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JetBlue now lets you reserve on-line an in-cabin spot for your pet dog

This is a two-part update, and I owe both parts to reader Giuliana, who wrote first to tell me that JetBlue now allows you to reserve an in-cabin spot for your pet online. As of at least June 16, the language on JetBlue’s JetPaws page stated that “Pets can be booked online or you can call 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583).”

That’s unusual — previously, of the major U.S. airlines, only Virgin America and United (carried over from Continental’s policy) let you make your pet’s reservation at the same time you make your own online reservation. I celebrated noisily on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page, because it’s a real convenience for travelers with pets — otherwise, you’re forced either to (1) make your own reservation online, then quickly call and add your pet to your ticket, hoping that there’s room in the cabin for her; or (2) make both of your reservations over the phone, incurring the fee for phone reservations.

Previously, JetBlue had sweetened the deal by waiving the phone reservation fee for calls made by travelers with pets, but those days are over. Now, they really want you to make all of your reservations on-line; as Giuliana discovered, they’re adding a big nudge in that direction by adding a $25 fee if you call to make your pet’s reservation. Tucked away in the FAQs — which you wouldn’t necessarily consult when planning your trip, because the FAQ link is located under the “At the airport” section of the JetPaws page — is a new note saying that “Pets may be booked on jetblue.com or by calling 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) — a $25 booking fee will apply for reservations made over the phone” (emphasis in the original). That is, of course, in addition to the normal $100 (each way) pet fee that the airline charges.

So how does it work? I started making a fictional reservation for mid-July, and I learned that your pet gets added to your reservation at Step 4 (“Extras”) in the process, right after seat selection. Here’s a screen shot of what it looked like:

This is a little cramped, since I wanted to capture both the top of the page (showing where I was in the booking process) as well as the "Jet with your pet" entry

This is a little cramped, since I wanted to capture both the top of the page (showing where I was in the booking process) as well as the “Jet with your pet” entry

Put briefly, if you are planning to travel with your in-cabin pet on JetBlue, make reservations for both of you on-line to avoid significant processing fees. Hat tip to JetBlue for making on-line booking available (and thereby tacitly assuring you that your pet actually does have a reserved spot in-cabin — those spots are limited in number, and many airlines make them first-come-first-served), and for its continuing policy of awarding you frequent flyer points for your pet’s travel as well as yours. And another hat tip to Giuliana, for bringing both changes to my attention!

Backpack carrier for a larger small dog: PetEgo’s Pet At Work Travel System

I owe this post to reader Catie, who told me that PetEgo now offers its P@W backpack carrier in a large size — I’d admired it before, but the product back then (the current small size) was too small for Chloe. Long story short: The large Pet At Work carrier is a fine size for a larger small dog like Chloe, and with a couple of tweaks, it’s a wonderful addition to our carrier collection. Please note that I paid full price for our P@W Travel System. I will always let you know when I’m reviewing a product or a service that has been paid for (or provided at a discount by) someone else.

Chloe, ever patient, tries out the Pet At Work carrier

Chloe, ever patient, tries out the Pet At Work carrier

The concept behind the Pet At Work Travel System is appealing: You carry your pet to work (say, for example, on public transit) in the backpack part of the carrier, and when you arrive at your workplace you pull a large Pet Dome out of its slot in the carrier (which also has a padded sleeve for a small laptop) and let your pup recline in that. That scenario doesn’t happen in my life (I work at home, and my husband keeps a Pet Dome at his workplace), but I can imagine biking with Chloe on my back to a destination — a coffee shop, or a park — where it would be good to have a Pet Dome for her to lounge in. It’s more likely, however, that I would leave the Pet Dome at home and use its pocket to carry the gear I normally carry in my purse. It’s a rare pleasure to run into a pet carrier that includes space for human gear too:

I've pulled the Pet Dome out of its slot (you can see it resting against my foot) to show you the space it leaves available. That sleeve on the right will hold a 15" laptop, and the main part of the compartment would hold all of my gear (and I'm a gal who carriers a big purse). The tether actually belongs in the pet compartment to the left, but I've pulled it out of Chloe's way and flopped it in here instead. I wish PetEgo allowed you the option of detaching the tether.

