Dog's Life: Travel
On the road with Kelly E. Carter and Lucy
Kelly E. Carter, who’s visited more than 40 countries on six continents, has serious travel cred. She also loves dogs, especially her long-time companion, Lucy. Lucky for her, she’s able to indulge both passions. Lucky for us, she writes about them in her newest book, The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel. Recently, she took time to answer a few questions—actually, a lot of questions!
Q: What kinds of changes in dog-friendly travel have you seen in the past 10 years?
A: It has gotten easier! The quarantine rules in the United Kingdom and Hawaii are among the biggest changes. Two years ago, the UK brought its procedures into line with the European Union, thus allowing pets to enter or re-enter the UK from any country in the world without quarantine as long as they meet certain requirements. Hawaii, the only rabies-free state in the U.S., still has a 120-day quarantine but several years ago, implemented a five-day-or-less release program that allows people to take their pets with them after they arrive. But you must start the process more than four months in advance, and it isn’t cheap. Australia also just reduced its quarantine from 30 days to 10 days, which is still long, but it’s a start.
Another difference is the level of amenities lavished on pets at hotels. Doggie room-service menus, massages and canine concierges are just some of the perks for four-legged guests. Guest-room phones at the Hotel Palomar, a Kimpton hotel in Dallas, even have a “pet concierge” button for pet-related requests. While it used to be very hard to find a dog-friendly hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas, now, you have quite a selection—the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Four Seasons, THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, Vdara and six hotels under the Caesars Entertainment umbrella boast pet-friendly status. All have designated outdoor areas for dogs, which is a necessity in a place like Las Vegas, where the Strip is often crowded (plus, dogs are only allowed there between 5 a.m. and noon) and there isn’t an abundance of grass.
Q: What do you look for when you fly with Lucy?
A: I always check seatguru.com before I purchase my ticket to find out if a particular aircraft has reduced legroom. If I’m flying business or first class, I make sure Lucy is allowed as well. Many airlines with lie-flat beds in their premium cabins only allow pets in coach because of rules that require all carry-on bags to be stowed for takeoff and landing. Some airlines, such as American Airlines and Swiss Air, will put pet carriers elsewhere for takeoff and landing, which is great.
I haven’t put Lucy in the cargo hold and would try to avoid doing so, but I know many people have no choice but to transport their pets this way. While it helps that the Department of Transportation requires airlines to file monthly reports on incidents involving the loss, injury or death of animals, the reports don’t prevent uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous situations. I always advise people who want to take their pets with them to research all their options.
Q: What do you look for in a dog-friendly hotel?
A: While cute dog dishes and plush beds are very much appreciated, what I really value is printed information on local pet services, such as veterinarians and groomers, dog boutiques, dog-friendly restaurants, and dog parks. I’m also grateful when hotels have a designated area for dogs to take care of their business, with pick-up bags and a trash receptacle. Some hotels pride themselves on not having trashcans throughout the common areas, and I’ve ended up taking a poop bag back to my room.
Q: What’s been your most memorable stay?
A: Domestically, it was at Palm Springs’ La Quinta Resort & Club, where Lucy and I enjoyed a “Me & My Best Buddy” massage, a side-by-side treatment in the Canine Suite. What a terrific bonding experience that was. We were there during the holidays a couple of years ago, and there must have been at least 20 other dogs staying at the hotel. There were dogs everywhere, and I had a ball playing with pooches of all sizes. It warmed my heart to see so many dogs included in families’ holiday travels.
Internationally, it was at the Palais Hansen Kempinski in Vienna. I was blown away by the attention showered on Lucy. The staff found her photo online before we arrived. When we checked into our suite, there was a brochure with Lucy on the cover, listing an array of local dog services, boutiques and an in-room doggie-dining menu. She had turndown service, which included fresh bottled water in her bowl and a personalized note card with pink hearts wishing her sweet dreams. When we checked out, the hotel surprised me with a framed gallery of photos that included Lucy and several of Vienna’s top attractions, as well as a note thanking Lucy for her stay. These perks are standard for all pet-toting travelers.
Q: What separates a four-star from a one-star stay?
A: Although one-star hotels can’t offer the pet amenities and services that four-star hotels do, they can offer the same love to canines. Pats on my dog’s head from the housekeeping staff and a smile from the front desk clerk when I take Lucy out for a walk go a long way in brightening my stay at budget hotels.
These days, travelers can expect a lot at four-star hotels. Pick-up bags should be at the front desk or bell stand. The concierge should know where the closest dog park is, be able to tell me the name of the closest pet boutique without looking it up and suggest a few dog-friendly restaurants and pet sitters. Bonus points for sharing info on dog-walking and dog-sitting services.
Q: What was one of your most important lessons about traveling with dogs?
A: Know the law before you go. As just a small example, if you’re accustomed to feeding your dog from the table, you may be surprised to find that some cities require dogs to be on the outside of a railing of a dog-friendly restaurant, not at your feet, and that feeding dogs at some pet-friendly restaurants is a no-no.
