aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Ourminds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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Traveling With Pets Isn't Crazy

Chewy on the QM2

Chewy on the Queen Mary 2, looking out at Southampton

A few weeks ago, an Irish woman was murdered while vacationing in Turkey with her daughter, allegedly by her daughter’s fiance.   Last week, while driving through peaceful Cornwall, an UK radio deejay announced this tragedy and went on to ask the listeners whether this murder would impact their vacation plans.  Overwhelmingly, the citizens of Cornwall responded that they would avoid international travel and especially travel in the Middle East for the next few months because of this one murder.

Now, there’s a lot I could say about this sort of reactionary response, especially in light of the fact that four people died in the London riots during the exact time that this Turkish murder happened.  But, I’d rather quote noted travel writer Christopher Elliott --- a consumer advocate who I highly respect --- in his recent post about the reactionary response that the TSA took following Osama Bin Laden’s death: “So why would the TSA want to spread fear and confusion after Osama’s demise? Easy. The more fearful we are, the more compliant we become.”

There’s a lot of this fear-mongering and naysaying in the travel world.  Right before we left on our round-the-world trip, we heard it all: if you travel, you’ll ruin your career or go bankrupt.  Worse still, if you travel, you’ll be scammed, ripped-off, suffer food poisoning, and be kidnapped by terrorists. 

Me and Abby on the QM2

Abby and me on the QM2

What I didn’t expect is to hear this sort of naysaying from Christopher Elliott and Frommers, two of the biggest names in the travel world.  A few weeks back, Elliott posted that he will not be traveling with his three cats during a long road trip and asked whether he should place them in a kennel for a year, put them up for adoption, or find some other means to care for his cats.  There were vociferous, angry responses from “foaming-at-the-mouth pet fans."  He responded with this post, arguing that because there were three incidents in the last ten years where animals have escaped or been let loose on airplanes by irresponsible pet owners, “I don’t believe cats, dogs or pigs belong on a plane, in a hotel, or a rental car unless maybe you’re moving somewhere, and even then, they should be safely confined to a carrier.  Incidentally, I think this represents the view of the average American.”

First, let me make my position on this point clear: each of us must determine our own morality and obligations toward our pets, assuming that those obligations comply with the law.  I applaud Elliott for thinking hard about how to care for his pets while he travels; he rightly wrote that trying to determine how to care for his cats is the “most difficult” piece of his family road trip. 

I get that.  When we left for the beginning of our round-the-world trip almost two years ago, we agonized about how to care for our dogs in the ten months that we would be traveling through Asia, Africa, and Australia.  My parents very kindly agreed to care for them and provided them a safe and wonderful home while we were gone.  We returned every two to three months to check on them and be with them, but, it was obvious that they did not like us traveling.  When we began packing our bags, they sat directly in our luggage, refusing to let us put anything further in, and my mom told us that they sat at the door for a full 24 hours when we left.  At the end of the year, we vowed never to be separated from our pups for more than a week.

Abby and Chewy in Brooklyn

Abby and Chewy in Brooklyn

So, when we set out on our next travel adventure, we knew that our dogs would be part of the package.  We spent a ridiculous amount of time figuring out how to travel the United States and Europe with our dogs and now it’s happening.  In the last six weeks, our dogs have:

•    Driven with us from my parents’ home in Alabama to Brooklyn, New York, in a rental car
•    Stayed in a Sheraton in Brooklyn
•    Crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the kennels on the Queen Mary 2
•    Stayed in a small family-run hotel in the New Forest near Southampton
•    Romped through the horse farm we stayed in while in the Cotswolds
•    Wandered through moors, ruined castles, and gardens in Cornwall and Devon
•    Crossed the English Channel from Portsmouth to Bilbao in a pet-friendly cabin
•    Settled into our apartment in Madrid

I won’t say that all of this has been easy and I won’t say that they have loved every moment of our travels.  They hate long travel days and anything more than five hours in the car (but, then again, I can’t say that we’re fond of those days either).  They can’t stand doing their “business” on boats and they get scared by crowds of people.  They need a long walk early in the morning if we’re going to leave them behind in the vacation rental or hotel.

But, then again, Abby’s tail goes sky-high when she hits the wild and untamed moors.  Chewy begins drooling the moment he sees chorizo.  Abby’s entirely dormant border collie nature has manifested itself with the herds of sheep roaming through the English countryside.  And, every Britisher with a dog is curious about Chewy’s stubby features because they have never seen an American Cocker Spaniel in England.

Abby's happy face at Brooklyn park

Abby's happy face at Prospect Park in Brooklyn

We’ve discovered that we love traveling with our dogs and our dogs love traveling with us.  Sure, there are days that are hard and times that our dogs get angry or scared --- usually resulting in explosive diarrhea in a park that we try hard to pretend did not just happen --- but that’s travel, in general, whether with or without dogs.  (Not necessarily the explosive diarrhea bit, but the part where we're angry and irritated by traveling; in the last 6 weeks, Patrick and I have suffered from stomach bugs, lost a cell phone, broken a GPS navigator, and waited 2 extra weeks for our car because the shipping company screwed up.)  Heck, that's life.

I am tired of the naysayers, the reactionaries, the critics, and the travel police.  I am tired of people telling me that there is only one way to travel or only one way of caring for our pets.  One murder does not justify shutting off travel to an entire area of the world, just as three isolated incidents of irresponsible travel with pets does not mean that we should relegate our dogs and cats to kennels when we want to travel. 

I want to shut out the naysayers and the critics.  I want to ignore them, unless they have tried and experienced what they suggest we avoid.  The people who told us that we shouldn't travel around the world had never traveled long-term, just as those who claim that dogs should not travel have never tried traveling with pets. 

