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Traveling Without Dogs
Who cares for them in your absence?

I recently returned from nearly two weeks in Nicaragua. The trip was the field component of Northern Arizona University’s course “Tropical Forest Insect Ecology” for which I am one of the instructors. With a thousand things to do before departure--including taking exams, writing papers, packing, arranging for mail to be held and newspapers to be stopped, attending to vaccinations and anti-malarial medications, and all the other tasks required before a trip out of the country--I was sure that the students would be pretty overwhelmed by the time we began our 30-hour journey to the remote field station on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

As we talked about what the final 24 hours before departure had been like for each of us, a single theme of angst came up: The most stressful thing for many in the group was having to leave their dogs behind. Nearly half of them have dogs. I was very impressed with the lengths that the students went in arranging the best care for their dogs while they were gone. All had friends or family who were stepping up to care for the dogs during the students’ absence. In one case, a student’s long distance boyfriend had flown in from the East Coast to watch her dog while she was away. That is clearly responsible dedication from all parties, since the time he spent away from home was not time that this couple could be together. I hear a lot about how college students are not responsible with their pets, and I found that at least with this group, that is not true at all. Most of these students travel with their pets most of the time, but that is not possible (nor would it be safe for the dogs) when traveling to Nicaragua.

Like the very best dog guardians, students or not, these people made sure that their dogs were well cared for during their absence. If you must travel without your pets, what do you do to arrange for their care?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.

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