I’ve pulled the Pet Dome out of its slot (you can see it resting against my right foot) to show you the space it leaves available. That sleeve on the right will hold a 15″ laptop, and the main part of the compartment would hold all of my gear (and I’m a gal who carries a big purse). The tether actually belongs in the pet compartment to the left, but I’ve pulled it out of Chloe’s way and flopped it in here instead. I wish PetEgo allowed you the option of detaching the tether.

The downside of doing that is that you lose structural support: The collapsed PetDome provides a lightweight but sturdy foundation that the rest of the backpack hangs from. Carrying a laptop helps, but even with just a heap of stuff from my purse (the last picture, below) in that pocket, Chloe didn’t list too much.

The P@W carrier with the Pet Dome in its slot. Plenty of room for Chloe, and her "floor" is pretty level.

The P@W carrier with the Pet Dome in its slot. Plenty of room for Chloe, and her “floor” is pretty level.

Pet Dome removed, and replaced with my small MacBook Air laptop. A bit more sag in Chloe's "floor."

Pet Dome removed, and replaced with my small MacBook Air laptop. A bit more sag in Chloe’s “floor.”

No Pet Dome or laptop, just random purse stuff. This is the worst-case scenario; while Chloe's "floor" is angled, she didn't seem unduly concerned about it.

No Pet Dome or laptop, just random purse stuff. This is the worst-case scenario, in terms of structural support; while Chloe’s “floor” is angled, she didn’t seem unduly concerned about it. If I thought I’d never carry a laptop or a Pet Dome, I might consider getting a piece of thick foam cut into the same shape as the collapsed Pet Dome, and slip that into the laptop sleeve.

As longtime Dog Jaunt readers already know, Chloe is a large small dog (she weighs about 13 lbs., stands about 12″ tall at her shoulder, and measures about 16″ from nape of neck to base of tail), and I have to shop carefully for carriers that fit her. Add the large Pet At Work backpack to the list — when all of its gussets are unzipped, it offers a space that is 16.5″ wide, 11.5″ deep, and about 16″ tall (the width and height have a fair amount of give, since the “walls” and “ceiling” of the space are nylon mesh). That’s plenty of room for her to sit up, shift around, and view the world. It’s also just enough room for her to lie down in a tight circle, but if I anticipated that she’d be doing a lot of resting, I’d pack the Pet Dome.

The following picture shows the pet compartment at its largest, with both of its gusset zippers unzipped. In this configuration (the only one that works for Chloe, or other dogs her size), the carrier has two entrances, one on top, and one on the back. As you can see, the back entrance’s “door” can be rolled up and secured (with Velcro); in that event, you’d likely want to use the provided tether to discourage your pup from leaping out.

Roomiest pet compartment option (both gussets unzipped)

Roomiest pet compartment option (both gussets unzipped). Two rods in nylon sleeves, sewn to the “ceiling” of the pet compartment, keep the top propped outwards: Swing them up and use the Velcro tabs on their ends to attach them to the upper corners of the compartment.

If you have a small pet, you might prefer this following configuration, with only one of the gusset zippers unzipped. The top entrance is no longer available, but the side and back panels still provide a lot of cross-ventilation.

It's worth nothing that with one fewer gusset unfurled, using the Pet Dome compartment as a purse won't make the pet compartment floor tilt as much

It’s worth noting that with one fewer gusset unfurled, using the Pet Dome compartment as a purse (that is, removing the Pet Dome) won’t make the pet compartment floor tilt as much.

These are the only two pet-carrying configurations available; once you close the second gusset zipper, you’re left with a compartment that could hold a sweater or, given that a couple of mesh panels are still exposed, gym clothing.