Q: When you’re in another country, does having a dog make it easier or more difficult to navigate?
A: Carrying an American passport may not endear you to foreigners worldwide, but walking a dog often does. Assuming you’re able to communicate in some form, a dog gives you an excuse to strike up a conversation with a local pet person by asking about dog parks or where to buy food.
Not long after Lucy and I moved to Italy in 2003, I met a British woman who had moved into my apartment building in Florence a couple of days before I arrived. A few weeks after getting settled, she and I went out to lunch. Everybody on the street stopped to say hi to me, which shocked my new neighbor. She hadn’t met any locals and couldn’t understand how I had become so popular in such a short time. I told her it was Lucy’s doing. People stopped me so they could play with her. I’ve gotten in good with hotel management because of Lucy as well. Hotels in Nice, Martinique and Amsterdam offered to keep her at the front desk while I left the hotel to work for extended hours.
Q: Have you always had a dog?
A: When I was growing up in Los Angeles, there was never a time when our family didn’t have at least one dog. Over the years, we had a couple of Poodles, a German Shepherd, a St. Bernard, a Husky/German Shepherd mix and three Pit Bulls. Because dogs have always been part of my life, I’ve been keenly aware of their loyalty and companionship for as long as I can remember. I always knew that I would have a dog and would name her Lucy (a family name); “have kids” was never on my to-do list. Timing was the big issue. Ironically, I traveled too much to get a pet when I began my journalism career. I was a sportswriter and on the road all the time, including four years as a beat writer covering the Lakers, every game, home and away.
When I switched to entertainment writing, my travel slowed down just enough that I could get a small dog to accompany me. Though I didn’t plan on it, Lucy served as the icebreaker when I interviewed Hollywood’s biggest celebrities. To this day, every time I see Denzel Washington, he looks inside my purse for Lucy though it’s been 12 years since he first met her. I’ve been in a relationship for the last three years, but before that, I was a die-hard singleton who came home to an empty house and was always alone in hotel rooms until I brought Lucy into my life. Although she’s as aloof as a cat, she’s such a hoot—her tiny stature is paired with a big personality and a high opinion of herself. Sometimes I think I’m going to squeeze her to death because I hug her so hard.
Q: Have you ever had a larger dog?
A: Four years before getting Lucy, I had a Sheltie named Deena for a couple of months. A friend gave her to me, then took her back. That’s another story! I didn’t have her long enough to take any trips with her, but she accompanied me plenty around LA. She was so sweet and beautiful. I’m still partial to Shelties. Maybe I’ll get one at some point! But for now, I get my fix as a volunteer at Pets Unlimited’s animal shelter in San Francisco. Every so often, there’s a big dog at the shelter and even if I’m not scheduled to walk it, I find time to socialize with the pooch.
I’m so jealous of people whose four-legged friends can keep up with them during outdoor activities. I know some small dogs can do it, but my Lucy is not one of them, especially at 13. I take her to Alta Plaza Park in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights almost every morning just so I can gaze at the big dogs playing fetch. Then I power walk at Crissy Field, where I smile at the big dogs running in the water and playing on the beach with their guardians. One day, that will be me, I think to myself.
Kelly’s (Off-the-Beaten Track) Picks
If you travel with your co-pilot, you know that Carmel, Provincetown and Taos are among the top go-to destinations. We asked Kelly for tips on places with charms that were perhaps not quite so well known, and she shared a few of her discoveries.
Savannah, which has grown in popularity in recent years, has dog fountains in some of its squares and welcomes dogs in some museums. And a few of its pedicab drivers will double as dog sitters so their people can sightsee. (More here.)
Colorado Springs has an unbelievable number of dog-friendly attractions, not to mention Bear Creek Dog Park, one of the best.
Washington’s Yakima Valley has a slew of dog-friendly wineries. Lake Placid is heavenly for dogs all year long. A dog will never grow bored in Banff. And I was surprised to find what a terrific place Huntington Beach is for dogs.
Pick up or download a copy of Kelly’s new book, The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel, for more places to explore. To learn more about Kelly visit kellyecarter.com or go to TheJetSetPets.com for a host of great travel tips and resources.
Dog's Life: Travel
Care and boarding alternatives.
If chartering a private plane so your dog can see the world with you seems reasonable, you’re either very wealthy or really love traveling with your pup. Since most of us don’t have a Learjet at our disposal, eventually there will come a time when we’ll have to leave our dogs behind while we embark on extended travel (a week or longer).
The best way to ensure that your time away is fun and stress-free for both you and your dog is to have a good game plan in advance of departure. Though dogs have very different personalities, maintaining a sense of normalcy and routine during owner absences is beneficial for every type of dog.
Also, a confident, happy dog will have a much easier time with an extended absence than one who has had little socialization—one of the many reasons training and socialization are beneficial for dogs and humans alike. A visit to a familiar dog park will reconnect your dog with well-known scents, activities and other canine friends.
