Love dog, will travel

DSC_0140Taking a dog into Italy was shockingly easy in actuality (I could have been carrying a raccoon and they didn’t seem to care at all), though bureaucratic paperwork had to be completed beforehand.

Abby was a huge hit on our special trip to Venice last year. It was as if most people had never seen a Boston before! And travelers missing theirs at home were happy to pause for a little love.

Rules for traveling abroad with a dog vary greatly depending on where you’re going AND what airline you’re flying. In a cost saving effort, I researched this information myself, but incurred added stress and uncertainly. It was unclear which was the most current form needed to be completed by the vet for Italy. Luckily, our very kind vet completed BOTH apparently current sets of very complicated Veterinary Certificate forms, a service that’ll set you back at least $100. These forms then had to be driven to an office in San Francisco to be endorsed by the U.S.D.A. (Note: you need to make an appointment in advance, but you don’t need to bring the dog.) Don’t forget to check for requirements from any countries you’ll be passing through to get to your destination! For example, flying through London could present a challenge because of their added restrictions and quarantine rules.

I carried these U.S.D.A.-endorsed Veterinary Certificate forms with me and offered them at each airport, but it wasn’t until we returned to the U.S. that anyone even cared to look. Unfortunately, the form can’t be reused as it’s only good for 30 days and customs re-entry took them. (Make a copy for yourself in advance of the trip!)

Mama & Abby on the planeAbby is only about 12 pounds and she’s a medical assistance service dog so she rides in the airplane cabin with us. For in-cabin travel, it’s important to find a carrier that fits under the seat in front of you, but allows the dog to move about a bit, breathe plenty of air and a drink from a water dispenser. We’ve got a nicely ventilated 5-in-1 carrier (I can wear as a backpack, pull on wheels, seatbelt into the car, or carry as a tote or on my shoulder). I made it comfy for Abby and brought calming treats, a collapsible bowl, a pee pad and a few days supply of food. (Here’s more about our Lil’ Nosy Parker travel favorites)

One instance that proved difficult during the traveling was finding the outdoor relief area at airports — and having time to get there and back before the connecting flight! This was particularly challenging when we were delayed and abandoned by wheelchair assistance. Argh!

For the most part, traveling internationally with a dog was no big deal. That is, except for the appallingly horrific Lufthansa agents at Venice International Airport, who almost forced us to miss our returning flight despite being the first people in line that morning. We would have been happy to stay in Venice longer; we just did not appreciate the discriminatory mistreatment and petty tyranny of the airline “customer service” agents. Oh, so many things went wrong that day.

The only other time during our special trip that we had any trouble traveling with a dog was on the beach in Lido. The lifeguard didn’t want to let us onto the beach, but our Italian friend helped us smooth it out.

This seems obvious to me, but perhaps it’s not. If your dog isn’t a good traveler, reconsider taking your dog along. Abby is small, quiet and friendly — making her very portable. She doesn’t bark or bite, and she’s a better traveler than most children.

Safe travels with happy tails!

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