In both of the pet-carrying configurations, the “floor” panel (a piece of what feels like thick plastic, encased in nylon), can be pulled away from the Velcro tab securing it to the wall of the pet compartment and laid flat, where it’s held in place by gravity and friction. Softness is provided by a small pad, nylon on one side and fleece on the other, which you lay on top of the floorboard. It’s not secured to anything, and scoots around under your dog, especially while you’re hoisting the carrier onto your shoulders.

Chloe really dislikes that scooting, and I plan to fix it with more Velcro. The same “male” Velcro tab that holds the floor panel to the wall of the pet compartment will make itself useful again: I’ll sew a strip of “female” Velcro (the softer, loop side) to the pad, and that’ll provide one point of stability (since it’s the softer part of a Velcro pairing, and therefore won’t catch on your dog’s fur, you could sew strips to both the nylon and the fleece sides of the pad, if you care about reversing the pad in hot/cold weather). I’ll sew an additional female Velcro strip on each short end of the pad. There may not be enough slack in the nylon covering of the floorboard to allow the matching male strips to be sewn on; if not, I’ll use stick-on Velcro strips for the floorboard. The result will be three points of stability for the pad, which will greatly improve Chloe’s outlook on life.

Aside from her objections to the shiftiness of the provided floor pad, Chloe clearly approves of the carrier —  even after the jostling that occurs while I wriggle out of the straps and swing her down to a chair or the floor, she’s in no hurry to hop out.

Snoozing happily.

Snoozing happily.

I like it too — the thought that went into its features pleases me, and it’s well-made. The shoulder straps are comfortable, and I like how the same padding that protects your laptop also cushions your back. A simple strap at the top lets you pick the carrier up vertically (picking it up by the tops of the shoulder straps would tilt the bag, potentially disconcerting your pet). A long, low pocket just below the back “entrance” is big enough to hold small items like a roll of poop bags and treats.

One last thought: It occurred to me that the Pet At Work backpack might work as an in-cabin carrier. You’d have to take the Pet Dome out as you arrived at your seat, and gently rotate the carrier onto the strap side, so your dog ends up resting on the padding that usually protects your back. The two props that support the pet compartment will now be holding one end of your pet’s “roof” up. Deploy some more Velcro to secure the panel that’s normally the floorboard in place — you need it to support the other end of your pet’s roof, and it no longer has gravity on its side in this orientation. The overall height of the rotated carrier, minus the Pet Dome, is about 11″, with plenty of give (but be gentle with those two support rods), and the length and width are both about 16″. For a dog Chloe’s size, I’d do it only if I was traveling with someone else, and could poach some of their legroom for the Pet Dome — as soon as we leveled off, I’d unfold the Pet Dome and nudge her into it from the carrier (how convenient that the carrier’s usual top entrance acts as a side entrance when the carrier is under a plane seat!).

How does the Pet At Work carrier compare with the Canine Casual, another soft backpack carrier that works for larger small pets? As far as the space available for your pet goes, they’re close — as you can see in this picture, the pet compartments are about the same height and depth; however, what you can’t see from this angle is that the Pet At Work space is about 1-2″ wider than the Canine Casual space. The Pet At Work carrier is therefore a bit roomier than the Canine Casual.

Please note that the pet compartment for the Canine Casual (on the left) includes the area behind the powder-blue, grommeted panel; the pet compartment for the Pet At Work (on the right) ends just to the right of the

The pet compartment for the Canine Casual (on the left) includes the area behind the powder-blue, grommeted panel; the pet compartment for the Pet At Work (on the right) ends where the mesh ends (the solid area to the right is the Pet Dome compartment). It’s worth noting, though, that if the Pet Dome is removed, part of that space becomes available to your pet, since the inner wall of the Pet Dome compartment is thin nylon. In the picture of Chloe snoozing, her bottom was pressing into the empty Pet Dome compartment.

The Pet At Work carrier has more mesh ventilation panels, but I don’t mean to criticize the Canine Casual by saying that — I still think the Canine Casual carrier’s mesh panels and giant grommets provide good ventilation. Both are dark, which is fine for cool weather, but not ideal for warm weather (one Dog Jaunt reader reports that she found the large Pet At Work carrier in a tan color, so I’ll keep checking the PetEgo listing to see if it becomes available again).

