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pet travelingTraveling With Your Pet During the Holidays
by Marjorie Dorfman

It’s that time of year again, when we travel the most and experience the most fun and anxiety simultaneously. But what about your beloved four legged companions? Should they go with you or should they stay behind? Here are some thoughts on this dilemma, which if considered correctly, are certain to bring neither relief nor resolution.

Traveling at any time of the year presents its own unique set of hassles, but during holiday time, in many instances, the process can be a disaster waiting to happen. Part of the problem is the increased traffic caused by the multitude of people traveling with you, compounding issues like stressful traffic jams and crowded compartments, which were bad enough last summer when everyone was traveling back and forth from the beach. There is also the high level of intensity, distrust for our fellow traveler and free-floating anxiety that is everywhere during this "happiest time of the year."

travel with birdsIf you can avoid traveling with your pet during this holiday season, you probably should. Boarding a pet or hiring a reliable pet sitter present practical alternatives and should be carefully evaluated before making the decision to take your pet to wherever you have in mind. If you must travel with your pet, consider the following suggestions and then proceed at your own risk. Remember too, that he who hesitates is lost and to look before you leap.

Dogs will require different preparation for travel than cats, which should come as no surprise to dog and cat owners. A dog that can walk on a loose leash is easier to travel with than one that can’t. In addition, if a dog doesn’t come when it is called, this can present many obvious travel problems. If you have a cat, it would be superfluous to even mention this as you that you can forget about a cat doing what you want entirely. That old adage about felines reigns supreme here: "Dogs come when called; in the case of cats, leave a message and they may or may not get back to you."

As far as airplane travel is concerned, many people have experienced problems with transporting their animals from one part of the world to the other. Barring quarantine laws and such, the animal is lucky to make it unscathed and still be able to bark or meow. In the interests of fair play, there must be a million success stories, but the horror tales one hears on the evening news unfortunately linger in most minds, even those that are usually misplaced, such as my own. One news story concerned a woman whose cat was dead when she arrived at her destination. The airline apologized formally and awarded her $1,500. One can only wonder how they arrive at a figure to compensate for the loss of a pet. How much is a pure bred worth? A domestic shorthair with no pedigree? Their owner with or without a passport?

pets travelOne personal account concerns a woman who dealt with this situation in her own unique way. While moving to Los Angeles from New York, she devised a plan to transport her two female cats, India and Graphite. First she enlisted the aid of her vet who gave her some Phenobarbital with strict instructions as to its use for knocking out two animals of a certain weight for about 10 hours. The cats were small and she created a kind of tote bag to carry over her arm as one bag was allowed on board. She placed the bag by her feet next to her seat. She checked on them often as they slept soundly. When they awoke they were in a new home, no less the worse for wear. She had a great idea until she considered transporting her children that way; then she got into trouble! (Only kidding!)

So consider your animal and the alternatives available when traveling during this holiday season. If your dog cannot ride calmly in a vehicle or gets motion sickness, it would probably be better not to transport the animal. Also, you have to plan for the unforeseen even though we all know how that sounds. Your dog must be able to trust you when confronted with something that sounds or smells scary. If the animal can respond to treats in learning situations, it is likely it can manage the unexpected, which you could never have known to train for in advance.

pet on skisSeparation anxiety can be a serious problem both for dogs and their owners and traveling can and often does precipitate such a trauma. In such cases, load up with Valium; not for the animal, but for you, the owner. All things considered, it might be best not to take your pet with you wherever you plan to travel the holidays. Better still, don’t go anywhere at all yourself and stay home and make merry with your pets. If none of this seems like a good idea, pour yourself a stiff one and hold out until the holidays have passed. They will, and of course, there’s always next year for that trip to wherever and all the stress surrounding it.
holiday travel with pet

Did you know . . .?

See these related articles:

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Here's a really useful book:

Traveling With your Pet

American Automobile Association
8th edition
(April 25, 2006)

Traveling With your Pet

Like any standard travel book, it is arranged alphabetically by state. You'll find hotels in both small towns and major cities, with a list of icons showing what amenities you can expect. Instead of descriptions of restaurants or spas. You'll find a sentence or two outlining pet policies. Here, a careful reading can save you a bundle. Although many hotels are happy to house animals, surcharges range anywhere from $5 total to $100 per night and, in some cases, only particular species of small size are accepted.