Recently, we spoke with Abbie Mood, Canine Behavior Science and Technology diplomate/owner of Communicate with Your Dog in Westminster, Colo., who offered some useful insights.
Mood stresses the importance of maintaining a routine with your dog. “Anyone who has a dog likely wonders how the dog knows when it’s time for dinner, for a walk, to go to sleep. It’s because your dog has a routine. Keeping this sense of normalcy is a good way to help your dog stay on schedule and feel a bit more comfortable in your absence. For some dogs, especially those with separation anxiety, the preparation and the leaving ritual themselves can induce anxiety, so varying your [pre-trip] routine can be helpful. The best thing you can do to prepare your dog is to set up the logistics ahead of time so you aren’t rushing around at the last minute, and staying relaxed yourself.”
When it comes to care, the best-case scenario is one in which the dog remains at home with a trusted friend or family member; second-best is a pet sitter. As Mood notes, “Being able to be in the home environment is the best situation. That being said, a dog who is distressed or shows anxiety while you are gone (tearing things up, urinating or defecating indoors), will probably do better staying with a friend or family member who is home more often, or even at a doggie day care, where [he or she] will be around other dogs and people all the time.”
Clearly, having an established network of trusted, responsible pet sitters can make your absence much easier on your dog. Familiar human and canine friends can greatly reduce a dog’s anxiety, especially if the dogs already share a bond. For this reason alone, it’s worth volunteering to watch your friends’ dogs to help establish your own dog’s sense of comfort with being part of another “pack” for a time.
Whether your dog is staying at your home or a friend’s house, making a list of detailed instructions is very important. “If a pet sitter is coming to your house, make a list of phone numbers— the vet, poison control, closest friend or family member (think about the list you would create for a babysitter). Also, write out instructions for feeding, exercise, special requests/requirements, or any reminders that might be important (don’t let the dog meet other dogs, the location of the closest dog park and so forth),” suggests Mood.
Dogs have incredible scent memory, so it also can be helpful to provide a shirt, blanket or other article of clothing with your scent. Some people even leave a “fresh” used shirt to be introduced at some point through their time away. Boarding at a kennel is another option, and for some dogs, the chance to play with other pups all day is as fun as it gets. However, it’s best to give your dog a few nights at a trusted kennel before your trip so the change isn’t as abrupt.
Whether your choice is pet sitter, day care or kennel, do your due diligence before making a decision. Mood says that while she asks candidates “tons” of questions, the most important relate to discipline and training policies. “If they are going to be walking your dog, how do they practice looseleash walking? What happens if two dogs get in a scuffle? Can you handle my dog with anxiety/dog-dog aggression/door dashing? Other questions might include, can you administer my dog’s medicine or accommodate a special diet? For a doggie day care (or kennel), always tour the entire facility—they shouldn’t have anything to hide.”
A trusted friend, family member, pet sitter or kennel staff member, or other friendly face will keep your dog in good spirits, as will mingling with canine friends. While your dog will, of course, notice your absence, extra attention or longer walks can help. And once you’ve found reliable and trustworthy pet sitters or other services, stick with them.
Sometimes being apart is tougher on the human than on the dog. Luckily, technology gives us ways to deal with this. “Regular check-ins with the pet sitter, getting photos from family or friends, or even Skyping or Facetiming with your dog can help the person,” says Mood. “Some doggie day cares have [real-time] video, or at least post pictures throughout the day, which can put your mind at ease. It is important to find someone you trust so you don’t have to worry about your dog’s safety and well-being. If you are trying a new sitter/day care/kennel, do your research ahead of time, and trust your instincts. If there’s anything you don’t like, find a new source!”
Finally, establish a budget in advance, not only to pay for care but also to provide cash on hand for emergencies or if supplies run low (though you’ll be stocking up on food, treats and pick-up bags before you leave).
While parting with your dog can be such sweet sorrow, having a system to keep him or her happy and healthy in your absence will make your travels much easier. Yes, it’s quite normal to miss your dog, but don’t let that overwhelm you. Plan ahead and look forward to a joyous reunion upon your return—oh, and be sure to bring home treats!
Dog's Life: Travel
Dogtrekking through the Indian Garhwal
India. Our dream had finally come true.
We did not hesitate for a moment. The dream had just come true, and this was our call. The only obstacle had four paws and a wet nose. But was it a real obstacle? Leaving our dog was not an option. When we’d made the decision to have a dog, we knew she would accompany us everywhere. Even when we heard questions like, “India with a dog? You cannot do it.” Of course we could. After several months of preparation, in mid-January 2013, we landed at the international airport in New Delhi.
