Welcome back to the wonderful world of BLOG blog, Bored Surfer! Thank you for joining me for another literary jaunt.
It’s June. In the northern hemisphere this means the air conditioner is on, school’s out for the summer and fireflies will soon be delighting us with their bioluminescent courtship dance. It also means long hours of daylight. This means it’s time for a ROAD TRIP!
Actually, if you are reading this in the first half of June, I, myself, am on an epic multi-week road trip to the last frontier (not to be confused with the five-year mission to explore the final frontier).
Highway travel is not a new phenomenon. The National Road, built between 1811 and 1864 to reach the (then) western settlements, was the first federally funded road in the United States. (fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure). The Lincoln highway was one of the first paved roads across the US, from New York City to San Francisco. Route 66 only went from Chicago to Los Angeles, but it had a better agent, and ended up with a song, a TV show, and a role in the film version of The Grapes of Wrath (Wikipedia). These roads and many others have been absorbed into or overshadowed by the Interstate system. While its origins officially start under FDR with the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1938, the fulfillment of this venture, and thus the credit goes to the 34th President (u-s-history.com). So, in gratitude for this wonderful network of freeways, I shall refer to your pet, for the remainder of this piece, as Eisenhower.
What can Eisenhower do during your trip? It is possible he may have to stay behind, in the care of someone else.
Boarding facilities are a widely available service where you can leave Eisenhower while you are on holiday. The available amenities range from a basic kennel with an outdoor run to a fancy pet hotel that features a pool and private suites with beds and TVs. If Eisenhower has medical issues, she can usually be boarded at a veterinary clinic, and you can rest assured her treatments will be administered according to schedule.
Depending on Eisenhower’s temperament, this can be a cool vacation or a traumatic forced internment. It is very helpful if they are kennel trained and accustomed to other human beings before, they go to a boarding facility.
You can also leave Eisenhower in the care of a friend, relative or professional pet sitter. Depending on your situation, they may come to your house several times a day to tend her, stay over and tend your house and Eisenhower, or take him to their house for the duration of your absence.
This can be a great option for Eisenhowers of the feline variety. Cats usually don’t appreciate changes in their environment. Some change is unavoidable (they will notice you’re not there), but keeping them in their customary surroundings should make them more comfortable than transporting them elsewhere. If the pet sitter is not a regular visitor beforehand (or perhaps even if they are), they may end up tending an invisible cat. That is, the food disappears and the litterbox gets used, but Eisenhower is never anywhere in sight when the person is there.
Giving someone this kind of access involves a huge amount of trust, as you are entrusting them with not only the welfare of your beloved pet, but also the keys to your house. You don’t want to return from the French Riviera to find out that not only does Eisenhower now have a purple Mohawk and a taste for Clamato but also a band consisting of 3 ill-tempered Bulgarian soccer hooligans (trying to learn bagpipes, violin, and drums) has taken up residence in your spare room, and had your locks changed.
How about bringing Eisenhower along? The feasibility of this will depend on you, your pet, your mode of transport and your destination, not to mention the purpose of your excursion. These are but a few of the many factors to consider before you make your reservations.
While there are certainly times when the siren song of the open road is truly overpowering and can only be satisfied by a spontaneous road trip, traveling with a pet usually requires some advance planning. Thankfully, this is much easier than it was back in your parents’ day. Your dad (or mom) had a road atlas; you have Google Maps and/or GPS to give you door-to-door directions. If you are one who is inclined to stop frequently to admire such monuments to human ingenuity as the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota or the dinosaur park featured in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or Carhenge you no longer have to rely solely on billboards. There is now a ‘Roadside America’ website to guide you to such delights. When you decide to stop for the night, you can see in advance which nearby lodging establishments have vacancies and allow pets. In the past, one had to drive to each one, hoping that if they didn’t allow pets, they at least posted a big sign so you wouldn’t waste time going inside to ask. You can also plan your trip far in advance and in excruciating detail, if that is more your style.
While most dogs love car rides, cats generally do not. In their defense, cats rarely, if ever, go anywhere fun. The usual cat excursion is something to the effect of: cat is napping peacefully in a sunbeam. Along comes person, who grabs cat and shoves it unceremoniously into the scary-box-that-lives-in-the- basement-and-emerges-occasionally-to-inflict-feline-torment. Cat-in-box is then put in larger box, and motion ensues. Motion stops, cat-in-box is moved to a building rife with assorted strange sounds and smells. Cat is then removed from box, handled in a peculiar (and occasionally painful) fashion by strange people, then returned to box and eventually transported back to familiar territory.
There are exceptions to this, of course. Some cats quite readily enter the carrier; some go places other than the vet. I personally know of one cat that traveled all over the country in the company of a long-haul trucker, looking at the world through the windshield. There might be a lot of cats out there that would enjoy a nomadic lifestyle, if given the opportunity. We will never know.
Travelling internationally is a very different proposition. Every country has their own set of rules governing visiting animals, so do your homework beforehand. Countries (and islands like Hawaii) that don’t have naturally occurring rabies have extremely stringent standards for admission. The vaccine and testing protocol to meet these standards may require months of preparation. On the opposite end of the spectrum, polite Canadian border guards will allow dogs and cats to travel (with their owners) from the US to Canada as long as they have a valid rabies certificate. I shall politely refrain from commenting on the ease by which the border officials will let you return to the US.