I've done both.  The four of us are doing both, actually, as I write this post.  And, we're all happy, though the only way I have to judge Chewy's and Abby's reactions is by measuring the height of their tails and the grins on their faces.

Ultimately, I don't think that responsible pet owners must travel with pets.  But, I think that responsible travelers must reject reactionary criticism, even if that advice carries the prestigious Frommers label.

* Read more from other responsible pet owners who travel with their dogs at DogJaunt, GoPetFriendly, and Will My Dog Hate Me and their responses to Chris Elliott's blog post.  And, if you want to read much much more about traveling with dogs, jump over to The Road Unleashed, our sister site focused entirely on traveling with pets across the United States and Europe.

09/07/2011 06:38
"The more fearful we are, the more compliant we become.”

This, YES. Which is why fear is used as a tool of oppression by so many.

I'm really inspired by you four and how you've done the research and taken the initiative to make traveling work for all of you. How is one supposed to know if it works until they've tried it?

And this is a total sidenote, but we took a two-day tour through the Cotswolds and saw tons of sheep... and border collies!! We've been missing Koa like whoa, but seeing other b.c. dogs just made it so acute. We mentioned multiple times that he would have loved running through those beautiful green fields and "herding" sheep (in his mind, but probably just being a nuisance, lol).
09/07/2011 10:20
Love it! Can't imagine it's easy to travel this way, but totally worth it. Your dogs are more well travelled than most people. :)
09/07/2011 10:54
You guys absolutely aren't crazy and your dogs are lucky to have you! Travel and pets are not completely incompatible, just more challenging.

I don't agree with Chris Elliot's rebuttal post - I think he's trying to drum up some controversy and fear-mongering - but I will say this is one area where cats and dogs are quite different. Dogs are so much more mobile. [Most] cats on the other hand, are creatures of habit and travel is the opposite of habitual. Although we ultimately found a good loving home for my cat while we were away (no easy feat since he likes to be the only cat and most cat lovers already have one), it's put a lot of stress on him moving around. He's moved five times in the past two years as a result of us traveling and moving to temporary places. We finally moved into an apartment for the foreseeable future, with no roommates, and he's so much happier and calmer it makes me cry to think that we've added stress to his happy little life. But ultimately he was fine the whole time, well cared for, and loved.

I think it's awesome Chewey and Abby enjoy being on the road and hope all four of you are having a blast!
09/07/2011 12:09
I LOVED reading this post. I'm currently on long-term travel with my husband, but we left our dog behind. Fortunately my parents have agreed to take care of him, but I miss him so much and admit I can't fully enjoy my time abroad because I think of him so much. I have also vowed to never leave him behind again for such a long length of time. I am definitely interested in finding out more about how to travel with a dog in the future. I know it'll be more difficult at times, but I am so encouraged to see that you and others are doing it! Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Adrienne @ ShenVenture's recent blog post: Our Anniversary, My Confession
09/07/2011 14:21
Nick
We travel with our 3 dogs all over the US and Canada. We'd take them international if our trips were longer and we didn't have great pet sitters back home. We've travelled so much our dogs love the car. It means they're with us (the pack) and going on an adventure, which they love. They have no problem being in the car for 8 even 10 hour trips - as long as they get a good long (hour +) hard run beforehand. In fact their dog beds are way more comfortable than our car seats! Boo to Elliott and other pet travel naysayers.
09/07/2011 16:10
While on vacation in Florence our dog stopped a burglar entering our hotel room in the middle of the night by barking and running down the hall after the intruder.

Good dog.

People have traveled with pets for centuries- for companionship and for protection.
09/07/2011 17:04
Hi guys,

So, I've crossed US twice (and getting ready to do it again in 2 weeks) with my 100lbs German Sheppard in the back seat of my car.

I refuse to put him on a plane and I get that instinct. The way throwers (baggage handlers) treat bags with love and kindness...NOT! I wouldnt want them handling my dog in the same way. So, in the car we go :-)

Putting pets up for adoption because you're traveling is just an excuse to get rid of a pet. But I dont think thats why the dude you mention served it up as an option.

He probably understood that people would have an emotional reaction to his statements which means comments + linkbacks to his blog. All good things in the online world no matter how you slice it.

At least I hope Im right...getting rid of the pet cuz you have to travel for few weeks is just plain irresponsible IMHO.
09/08/2011 02:48
I just can't imagine to go somewhere without my dog - he will get sick for me and I will be even worse without him!
09/08/2011 06:18
Great post - and so glad you found a way to travel with your pets. We kept putting off our travel plans because of our furry monsters & realized we just can't do that anymore. So while we would love international travel, we aren't willing to do that with 4 (3 of them cats)! We're starting in an RV to see the US first - our cats will have familiar surroundings & our dog is an awesome traveler already & has a spot in our Jeep that is hers. I know we will have challenges but they are our kids & are worth it. (well, most days) ;)
Tricia (Geekyexplorers)'s recent blog post: What I cant throw away
09/08/2011 08:30
Great post! And it's great to hear about your trip. Cosmo and I have traveled across the U.S and twice to Italy. It's been a pleasure to have him along, especially in dog-friendly Italy!
09/08/2011 09:07
Good for you! I'm glad you and your kids are enjoying your trip!
09/14/2011 01:42
I love it. I'd take my dog traveling with me if she wasn't such a fearful dog. I wonder where she gets that from? Hmm ?
Torre – Fearful Adventurer's recent blog post: Foods Of The World (Travel Photo Roulette #26)

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