We climbed a few times during our stay in Delhi: First, at an outdoor artificial wall in the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. Later, outside Gurgaon and New Delhi, at the rocks in Dhauj, a desert area with an old, dried-up lake and 10- to 30-meter-high rocks. Climbers from abroad look like aliens among the women in saris passing by with brushwood on their heads, children herding goats, and “city people” who come to Dhauj to speed up and burn rubber (the flat sandy area is perfect for the motorcycle sports so popular nowadays in India). In the middle of this madness were two Polish climbers and a dog.
Apart from those short climbs outside Delhi, it soon became clear that life in the big Indian city with a dog would be difficult. After three months, we’d had enough. We wanted to go back to Warsaw, a city that seemed gray and dull at our departure. Now, Warsaw shone again in our dreams. We missed the European lifestyle of Poland and Warsaw, but most often, our thoughts turned to the Tatra Mountains, our idyllic place. The decision was made: we would go back. But then it turned out that our “fairy tale from One Thousand and One Nights” was more like Shrek.
How’s that? In the European Union, companion-animal travel is subject to strict laws and regulations in order to avoid spreading or reintroducing rabies. Conditions for the non-commercial movement of pet animals have been harmonized under the rules laid down in Regulation 998/2003 of the European Parliament. Pets should be identified by an electronic identification system (transponder) or by a clearly readable tattoo applied before July 3, 2011. For all travel, the animal needs to be have a passport and have a valid rabies vaccination. Pets coming from third-world countries should have a positive serologic test, a blood sample taken at least 30 days after vaccination and three months before movement. This can be certified only by an approved EU lab. We had all the papers but not the blood test. Nobody told us in Poland that it’s required to reenter the European Union.
So we had to spend another three months in India.
“What shall we do?” we asked each other. Going back and risking quarantine for Diuna was not an option. Easiest solutions are always hardest to find. We thought, Let’s spend those three months in the Himalayas. Let’s go dogtrekking! After all, Garhwal is only 500 kilometers from Delhi.
We bought a tent; packed our backpacks with basic and essential gear; and headed to Munsiari, a town in the border triangle of India, China and Nepal. From there, we headed west on foot, living as nomads on the roof of the world. Most nights we spent in the “many-stars hotel” in our tent; sometimes we sought refuge in Hindu temples, village huts made of clay and stone (which often lack toilets, though a satellite dish is a must) and, rarely, cheap hostels for backpackers. We tried to avoid major hiking trails. All the food for us and our dog we carried in our backpacks, then cooked over a campfire. We did not use porters and guides, traveling on our own.
Every morning, we wake up to a view of the 5-, 6- and 7,000-meter-high peaks of Maiktoli, Bhagirathi, Trisul, Nanda Devi, Shivling. We performbasic duties: pitch a tent, set a campfire, cook, feed Diuna, pack our gear and walk through the mountains with our dog. Clear the mind and follow the sun, forget about our problems and live with nature. Walking up and down, through villages, meadows and high passes, heading west of Garhwal. After 55 days, we have trekked through a Himalayan range (from Munsiari toward Gangotri), walking 500 kilometers (the other 500 kilometers were spent in buses and jeeps). During those two months, we visited 12 Himalayan valleys suspended between 6- and 7,000-meter-high mountain peaks, occasionally losing the trail and surviving moments of true horror at being lost. We have climbed 63 kilometers vertically—it’s like summiting Mount Everest seven times, starting from sea level—accompanied by Diuna, our brave Czechoslovakian Vlcak, the first Polish dog in the Garhwal Himalayas.
One day, on the way to Pindari Valley, an unleashed Diuna (we had to go down a very steep, slippery slope) chased a herd of goats grazing nearby. She was gone for a half-hour. When she finally came back, her jaws and front legs were full of blood. Fear paralyzed us. Had anything happened to her? Maybe she was attacked by another dog defending its goats? Or maybe … no, she could not have hunted. But it turned out to be true. For the first time in her life, Diuna unleashed her wolf ancestors’ instinct to hunt and kill a fleeing animal.
In a short time, we were surrounded by a dozen residents of a nearby village, Lahur. An elderly woman, the owner of the herd of goats, wailed on a mountain slope. After several hours of negotiations conducted in Hindi (a language we did not know), English (known by one inhabitant of the village) and international body language, we were able to come to an agreement: we paid for the damage, and the goat would be eaten by the people of Lahur.
From now on, we promised ourselves not to unleash Diuna below 3,500 meters. Even on the steepest slopes, we walked with Diuna strapped to our backpack hip belt. It worked well provided there was no wild animal nearby.
After two months of trekking, we reached the holy place for the Hindu religion: Gaumukh, the source of the Ganges, which comes from the melting glacier of Bhagirathi. On June 1, Diuna scented the presence of a herd of Himalayan tahrs (rare animals resembling mountain goats). Suddenly, she dragged Agata so hard that Agata fell and hit her shoulder; the collarbone was broken. This was the end of our adventure; now was the time for rescue. The nearest town of Gangotri was 16 kilometers. There was nobody in this pilgrimage area, no cell phone coverage, no help available. We managed to go down to the village and went the next day to Uttarkashi for emergency medical help.