The Pet At Work carrier minus the Pet Dome weighs about the same as the Canine Casual (2.96 lbs. versus the Canine Casual’s 2.86 lbs.), but with the Pet Dome on board, the Pet At Work System weighs nearly 6 lbs. The Pet At Work System is significantly more expensive ($150, on Amazon, versus about $80 for the Canine Casual).

The two carriers perceive the same need (a backpack carrier for a larger small dog, who may also want to spend time lying down) but address it in a different way: The Canine Casual carrier expands, with the help of a gusset, into a mesh tent, while the Pet At Work carrier stows a mesh tent (the Pet Dome) in a separate slot. Which one you choose will depend on how large your larger small dog is, and which price tag your budget can handle.

Amazon link: Pet at Work Travel System (large) from PetEgo

 

East Coast luxury: Four “mansion hotels” that allow pet dogs

Back in January, this article from CNN (“8 elegant U.S. mansion hotels“) caught my eye — or, more accurately, the combination of the headline and the photo of Newport’s gorgeous Chanler Hotel caught my eye. Surely some of those beauties must be pet-friendly, I thought, and this weekend I finally made the time to find out.

It turns out that five of the eight featured hotels do allow pet dogs to join their owners. The Chanler, alas, is not one of them. Don’t set your heart on Tarrytown’s Castle Hotel or San Jose’s Hayes Mansion either; per the front desk staff, both places only open their doors to service animals. And while the Castle Hill Resort & Spa in Cavendish, VT does allow pet dogs, its only pet-friendly rooms are in the Pointe Hotel, which lacks the history and charm of the main building. (For those of you who remain undaunted, Castle Hill’s current pet policy is as follows: Standard rooms with 2 queen beds in the Pointe Hotel only; $40/night fee; multiple pets okay.)

Charleston's Wentworth Mansion hotel (the Garden Rooms are pet-friendly)

Charleston’s Wentworth Mansion hotel (the Garden Rooms are pet-friendly)

With that chaff out of the way, here’s the wheat, listed in order of their appeal for me (the CNN article provides links to the hotels’ websites, and I’ve provided links to pet policies where they exist — otherwise, I gathered the pet policy details via phone calls):

Wentworth Mansion (Charleston, South Carolina) — The Garden Rooms, located on the ground floor, are pet-friendly; $25/night.

Wilburton Inn (Manchester Village, Vermont) — Certain rooms are pet-friendly, for (essentially) $40/night.

Keswick Hall at Monticello (Keswick, Virginia) — Any of the rooms may be occupied by guests with pets; $75/per night per pet; 75 lb. limit; multiple pets allowed.

Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club (Lenox, Massachusetts) — Certain rooms are pet-friendly; one time fee of $50.

Dog jaunt: Stroll up Paris’s Île aux Cygnes

This was the last long walk we took before we left Paris last fall, and it was a perfect way to say good-bye to the city. The Île aux Cygnes (“Isle of the Swans” — nope, we didn’t see a single one) is a long, thin island in the Seine. Just southwest of the Eiffel Tower, it’s a little bit off the beaten path, but not so much so that it’s tough to get to. It was created in the early 19th c. as a breakwater, to protect what was then the port of Grenelle (now absorbed into Paris and part of the 15th arrondissement). Sixty-two years later, the American community in Paris commemorated the centennial of the French Revolution with a 1/4-size replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was installed on the southwest tip of the island (at 22 metres, or 72 feet, tall, it’s still pretty imposing).

Paris's biggest Statue of Liberty replica (there are two others in town, plus a full-size replica of the torch), from the Pont de Grenelle.

Paris’s biggest Statue of Liberty replica (there are two others in town, plus a full-size replica of the flame), from the Pont de Grenelle.

Between the Statuette of Liberty at one end, and the Pont de Bir-Hakeim at the other, there’s a single path, perfect for promenades, flanked with trees and benches.