A health certificate is a document that states an animal has been examined by an accredited veterinarian and appears to be free of contagious or infectious diseases. This is (usually) required for interstate travel. The purpose of the health certificate is to minimize the spread of diseases, especially from somewhere it is common to a population that is not normally exposed to it. This is obviously not required for humans. A person with measles can get on a plane and go visit their friends at the Vaccine Avoidance Colony and expose everyone in the vicinity to the disease (as opposed to visiting the nudist colony where everybody is just exposed). The CDC does rather frown upon this (the spread of disease, that is; I have no idea what their stance is on nudist colonies). To obtain a health certificate for Eisenhower, you must take your (healthy) pet to the vet for an exam. You should schedule your vet visit shortly (less than 10 days) before your departure. While you are at the vet, be sure to get a copy of Eisenhower’s current Rabies certificate to have on hand.
If you plan on flying, know that airlines have their own rules for transporting pets. They usually require a health certificate and a certificate of acclimation, but you need to verify that beforehand. You do not want to get to the airport and find out your paperwork does not meet the airline’s specifications.
No matter where you are going, you need to have proof of Eisenhower’s (current) rabies vaccination. It’s also a really good idea to have the name and phone number of your vet. If you are out of town and Eisenhower takes ill, your vet may have some recommendations. They may even have an old pal from vet school who works in your vacation destination. Also be sure you have an adequate supply of any medications or prescription food Eisenhower may need.
If you have a particular destination in mind, it’s a good idea to check out pet-friendly accommodations before you leave. If rooms are in short supply, it is best to make reservations ahead of time. Be sure to tell them you are bringing Eisenhower, so they don’t book you in the treehouse that is only accessible by a rope ladder.
Think long and hard before bringing Eisenhower along if you are planning to stay with friends or relatives. They may love you, they may love Eisenhower, but there are many, many awkward possibilities. Here are a few situations to ponder:
Medical conditions - having a furry houseguest could be troublesome if the host has a condition such as allergies, asthma, black lung disease, immunosuppression, or somnambulism. Care should also be taken before bringing your 100lb excessively exuberant Lab to stay with your 98lb Great Aunt who has severe osteoporosis. Conversely, your aged, blind, deaf, arthritic, ill-tempered Chow probably shouldn’t be left in the care of your cousin’s drunken boyfriend and their 3 toddlers.
Fears - if Eisenhower is nervous around new people and other animals, it’s probably best if you don’t stay with your Great Aunt Matilda, her third husband (the one with Tourette’s syndrome), her 6 cats, his (retired) junkyard dog and the (potentially rabid) raccoon they call Skippy.
Behavior issues – If Eisenhower has housetraining issues, a penchant for chewing furniture or other troublesome habits, your friendships will probably benefit from you staying off-site.
Messes - If your potential host has an abode with predominantly white décor and a multitude of fragile Objets d’art, you may want to consider other housing options.
Children - Many children love animals; some don’t. Some kids are afraid of animals; some kids are not afraid when they should be. Many Eisenhowers love children; some don’t. Some Eisenhowers are afraid of children; some are not afraid when they should be. Leaving a child alone with an unfamiliar animal is potentially disastrous for everyone involved.
Resident pets – You and Eisenhower may be invited by the human caretakers, but the resident pets (aka Adlai) may not be very welcoming. Adlai may resent this intrusion, and may express her displeasure in a variety of ways. If Adlai is not happy, it’s likely your host won’t be either.
If Eisenhower is traveling with you, you will need to plan your activities accordingly. There are activities you can enjoy together (hiking, picnicking, camping etc.) and there are things that Eisenhower will not be allowed to do (museums, amusement parks, guided tours etc.). There is a lot of variation in pet policies, even within the National Park system, Pets are generally not allowed in the Visitor Center, and there may be other restrictions (no dogs on Sand Beach Jun-Aug; no dogs on the trails at Devil’s Tower etc.). Even in the pet-friendly spots, Eisenhower needs to be on a 6-foot leash and leave only footprints. So be sure to check out the pet policies of any/all of your destinations, and plan accordingly.
Keeping Eisenhower safe is of the utmost importance. Please observe the following suggestions:
You see it all the time. Dogs seem to enjoy riding in cars with their heads out the window, tongue hanging out, ears blowing back. To them, it’s fresh air with a plethora of interesting aromas. To us, it’s a romantic representation of tasting the freedom of the open road, comparable to driving a convertible with the top down, or riding a motorcycle with the wind in your hair and bugs in your teeth. Unfortunately, the reality is that you are risking injury due to dust, dirt or foreign objects hitting Eisenhower in the eye at high speed. There is also the risk of him falling (or jumping) out the window, either while you’re in motion or when you’re stopped at a light and a squirrel walks by, carrying a cheeseburger. It really is in Eisenhower’s best interest to transport him in a carrier, or restrained in a special seat belt. Please don’t drive around with her loose in the back of the truck.
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again and again and again. Do NOT leave Eisenhower in the car when it’s hot outside. Even if the car is idling with the a/c running, it’s still not safe (yes, that happened recently, and yes, the dog died). Someone needs to stay with Eisenhower, preferably outside in the shade.
Stop frequently to offer Eisenhower a chance to move around, eliminate and get a drink. Many highways have rest areas at regular intervals to provide an opportunity to perform these functions with minimal disruption of your trip. There is even (usually) a designated pet area for Eisenhower’s convenience. Just don’t stop at mile 81 on the Maine turnpike.
Keep Eisenhower’s physical prowess in mind when you plan your activities. Avoid overexertion, especially in the heat. Don’t take your obese couch potato pug for a ten-mile hike when it’s 102 degrees.
Summer is also the season of bugs. Don’t forget the flea/tick preventatives, especially if you plan to engage in outdoor activities. Hopefully you are already practicing year-round heartworm prevention. If not, get Eisenhower tested and start those monthly pills as soon as possible.
So, get your motor running, head out on the highway and have a safe and enjoyable vacation.
Bon Voyage, and be sure to make that left turn at Albuquerque.
Dr. Debbie Appleby