It’s been five months since the accident. The collarbone was eventually operated on in Poland. We cannot be angry with Diuna; we believe fate rescued us from Garhwal. The day we left Gangotri, the Himalayas experienced an early monsoon (usually it arrives a month later), bringing heavy rain and causing flooding. Thousands of people were trapped in the place we had been a few days earlier. More than 100,000 people were evacuated from the mountains by military helicopters. A month later, in Poland, we learned that 5,000 people missing in the “Himalayan tsunami” were considered dead. We live, thanks to Diuna.
Trekking with a dog might not be easy. But we cannot imagine doing it without Diuna. She is a part of our family and we are responsible for her. Our 500-kilometer dog “walk” gave us a lot of experience and taught us a lot too, so now we know that you can follow your adventure dreams with a dog at your side.
This year, we’re planning a 1,000-kilometer trek over the Mongolian Altai—with Diuna of course. Please help us inspire more people: igg.me/at/dogtrekking
For more photos of this incredible adventure, see The Bark Issue 77, Spring 2014.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
When the snow flies, it’s time to dust off your skis or snowshoes, pack your dog’s cold-weather gear and make tracks for wintertime fun.
The air is crystal-clear, the snow is fresh and white and the opportunities for fun are abundant. Don’t let the season’s colder temps keep you and your dog at home. With a little preparation and appropriate protective gear, both of you can enjoy the pleasures of the season at some very hot cool spots. For example …
It’s hard to beat the dog-friendliness of Telluride, Colo., where canine residents may outnumber the humans. The free transportation alone is a solid argument for making Telluride the number-one winter destination for dog-accompanied adventures. Most gondola lifts allow dogs only in the summer (if at all), but the Telluride/ Mountain Village Gondola provides year-round canine access to ski slopes and hiking trails as well as spectacular aerial views. The town’s shuttle service, the Galloping Goose, also welcomes leashed dogs.
Poop-bag stations can be found on many street corners and in Telluride Town Park, which allows off-leash play. In addition, three pet-friendly trails—River, Jud Wiebe and Bear Creek—start right from town. The latter is an easy hike that rewards those who make it with a view of an amazing waterfall.
While you can’t take dogs on the official ski slopes, at Lake Tahoe, Calif., they’re a common sight in backcountry ski and snowboard areas. If you’re not into off-piste (skiing on snow that hasn’t been compacted into tracks), Northstar offers moonlight snowshoe hikes after the lifts close for the day, and dogs are welcome. For Nordic ski fans, the Hope Valley Outdoors Cross-Country Ski Center and Tahoe XC both have dog-friendly trails. Less active pups and their people can head over to Borges Sleigh and Carriage Rides in South Lake Tahoe, which allows dogs on their equine jaunts.
More than a decade ago, the North Valley Trail System at Sun Valley, Idaho, was one of the first Nordic ski centers in the country to allow dogs on their groomed trails. Today, more than 50 percent of North Valley’s skiers take their pups with them. Passes provide access to North Valley and two other systems with more than 60 miles of dog-friendly trails. If you’d rather skip the trail pass, check out the Wood River Trail, a 20-mile paved path that connects Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley. Runners, bikers, equestrians, dog-walkers and Nordic skiers share this multi-use gem. Though it may be too brisk to take advantage of eateries with dog-friendly patios, be sure to stop by Rico’s Italian Restaurant in Ketchum, where you can trade a picture of your pup for a discount on your meal.
The slopes at Mount Bachelor near Bend, Ore., are off-limits to canines, but the ski mountain teamed up with Ruffwear to create a dog park with a groomed play area and toys next to the West Village parking lot. Downtown Bend also features many dog-friendly places to walk, such as the Deschutes River Trail, complete with poop-bag stations. Volunteers with DogPAC, the local off-leash advocacy group that helped open seven OLAs in 2009, also groom and maintain the dog-friendly cross-country ski and snowshoe trails at Wanoga Sno-Park in nearby Sunriver.
If you get tired of the snow, head 16 miles east of Bend to the Oregon Badlands Wilderness area, where 50 miles of trails wind through prickly juniper plants and dry volcanic ridges. Winter is a good time to visit—during the summer months, the sand is too hot for paws.
In northern Vermont, many hotels will arrange pet-sitting while you’re on the slopes, but the Phineas Swann Bed and Breakfast Inn at the base of Jay Peak Resort makes it easy with its “Pet Perfect Ski Package,” which includes lodging, breakfast (complete with a doggy bag, of course), lift tickets and dog-walking services.
Down the road from Stowe Mountain, Topnotch Resort not only has dog-friendly cross-country ski trails but is also right across the road from the 5.5-mile Stowe Recreation Path, which is groomed in the winter for walking, jogging, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, and on-leash dogs are welcome. For off-leash fun, look for the Quiet Path, a low-impact extension on which dogs can run free as long as they’re under voice control.
