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By Miranda Johnson, Purple Elephant Crafts

We’ve got Orders… never has a more cringe worthy phrase been uttered and I suppress a groan at the thought of what’s ahead. First, I don’t know what’s worst, finding out we’re PCSing in less than three weeks or waiting around six months before you can actually start doing anything!

Right now we’re gearing up for our fourth PCS in 6 years, however, this will be the first time we’ll be traveling with a pet. Our pride and joy, a 1year old Smooth Collie named Rosie who we recently adopted from our local shelter, will be making the journey with us. As such along with my usual googling of apartment complexes, local newspapers, car insurance quotes and getting information about our new area, I had to find out how we would be getting there with our new family member. POOF went my visions of zipping along comfortably in an Amtrak sleeper car because Amtrak does not allow pets. We even offered to pay an extra fee for her figuring we’ll be in our own room so she won’t be disturbing anyone but the tone of the rep on the phone told me that if service animals weren’t required to be allowed by law they wouldn’t bother with them either. My favorite little airline, Jetblue, doesn’t fly large dogs and I haven’t trusted a larger airline in over 15 years and have seen nothing recently that would change my mind! Besides, I’d have to find a carrier large enough for my 53lb puppy to be comfortable in and worry about her the whole time she’s freezing in cargo, hoping the airline didn’t lose her. So the plan is to hit the open road, canine in tow. Like any dog, Rosie likes to stick her head out the window while the wind blasts her in the face so I think this is the method of travel she’d prefer as well. So now two issues surface at this point. One, how to travel safely with a pet in tow and two, where do you stay?

I CRINGE when I see people driving down the street with their pets in the front seat or roaming around in the back or worst yet, in the cab of a pickup. People, do you think your pet can defy the laws of gravity? If you need a seatbelt to keep you from flying out of the car when some schmuck cuts you off so do they! First of all, just like with a child pets should not be in the front seat. The force of the passenger side airbag could severely injure and even kill them! This is also why you probably shouldn’t ride with your pet in your lap! The best thing to do is put your pet in a car seat or harness in the back. In my own search I discovered most seats will only cover pets up to 24lbs. These come in various sizes and materials and can cost from $22 -$100 depending on the manufacturer and size of pet. Many booster seats will raise your pet 7-9” off the seat so you’ll want to do some measuring to make sure Fido’s head isn’t jammed against the top of the car when he sits in it. Another popular option is the safety harness which comes in all sizes for all pets and doubles as a walking harness so you can just unclip them from the seatbelt when you arrive at your destination, clip on the leash and go. These start at $10-$30 again depending on manufacturer and size of pet. My only concern is the harness strap that you loop around the car’s seat belt should probably extend from the top of the harness to the bottom otherwise if you make a sudden stop or do get into an accident your pet may develop back problems. However, all harnesses seem to share the same design so my worries could be unfounded. If you don’t like the idea of keeping your pet riveted to one spot for hours at a time you also have the option of a pet barrier. These are usually metal bars that separate the cargo hold from anyone sitting in the back seat who may bother or be bothered by your pet during the trip. These run about $25-$80 depending on the manufacturer and fit most vans, SUVs and station wagons. Again, they can keep your pets separate from people and each other but your pet may get injured if it’s thrown up against it. Most importantly if you don’t have one already and you intend on staying at a hotel buy a crate for your pet. Don’t just go by the size on the box (you can always return it if it’s the wrong size), make sure they have enough room to stand up and turn around in comfortably. Some may think crating an animal is cruel and wrong, however, in my experience a crate gives your pet their own sense of space or a “den” feeling if you will. There have been many times when I’m watching tv or in the middle of something, check on Rosie because she’s been too quiet and found her sound asleep in her crate with the door wide open. If your pet isn’t used to a crate, start early and get them used to it by putting them in for gradually longer periods of time. This is especially important if you’re deciding to fly with your pet when you move. Bargain Hound at Petsmart has some great crates of all sizes that are affordable and very easy to assemble and collapse when you need to.

When Paul and I travel we tend to switch drivers every 3 hours or when the gas hits half a tank, whichever comes second. At this time one of us gasses up while the other uses the bathroom and vice versa. This is probably a good time to take your fur baby for a walk so they can relieve themselves, stretch their legs etc. Also don’t forget to feed and water Mittens regularly even if you forget to eat or drink something yourself. Now if your pet is like mine, riding in the car after just eating is not a good idea. I suggest leaving at least an hour from wake up time to travel time to allow your pet to digest or keep feeding time to evenings after traveling is done for the day. Also if you’re traveling in the summer or in a hot climate, invest in those window guards they have for children. I never realized how much the sun beat down on the back seat until I heard Rosie panting one day and looked back to find she was burning up even with the air conditioning on.

Speaking of which, many pet owners don’t seem to know this but if your pet has light colored hair or lives in a high altitude they’re easily susceptible to sunburn even in winter. Should they get burned, spray the area with cool water every 30 minutes or try putting a cold compress on the sunburned area for a few minutes, rewetting it every few minutes to keep the compress cold, as often as you like. Or when you stop for the night give your pet a bath in cool water mixed with colloidal oatmeal. If your dog hates to get wet, you can also put witch hazel on a cotton ball or small cloth and apply it to the area three or four times a day or in a pinch, try a skin moisturizer two to three times a day. Aloe Vera two to three times day is probably safest as it’s all natural and cools and heals quickly. Either the plant or the gel or lotion from the store will do. When in doubt, ask your vet!

Finally, where do you stay when it’s time to pull in for the night. Lots of hotel chains and B&Bs are not pet friendly and many charge ridiculous rates with ludicrous policies. Marriott’s Residence Inn for instance wants $100 per day non refundable. I wondered whether Rosie got her own room! Red Roof Inn demands your pet stay crated at all times with someone always in the room with them. Most hotels, however, will charge anywhere from $12-$25 either per night/per pet or per stay and merely ask that you keep your pets quiet and pick up after them. So far Comfort Inn and Holiday Inn seem to be the most pet friendly and these are the chains we‘ll be going with. While most B&Bs shrink back in terror at the mere thought of an animal going near their priceless antiques and dainty bedspreads there are some who do welcome well behaved pets at no additional charge and even provide extra baggies, a waste basket outside to dispose of them and treats when you go to breakfast. Your best bet is to check different websites that list pet friendly accommodations (petswelcome. com, dogfriendly. com, and tripswithpets. com are great jumping off points) and always cross check with that specific hotel before making the reservation because policies will and do change. I discovered that while some listed they’re pet friendly, the hotel’s website stressed limits on weight and quantity, fee changes or cats only so know before you go.

Fair winds and following seas to all!


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