
“Our dogs are our family and we want to make them part of the action,” Jim Morrison, head of the Jeep brand, FCA-North America, told the Free Press. “There is nothing like rolling through the backcountry in the Jeep Wrangler with our four-legged friends.”
Morrison provided an image of his rescue dogs Daisy and Turbo happily hanging out on the seats of his Jeep in the afternoon sunshine.
The just-released new annual list for dog lovers, which offers a range of vehicle sizes, prices, pet-friendly design features and pet-friendly accessories, recommends, in no particular order:
• 2020 Audi Q5
• 2020 Chrysler Pacifica
• 2020 Honda Fit
• 2020 Hyundai Kona
• 2020 Jeep Wrangler
• 2020 Kia Soul
• 2020 Subaru Outback
•2020 Tesla Model Y
•2021 Toyota Sienna
• 2020 Volvo V60
These vehicles include large rear doors, low cargo floors, dog safety harnesses and even special technology to accommodate dogs, as is the case with Tesla.
“This is a feature-driven list,” said Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader.
“The Ford F-150 is a great truck. But we didn’t come upon anything compelling that said, ‘Hey, dog owners, this feature is for you’ the same way we did with other types of vehicles. In addition, many pet safety experts say pickups aren’t the best way to transport your family pet.’”
In addition to the Wrangler, Fiat Chrysler builds a popular van that made the list, too.
‘Dog mode’ technology
Meanwhile, Moody said Volvo and Subaru go “above and beyond” with efforts to impress dog owners. He pointed to the built-in look and feel of features such as partitions, separations and cages, available with Volvo vehicles. Volvo sets a gold standard.
“When you crate your dog, it’s actually for safety reasons. And many times they like to be crated,” Moody said. “Subaru has a robust pet adoption program, they give to those causes regularly. That’s more than horsepower and harnesses. We’re talking about life.”
Dog owners have a “deep vibe” and they’re serious about vehicle selection, said Moody, who personally curates the list.
“I don’t picture people taking their Jeep off road and taking their cat along for the ride. It’s a dog thing. And Chrysler and Jeep do a great job of producing accessories that match the vehicle with look and feel.”
Meanwhile, Tesla has a “dog mode” that allows owners to lock their pets in the car, leave the vehicle switched on to run heat or air-conditioning, and a message on the big screen inside the vehicle says, “‘Don’t worry. My owner knows I’m here and the cabin temperature is set to 68 degrees,’” Moody said. “That’s pretty spectacular.”
Dogs find new homes
As the pandemic continues to inspire cautionary behavior, more and more people are spending time in cars rather than in planes or trains.
Another trend is the increased adoption of dogs, especially big dogs.
“We’re seeing a lot of younger people in their 20s and 30s adopting dogs to go camping and hiking,” said Debbie Thurman, manager of the Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society in Detroit.
“Bigger dogs that didn’t used to be adopted out or adopted as quickly, and dogs that had behavior issues. They’re the dogs that were hyper. Now people want dogs that are active and out running around.”
The shelter now has visitors scour choices online and meetings with potential adoptive families are held outdoors. Thurman explained there is no obligation to take an animal and if things don’t work out, animals may be returned.
“We want things to work out,” she said.
“We have a behaviorist to match dogs with families. We’re seeing a lot of people off work because of COVID. People are taking more time; they’re home with the family and kids. I think shelters all over the United States are emptier than they ever were.” ‘You need a dog in your life’ Michigan car dealer Thad Szott sees personally the surge in dog ownership, he said.
He sells Ford, Dodge and Ram plus Jeep, Chrysler and Toyota — and he hears customers talk about space demands, pet needs and long car trips.
“It may be surprising that there are a lot of dog people that own Toyotas even though they’re not as well known as, say, Jeep. But the Sienna minivans, they have so much crazy space,” Szott said.
“You put it next to a full-size SUV and the way minivans are designed now, they can fit way more stuff. You look and think, there’s no way. It doesn’t make sense. But the minivan has storage in the floor and you can just load like crazy. People have stuff, dude. Everybody has so much stuff.”
Heading into six months of COVID-19 restrictions inspired people to spend more time away from others, social distancing in faraway places.
“I constantly hear, ‘We need more room because our dogs go with us’ or ‘We need more room because we’re taking our dogs up north,’” he said.
“We sell more Jeep Wrangler four-doors to people that have dogs because there’s so much space. Dog people seem to be a little happier. You need a dog in your life, dude.”