If your pup is feeling particularly athletic, visit Eden Mountain Lodge in Eden Mills. The lodge’s rental cabins sit on 140 acres, and skijor lessons for you and your dog, taught by two-time national skijor champion Jim Blair, are on offer.
In Whistler, British Columbia, Whistler Olympic Park has opened about four miles of trails to off-leash snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Last year, nearby Callaghan Country opened nearly all of its cross-country and snowshoe trails to dogs. If you’re visiting without your furry pal and need a little dog therapy, stop by WAG, the local shelter (whistlerwag.com); they have a drop-in dog-walking program and will let you “borrow” a shelter dog for an outdoor adventure.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Let the adventures begin
Lucy and Baxter, a pair of Border Collie mixes, will not be traveling across the country with their guardians over the holidays. Instead, they traveled across town to stay with us, starting two days ago. As I write this, they are lying on the floor—one under the table and one next to me—and I am enjoying their peaceful company. (Earlier in the day, I was enjoying their energetic playfulness, but I’m pleased they are having a snooze now.)
Lucy and Baxter will stay with us a little over a week, and during that time, we will be among the many households whose dog population has grown. Just as people move around and go visiting at this time of year, so do dogs.
Some dogs go with their guardians during holiday visits, and others go to dog sitters. Either way, many dogs find themselves in new situations with unfamiliar surroundings. These changes sometimes lead to unexpected little incidents.
Many families have stories of dogs who have eaten holiday dinners either before they were served or right off the dining room table. Others tell of a dog shooting out the front door and going on a little jaunt through the neighborhood when a niece or nephew left the door wide open. There are dogs who have unwrapped all the presents while the humans were attending church, and dogs who ate the treats that were intended for Santa and his reindeer.
A client told me about the time her dog locked himself in the bathroom at her grandma’s house, which was a real problem since it was the only one in the house and 7 people were staying there for the weekend. One friend can hardly speak for laughing when she tells how her dog uncharacteristically lifted his leg on a very mean uncle who nobody had ever stood up to. He left in a huff and everyone was really appreciative.
I love stories of visiting dogs and the things they do. Of course I am mindful that eating many holiday offerings or escaping the house are among the dangers facing dogs at this time of year, and it’s important to do our best to protect dogs. A combination of training dogs and managing situations to prevent trouble are essential, but things have a way of happening over the holidays.
We have yet to have an incident with Lucy and Baxter worthy of a story, unless you count me taking a truly spectacular (but non-injurious) fall when I tripped over their dog bed in the dark. Thankfully they were not on it at the time.
If you are you caring for extra dogs this holiday season or hosting people with dogs, has anything memorable happened yet?
There is a front page story today in the New York Times about emotional support dogs on planes, and how many people seem to be gaming the system. It is obviously a very touchy subject for dog lovers. But one that needs serious addressing. Should rules regarding emotional support dogs (different from assistance/service dogs for blind or physically disabled people) be re-examined? This article dealt specifically with plane travel, which allows emotional support animals to fly free. Those animals (not just dogs) are not restricted to a crate and are even allowed to sit on their guardian’s lap, unlike other animals who must fit under-the-seat in a carrier, and for which a fee is charged on most airlines.
Robert Farr of the Pacific A.D.A. Center explained that, “The Air Carrier Access Act allowed for emotional support animals to be taken on planes, broadening the American Disabilities Act, which recognized service animals in public places.” Little (or no) proof of their status is required. And as the article points out, there seem to be many who are flaunting the guidelines.
Is this a problem? According to Marcie Davis, founder of International Assistance Dog Week, it is becoming a big one.
“I’ve seen people bring on pets and try to pass them off as an emotional support or service dog. It’s not appropriate and it’s not safe.”
Ms. Davis, who uses a wheelchair, flies about once a month, along with a service dog, for her job as a health and human services consultant.
She goes on to note:
“Honestly, I understand that there’s some value that people need an emotional assistance dog. But I think a lot of this is that people love their dogs and think they feel like if you have your dog, why can’t I have mine?” Airline workers echo Ms. Davis’s view. “It’s out of control,” said an American Airlines flight attendant, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly.
Not only are there psychotherapists who provide the necessary “prescriptive” paperwork, but online stores that sell service dog vests to anyone. Like one in Southern California who the Times spoke with who is willing to offer certification papers for a one-hour $99 phone/Skype call.
I know a few people without legitimate issues who do this as well, like a couple with two 70 lb. dogs who wear such vests. Their dogs are extremely well trained but, to me, that isn’t the issue. They simply prefer that their dogs fly in the cabin with them and not in the cargo, an understandable sentiment, but one that doesn’t give consideration to other passengers, including those with service animals or those with animal allergies.
The comments to this article are interesting, especially when addressing the needs of those with severe allergies. Unfortunately their rightful concerns could also impact other guide/service animals—with stale cabin air being recycled, it is hard not to take into consideration the pet dander allergy issue. One commenter suggested that those with severe allergies should also be accorded “ADA” status, warranting special consideration too.
