Dog In a Box
The Joys of Traveling With a Dog-in-a-Box
Over the past ten years, I have travelled without my chihuahua Martino exactly three times and I can tell you that I missed him terribly for several reasons. Those trips were less socially satisfying (you meet tons of people when you have a dog-in-a-box) and certainly more boring in airport layovers (without him there is nobody to cuddle with in departure), not to mention the fact that sleeping without him for weeks at a time was hard on both of us.
Since our first trip together when he was eight months old, Martino has made over 50 flights-mostly beginning in Pisa, flying through Amsterdam or Paris and JFK into San Francisco, San Diego or LA including many midwestern points in between like Minneapolis, Chicago, Lincoln and Omaha, Detroit, and, southerly to Atlanta and Baton Rouge.
Costs and Navigation
Over the years, the cost of him flying in-cabin has in-proportionately increased. Our first international flight cost $75 one way and domestic started at $25. Now it’s $250 and $125 respectively but this inflated aspect of taking Tino along has not deterred me. I choose to be in his company on the road whenever possible because traveling with Tino is FUN. He is the loveliest travel companion I know and so beautifully seasoned at it that people don’t even know there’s a dog on the flight. As soon as we get to an airport, he settles right into his bag, like a pro. When required by airport personnel, he has happily stood up and turned around on command demonstrating that his carrier meets regulations for comfort and safety and has charmed many at TSA check-ins. TiTi has peed outside some of the world’s most wonderful cities’ airports - always ready to explore what’s new and make friends along the way whether we are on a layover or have arrived to our destination. And, when we get back to Pisa, he smells his Italy (he was born and raised in Tuscany) and immediately starts to make little joyful sounds, truly glad to be home.
Born in Ponsacco, Marty came to live with me in Lucca at the age of two months. Our home is a dreamy and wonderful town…a jewelry-box-of-a-city surrounded by a Renaissance wall which is actually a tree-lined boulevard filled with bicycles and joggers, walkers and lovers and, every morning, the two of us on our daily outing. Since Lucca is doggie-friendly (he has dinner at Burralli and cappuccino at Tessieri as well as a treat awaiting at the local butcher shop) I have tried my best to take him with me anywhere I go.
As an expat, I had always wanted a dog that fit in a bag and now he has a tennis ball waiting in Soho when we visit Lynn in New York City and a nice tree to pee on at Rita and David’s southern California house on a canyon! What’s more, Tino is comfortable staying in his carrier when it is not convenient to be out-he has dined on the terrace of Pastis in the Meatpacking District and been snuck into lunch at Balthazar. The people at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in various U.S. cities have no idea he’s been there, which I find extremely ironic considering that his presence has not hurt anyone even if dogs are banned in most U.S. cities from entering any public place at all. We have been busted- once at Olive Garden with my parents (weren’t they cool to go along with my plan to sneak Tino in?!) he made a little tiny bark under the table from his bag and the booth next to us ratted him out. Then, at Costco having a hotdog with my parents my dad coughed (!) in order to further conceal the dog’s presence after Martino sneezed in his carrier. (The carrier becomes a comfort to dogs and a convenience for you and me, for sure.)
So now, you may be wondering: How exactly does a dog become a dog-in-a-box, comfortable enough to make trips and withstand hours without food or drink or relieving himself?
The earlier you train, the better. Three months prior to our first voyage, Martino stayed in his little airplane-compliant carrier one hour every single day to get him used to the space. I gave him a treat going in and a treat coming out for the first two months then, he just got in on his own when I opened and pointed.
Since we didn’t know how his first flight would be, our vet recommended that I try a sedative just in case he turned out to be a nervous traveler. One day when I was home with him, I gave him one drop (he is 7 pounds) and watched it take over his body-lasting more than three hours, he never slept but moved around uncharacteristically and uneasily- dissuading me from using further sedation. You should know that while some animals cannot make the trip without it, my vet informed me that this drug can have dangerous side-effects when combined with travel in a pressurized cabin.
The best advice the veterinarian gave me was this:
Vet: You know how children cry on their first day of kindergarten?
Me: Of course.
Vet: Well, people think it’s because the place is new and the child is being left…but you know what? Kids cry because they feel the anxiety of the parent leaving them for the first time. Really. That is why they freak out. So, my advice is this: Put Martino in his bag smiling and speaking to him in your happy voice. If you’re relaxed, he’ll be relaxed. That’s it.
(I can assure you, that is precisely what came to pass.)
Logistics and Preparation
The logistics of traveling to and from the U.S. are complicated and require preparation and time. Being aware that timing of vaccinations, checkups and paperwork (usually involving a state or regional animal control government agency) make careful planning a necessity. (Last June, Martino and I met the FedEx guy on the road between Marksville, LA and the Alexandria Airport because the travel papers didn’t arrive the day before like they were supposed to. Happily, I got the papers in time for our flight to Italy!)
Animals must be in good health to travel, so make sure your dog is comfy in his carrier and that you are not making him nervous by worrying and coddling. By the way, the vet told me you can teach an old dog new tricks. Consult your vet on how to manage training in a carrier if you have an older doggie. He wants to come with you and if you take the time, you can make it work.
Traveling with a pet is not for procrastinators! Most airlines allow no more than two pets per flight in-cabin. You will also have to book on the phone because online ticket buying doesn’t allow you to book your pet’s travel—so you may end up paying a bit more for your ticket. Know that the more you plan, the more fun you will have because you won’t be stressed!
