By Joanna Mitzel
The season of summer fun and adventure is upon us. Warm nights and long weekends often means extended time away from home. Furry family members are typically the most impacted when it comes to travel schedules – whether they come with, are left at home or boarded elsewhere. Senior dogs often add a whole other level of complexity to travel with specialty feedings, medication(s), separation anxiety and unfamiliar surroundings.
Boarding facilities, especially kennel-free environments, can be expensive. Multiple pets and medication administration add-ons can add up quickly. Unfamiliar environments and the added pressure to keep up with younger dogs can often increase a senior dog’s anxiety level. While ideal, leaving my dogs with a trusted friend or family member isn’t always possible. Utilizing pet sitters who come to my home can be even more expensive, despite mitigating my pack’s circumstantial anxiety. A team of rotating sitters, splitting daytime and nighttime responsibilities can lead to inconsistencies in their structured routine.
I believe that the best summer vacations include all members of my family, so her are my tips when travelling with Old Dogs.
I like travelling as a pack as much as possible. With one large dog and 2 small, flying typically isn’t a viable option for us. At one point in a time, my Chihuahua earned his frequent flyer wings, travelling with me in the cabin, but now that canines outnumber humans in my household, it’s best we all stick together and hit the road.
If you do choose to fly, be sure to double check vaccination/health requirements, choose a TSA approved kennel (whether in cabin or cargo) containing a favorite toy or blanket, and be prepared to pay $100-$400+ depending on the airline or destination.
When hitting the open road, take lots of breaks – but not too many. Rest stops aren’t always the most pet friendly. Leaving a pup in the car to grab a quick bite isn’t typically an option given warmer summer temperatures. Keep your eyes open along the way for parks and sandwich shops for impromptu picnics in the park. Alternatively, listen to your senior dog. Our bladders don’t know what time it is and neither do theirs. If your dog is sleeping peacefully in the back seat, consider keeping on to the next stopping point.
Choice of accommodations is very important.
Pet friendly hotels exist for all budgets – from Hotel Monaco, which pampers pets upon arrival to Motel 6, a quick place to rest your heads along the roadside. Most hotels have pet fees ranging from $20+ per night and many do have limits in the number of pets per room. When possible, ask for a room near an exit, preferably on the ground floor (or near an elevator). This is particularly helpful for seniors who may need more frequent breaks, may not make it down long elevator rides, or may have trouble with stairs. Slip leashes and cell phone flashlights are lifesavers for 2am potty breaks. Also, don’t forget about any medications that might require refrigeration.
In your hotel room, establish home. Upon arrival, scope out all of the good potty spots on the property. Try to maintain a designated feeding time and area in the room. Set up a sleeping area or kennel with familiar toys or blankets.
Luckily, there’s a pet store and veterinarian in just about every major town, so it’s typically just an inconvenience if you find yourself in need of some supplies. But here’s a handy list of everything I pack when travelling with my pack:
- Slip Leash
- Potty Pads
- Food/Water bowls
- Pre-portioned food packs & anything needed to prepare meals
- Bottled water
- Paper towel roll & Nature’s miracle (just in case)
- Plastic bags or small trash bags
- Optional carrier or specifics for the trip like doggie life vests
I hope everyone has a safe and healthy summer vacation travel season! Please remember to come out and join us for The Walk for Old Dogs on Sunday, July 22nd at 11 am at Cromwell Park, in Shoreline. To register go to: www.odhwalkforolddogs.org