But there is also the fact that airlines are charging more and more for things that use to be standard for the cost of a plane tickets, baggage, roomier seating, snacks etc., so it was suggested that if they started to charge for emotional support dogs (like they do with “carry-on” dogs), perhaps they would see a reversal in the popularity of misusing the system. Or as another commenter noted,
“When airlines are able to provide a more humane way for our pets to travel on an airplane, i.e. a secured heated in winter/air conditioned in summer section in the cargo area, where the crates are also secured and not dumped in with luggage, etc., when airlines stop asking vets to sign waivers that say if your pet comes out the other end of the flight like a frozen Popsicle or overheated Pizza Pocket and not breathing, when pets do not escape due to negligence on the part of the airline employees, who are not specifically trained to handle animals, are trained properly to do so and in fact have dedicated jobs for only this function, than I would love to be able to relinquish my beloved dog to the airline and get on the plane! with some level of peace of mind.”
Are there really that many people who are abusing the system who, in turn, are making it more difficult for others to bring their service dogs with them? Perhaps an example of how this might be affecting the attitude of crewmembers too comes from a story reported yesterday in the New York Post about a blind man, Albert Rizzi and his guide dog Doxy, who were booted off a US Airways plane by TSA guards. As the story goes:
“The 9-year-old Lab was under his seat, Rizzi said, but the loving pooch got restless as the plane sat for 90 minutes on the runway before the scheduled hour-long flight at 8:30 p.m.
“My dog had been under the seat for an hour and a half, and he needed to be near me, touch me,” Rizzi told The Post. “This is the relationship between a guide dog and his handler.”
But there is great twist to this story when other passengers voiced their support to Rizzi.
“After he [Rizzi] was removed, people on board began to voice their opinion,” said passenger Carl Beiner, a 43-year-old construction manager. “Everyone was saying, ‘You’re 100-percent wrong.’ There was not a single person backing the stewardess. Every single person on that flight was behind the blind guy.”
“When we, the passengers, realized what was going on, we were, like, ‘Why is this happening? He’s not a problem. What is going on?’ ” Passenger Frank Ohlhorst told Philadelphia TV stations. “The captain came out of the cockpit, and he basically asked us all to leave the aircraft.”
Obviously, one hopes that is an extreme example on how easy it is to fray nerves while sitting in a plane for hours on a runway, and one that the management of US Airways agrees was a severe overreaction by the crew.
As for the broader issue of support dogs being accorded the same status as guide dogs, and how this leads to misusing the system, is this perhaps an example of a good idea gone bad? Is it time to reexamine the certification process? Is more accountability in order? We would love to get your thoughts.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Center for Pet Safety tests products
Lindsey Wolko knew that dogs are safer in cars if restrained, which is why her cocker spaniel Maggie was in a safety harness the day Wolko braked hard to avoid an accident. Despite that, Maggie was seriously injured and very scared when she slammed into the driver’s seat and her legs became tangled in the harness. She has since fully recovered from the damage to her spine and hips, but many dogs sustain even more serious injuries and not all of them recover.
Since then, Wolko has learned that all too few of the products that are sold to insure dog’s safety actually do what they are supposed to do, in part because they are not properly tested. She is determined to change that in order to keep dogs safer and prevent injuries to them. That’s why she founded the nonprofit Center for Pet Safety.
Preparing to test products involving designing canine crash test dummies in three different sizes. There are model dogs of 25 pounds, 45 pounds, and 75 pounds. All of the crash test dummies have a steel frame and accurately recreate the true center of mass and weight distributions of dogs.
In a recent series of tests that made up the 2013 Harness Crashworthiness Study, most of the canine restraints experienced catastrophic failure. That means that either the restraint allowed the dog to become a projectile or it released the test dog from the restraint. Only one product, the Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility Harness, consistently performed successfully, offering protection to the dog and to other passengers in the car by keeping the dog from leaving the seat.
Has your dog been injured in a car accident despite being restrained with a product that was supposed to offer protection?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
“Pups and Planes” program launched
Therapy dogs have long been helping people who are staying in hospitals, students taking finals, those individuals who have recently experienced trauma and those who suffer from generalized anxiety. All of these people feel better after their contact with a friendly canine, and now that same benefit is available for people about to fly or who have just landed.
The San Antonio International Airport has teamed up with Therapy Dogs, Inc, and Delta Pet Partners of San Antonio to create another facet of their ambassador program. “Pups and Planes” launched last Monday and now offers travelers the services of volunteer handlers and their dogs. This program has five dogs participating right now, though more are expected to join. All of the dogs are trained therapy dogs.
Passengers are given the opportunity to interact with the dogs, petting them and spending time with them before they board their planes or just after they land. The goal is to reduce tension and anxiety in passengers and create a calm environment in the airport. The dogs cheer people up, giving them a break from the most common negative emotions of travelers—boredom and stress.
