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I Never Thought I Could Be a Minivan Mom Until I Became a Dog Mom

Confession: I’ve never been a minivan mom. We currently drive a station wagon that’s the same age as my daughter (17!) and a hybrid sedan. As we look to replace our aging station wagon, the 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid hadn’t been a contender until recently. And I credit Goldie, our 2 year old Golden Retriever Yellow Lab rescue pup.

Goldie the Dog is a well-traveled pup for being just 2 ½. She loves walks, swimming in any body of water, and of course, car rides. Her love of car rides means she’s gotten to test the many cars that have appeared in our driveway since we gave her a forever home.

In the past year, Goldie has spent a lot of time in the car, traveling to and from the waterfront house we’ve been renovating in Chincoteague, Virginia. She’s also experienced quite the lineup of Toyota vehicles.

Goldie has been a passenger in the Highlander, Rav4 Prime XSE Premium, and Venza Hybrid but her favorite seems to be the Sienna. Although we have different priorities when it comes to deciding which car could be our next family vehicle, I can’t say I blame her as choosing the Sienna as her favorite.

From my perspective, the 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid Platinum AWD checks a lot of boxes. The ever-present winter weather in the mid-Atlantic has made all-wheel-drive vehicle essential. As owners of one hybrid and the continued rising costs of gas puts us in the market for another. We were really impressed with the Sienna’s 36 MPG during our road trip to Chincoteague.

Beach house renovation has helped us realize we need a vehicle that will have the same capacity than our current station wagon. There’s always the possibility of a trip to the on-island lumber yard.

There are also endless needs to transport things. During our 10 days with the Toyota Sienna, it  stand-up paddleboard, 8’ long boards, a dozen 12×12 concrete garden pavers, a window air conditioner, or 6 rose plants with Goldie and 2 teens! Fortunately, we never packed all those things in the Sienna at once, but could if we needed to!

Having driven many miles to and from Chincoteague over the last year, my husband and I appreciated the Sienna’s many tech features that prioritize safety. The Heads-Up Display allows you to keep your eyes on the wheel by putting the speedometer, navigation, and Hybrid System Indicator in your line of sight as you drive. With constant construction at the house, we appreciated the 360-degree view provided by the Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan that helped us keep an eye out for materials on the ground and workers.

But Goldie? She could care less about those features.

Goldie soon realized that as I was locking the house, she could run ahead of me and jump in the car as I hit the button on the keyfob.

She’d claim her spot in the Sienna and with the spacious interior, she was never in the way of the rear captain’s chairs. She also figured out pretty quickly where the best air vents were and made herself comfortable during the 3 hour drive to the beach.

Once we got closer to Chincoteague, Goldie’s excitement grew. She’d stand up from her spot on the floor and wag.

This was her telling us to roll down the windows so she could smell the salt air. She’d take it all in, often sneezing as the air flooded her nostrils.

When she needed a break from the air rushing up her snout, she’d poke her head through the two front seats and nudge our elbows with her wet nose. Goldie learned that she could put her front feet on the center console to get a better look out the front window as we left the mainland and crossed the bridge to the Chincoteague Island.

Our house on the water in Chincoteague is Goldie’s playground. Goldie paces the dock curiously monitoring the ducks and geese as they honk at her as they swim by.

Goldie loves high speed zoomies around the yard, kicking up sand as she flies by just out of arm’s reach. She also takes every opportunity to be swim or to be a passenger in a canoe or kayak.

As a boat passenger, Goldie goes wherever we paddle. She’s always ready to explore the oyster shell beds that we can see from our dock. Affectionately called shell islands by our family, these mounds of shells form islands at low tide. Goldie loves sniffing around while we look for sea trash that the tides might have left behind.

We always like to leave things better than we found them and this includes the channel waters beyond our dock. During our time on the water, we’ve pulled out assorted items carried by the tides. Plastic, glass bottles, pieces of lumber, netting, and old buoys get ensnared in the grasses around the house. We’ve even extracted broken crab pots half buried in the marsh mud to throw in our canoe with Goldie.
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