The links below will explain what you need to know about transporting a pet. I have never traveled with a pet as cargo, so that information is not covered here. After all, that’s why I have a small dog, who indeed, fits into a box!
Read each link and then, my comments which reflect my experience only. Feel free to contact me with questions or clarification and I will do my best to point you in the right direction. When in doubt, pick up the phone and call the agency or airline. When I moved to Italy with my cat, Mary, in 1999, on our layover in D.C., I was told the carrier was the wrong size. I had a printout from the airline with the measurements and the name of the contact person which saved us from missing our flight to Milan. While most people are willing to help, they may be ignorant or new to the job. The more you know, the better! Cover your bases! And, be polite, calm and, charming! It goes a long way.
For international travel, which is the focus of this article, it should be noted that most airlines now prohibit travel with animals in-cabin for a duration longer than 12 hours. This is a new rule and probably well-intended. So, if you are like me and will be on the road for closer to a day (depending on your budget, sometimes getting from California to Italy takes closer to 22 hours), then be prepared to spend the night in a pet-friendly airport hotel, or visit a friend along the way! There are also temperature restrictions now-this will mean planning your vacation at a time of the year when temperatures are more mild.
For transport to and from airports, It is courteous to let shuttle or taxi drivers know that you have a pet and, to keep your dog inside the carrier as well. I carry a muzzle for Marty when we go on the NY subway or MTI bus system as a precaution and, I keep him in his carrier as well. I have taken the BART train and buses in San Francisco with Martino in his carrier.
Also, there are some breeds like pugs and shitzus who are not allowed to fly because of possible challenges their breed encounters when breathing in a pressurized cabin. Venice restricts Rottweiler and Doberman Pinschers from traveling there. Since I am an expat and planned on traveling a lot, I did my research before getting my own little-dog-in-a-box and that is one of the reasons I wanted a chihuahua.
While the doggie is not officially considered ‘carry-on luggage,’ your pet’s carrier will go under the seat in front of you-which means your own carry-on will have to be placed in the bin above your seat. In-cabin carriers vary in size-each airline has their own regulatory measurement. I find the flexible carrier is better as depending upon where you sit, fitting the carrier under the seat in front of you may mean that you need to push the carrier into a space where an appendage under the seat makes the fit tighter-a hard plastic carrier doesn’t give enough. Also, flying a secondary airline such as Dolomiti (Lufthansa partner which flies between major German cities and Pisa) means smaller spaces for in-cabin flights. It’s cold in the cabin-put a blanket inside for burrowing. Remember, while in-cabin, your dog must remain inside the carrier at all times.
Choose a vet who has done this before. And, be aware that traveling between U.S. military bases have different requirements than travelers like Martino and me. Some vets are familiar with military pets but not pleasure travel.
Finally, the information for traveling with a service animal is not included in this report but I am so happy that our civilization has evolved to recognize the healing part of loving an animal.
My thanks to dear friend Andee at Traveling Native for the opportunity to share our journey in the skies.
Plan well and travel well!
Subject line: Dog-in-a-Box #dog #pets #travelwithpets #doglover #quarantine #petsabroad #petpassport
LINKS and COMMENTARY
GENERAL INFORMATION ON TRAVEL TO AND FROM THE USA
QUARANTINE and PET PASSPORT INFORMATION
QUARANTINE and PET PASSPORT INFORMATION LINK FOR ITALY and 15 DIGIT MICROCHIPREQUIREMENT
PAY PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO THE TIFER RABIES TEST AND SPEAK TO YOUR VET
PETS ENTERING ITALY SHOULD ENTER DIRECTLY OR, THROUGH AN EU MEMBER STATE SO MAKE SURE THAT YOUR TICKET HAS YOU ENTERING THE EU FIRST BEFORE ANOTHER DESTINATION
THIS IS A WONDERFUL WEBSITE TO LEAD YOU STEP-BY-STEP THROUGH THE EU DOG PASSPORT PROCESS.
THE CONSULATE GENERAL OF ITALY LOCATED IN LOS ANGELES, CA
TWO PRIVATE WEB PAGES I HAVE USED TO GAIN MORE INSIGHT
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT (RE: QUARANTINE)
BECAUSE OF QUARANTINE LAWS, I HAVE NEVER TAKEN MARTINO TO ENGLAND ON MY VISITS. I HAVE NEVER FLOWN THROUGH BRITAIN EITHER FOR THE SAME REASON.
DIRECT LINK TO UNITED
DIRECT LINK TO DELTA
JAPAN AIR VIA PET GURU SITE
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES VIA PET TRAVEL SITE
Artist and expat, Stephanie is an essayist, illustrator and published author.
While living in Italy for fourteen years, Page wrote articles for "The Italy Daily" section of "The International Herald Tribune" and is the author of "downsize [anatomy of a breast reduction]," a humorous commentary on body image and personal acceptance peppered with page's entertaining illustrations.
The newly published, "Vanutelli's Watercolor Dreams Volume I: A collection of short stories," is made up of tales inspired by the sketchbook of Italian painter Scipioni Vannutelli and, offers up love, lust, disenchantment and the search for identity-all in the pursuit of moments when joy is possible.
Page's next work,"The Book of Barren: Women Who Choose Not to Procreate," digs into the social constructs of gender in the private and public domain and, how the mystical power of females to create life has been viewed throughout history. Page (who had decided resolutely with her partner that children were not in their future) opens recounting the morning she "woke up suddenly wanting a baby" only to discover this impulse was the direct result of a fluke of nature: the early onset of menopause at age 24. The book includes illustrations by the author, whose drawings are funny, ironic and poignant.