News: Guest Posts
For most, car trips are the preferred method of travel with our dogs, from running errands and trips to the dog park to longer excursions to visit family/friends or enjoying a dog-friendly destination—dogs are our co-pilots. The amount of time dog owners spend in the car with their dogs is growing—not really surprising considering how much dogs have become part of our daily lives. With the increase of outwardly mobile dogs comes the responsibility to keep them (and all passengers) safe. According to the AAA/Kurgo Pet Passenger Safety Study, many drivers practice a host of behaviors prompted by their dogs — from petting to restricting a dog’s movement — that expose potentially dangerous consequences. As much as we love our dogs, the excitement of a road trip and the visual and audio stimulation of a drive can produce a variety of behavior in them that is best dealt with when not behind the wheel. Distracted drivers are unsafe drivers, which can lead to accidents and serious injury.
In order to ensure the safety of yourself and your charges, these basic safety tips are recommended.
Leash Your Dog Before Opening the Car Door to Exit
Every year hundreds of pets are lost or injured as they dart out of cars uncontrolled. Be sure to collar, id tag, and leash your dog before opening the car door to let them out. When in a strange and busy environment, pets can be frightened and run off into traffic or to places that are difficult to find. Maintain control of your dog(s) at all times.
Keep Heads, Arms, & Legs Inside the Car
Many dogs love to put their head out of the window or ride in the back of a truck. But if it isn’t safe for children, then it isn’t safe for a pet. Not only are there risks of being hit by other traffic or roadside objects, the ASPCA reports that dogs can also get debris in their eyes and lungs leading to illness. Some dogs have been known to jump out of car windows while driving or stopped, running into traffic or getting lost.
Keep Pets Out of the Front Seat
Increasingly, accidents are being caused by distracted driving. 30% of people admit to being distracted by their dog while driving, according to the AAA/Kurgo Study.
Pets should not be in the front seat of the car while driving and never positioned on your lap. Dogs should be in the back seat or the cargo area. If you have a hard time keeping your dogs in the back seat, there are a number of products that can contain them—Backseat Barriers that fit between the two front seats are effective at keeping pets in the backseat. Innovative products, such as the Auto Grass, sit on a car console and deter Fido from taking a step forward and into the front seat.
Restrain Pets for Safety
Restricting your pet’s movement and access to the front seat can be achieved by utilizing a crate or harness to restrain them. Many people prefer to crate their pet in the backseat or in the cargo area. Be sure that the crate is secure by using a pet carrier restraint attached to the car’s seatbelt system.
If your pet requires a little more freedom, you can use a dog harness and seat belt tether to give them lead to sit or lay down but still protect them in case of a crash. If your dog insists on more movement, you can also connect a dog harness to a zipline that goes the width of the backseat allowing them to walk back and forth. This is not as safe as a seat belt tether, but it will keep them out of the front seat.
Make sure your pets have plenty of water to drink in the car or stop frequently to re-hydrate. A dogs’ panting may increase significantly in the car making hydration even more essential. A dog travel bowl is essential gear for car trips of any length.
Never Leave Your Dog Alone
Hopefully, it goes without saying that dogs should never be left alone in a car regardless of the weather. The obvious danger is heat, even in moderate temperatures. On an 85-degree day, within 10 minutes the car inside temperature can rise to 120, even with the windows cracked open. The other danger is that your pet may attract thieves.
These tips were provided by Kurgo, which is the leading manufacturer of pet travel safety products. With over 10 years of experience developing innovative products, Kurgo’s mission is to help pets and their owners get out and enjoy the world together, safely.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Cultural differences to ponder
There were stray dogs in the restaurant with us, and this was a high quality restaurant. The Buddha Café in Tortuguero Village, Costa Rica is a lovely chic place to dine with a cool vibe where you can be seated with views of the water from the veranda. It’s no greasy spoon, and yet dogs were wandering in off the street. Charmingly, nobody seemed to mind.
Dogs are certainly allowed in some restaurants in the United States, most often at outdoor cafes or in especially hip, progressive cities, but those are generally well-groomed dogs who are attended to by caring guardians. The dogs I saw while eating out last week were stray dogs living in a humid tropical jungle climate. Some looked healthy, while others looked decidedly unwell, and none could honestly be described as clean.
People weren’t just tolerating them out of a sense that it was hopeless to shoo them out of this open-air restaurant. They behaved genuinely warmly to them, feeding them a few leftovers and happily watching them lying around on the floor or begging at tables. I had no problem with the dogs being there, although I did tell my kids not to pet them. Normally I’m happy for my kids to interact with the various friendly dogs we meet, but I don’t want them to touch dirty or sick stray dogs while eating—call me overprotective.
I’m used to eating in places where dogs are allowed, but eating where stray dogs in all conditions are welcomed without hesitation is new to me. Have you had this experience while traveling or at home? How do you feel about it?
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