I recommend starting on the Pont de Grenelle. If you, like us, take the #72 bus along the Right Bank to get there, listen carefully for the “Radio France-Pont de Grenelle” stop (confusingly, one stop west of the “Radio France” stop). You will find yourself standing where the Rue de Boulainvilliers meets the Avenue du Président Kennedy. Cross the street to the river and get yourself onto the left side of the bridge. Descend the ramp and walk under the bridge to reach Madame Liberté. Please note that she’s facing her American sister, 3,500 miles away — and savor the fact that you can get close enough to touch her pedestal (pet dogs, as you may already know, cannot visit Lady Liberty).

Turn back around and stroll northeast, the length of the island. The views are wonderful, as you can see, and the folks you meet are all in strolling mode — relaxed, prepared to admire your dog, and often accompanied by dogs themselves.

Chloe and me, just below the statue, looking southeast across the river

Chloe and me, just below the statue — beyond us is the Left Bank, and the waterfront part of the the quartier of Grenelle

We've crossed back under the Pont de Grenelle, and now we're walking north — the views of the Eiffel Tower just get better and better

We’ve crossed back under the Pont de Grenelle, and now we’re walking north — the views of the Eiffel Tower just get better and better

When you reach the north end of the island, you’ll find yourself facing a set of stairs — climb them, carefully cross the street (and bridge), and you’ll find yourself on the actual northern tip of the island, which has an unimpeded view of the Eiffel Tower. Claim yourself a bit of parapet, and enjoy the moment.

The stairs at the northeast end of the island, leading up to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim

The stairs at the northeast end of the island, leading up to the Pont de Bir-Hakeim

Pass under that arch, carefully crossing the bridge, and you'll find this little plaza before you (the statue is called "La France renaissante")

Pass under the arch in that last photo, carefully crossing the bridge, and you’ll find this little plaza before you (the statue is called “La France renaissante”)

I wish I could tell you that we'd planned to arrive at this point on our walk just as the tower lights went on, but it was purely a matter of luck. By the time we walked away, it was dusk, and the city lights were spangling the river.

I wish I could tell you that we’d timed our walk to see the tower at its best, but it was purely a matter of luck. We stayed at our bit of parapet until dusk turned into evening, and the city lights were spangling the river.

When you’re ready to leave, return to the right bank. Cross over to the center of the bridge as you get to its north end, and descend the staircase before you; you’ll find yourself right at the “Pont de Bir-Hakeim” stop for the #72 bus, now heading back to the Place de la Concorde (and beyond, to the Louvre and Châtelet).

You may remember the Pont de Bir-Hakeim from Inception, and before that from Last Tango in Paris

Heading north on the Pont de Bir-Hakeim. You may remember this gorgeous bridge from the movie “Inception,” and before that from “Last Tango in Paris.”

We walked down the middle of the bridge, on those two lanes you see in the middle of the picture, but it’s really for bicyclists. Thank goodness none came along while we were hogging their path — next time, we’ll know to walk alongside the bridge railings instead.

Reader’s report: Large SturdiBag on a Southwest 737-700 plane

Here’s another photo to share with you of a large SturdiBag in position under a plane seat, thanks to reader Kathy. She posted a message this week on Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page, telling me that she’d taken Theodore, her 13 year-old Toy Poodle, on his first plane flight, and all went well — and she was extra-relieved, because Theodore is “a delicate little guy.”

They flew on a Southwest 737-700 series plane, in a middle seat, and Kathy bought the large SturdiBag. Here’s Theodore, en route:

Theodore, in a large SturdiBag, under the middle seat of a Southwest 737-700 series plane

Theodore, in a large SturdiBag, under the middle seat of a Southwest 737-700 series plane

Kathy reports that “the Sturdi Products large carrier you discussed on your website was a godsend. It fit easily under the Southwest 737/700 center seat and I was able to give him water and treats through the well made zippered top opening.”

I’ve written about the Southwest 737-700 under seat space in the past, and, while I was rummaging around for that link, discovered that I’d also posted a picture of my own of a large SturdiBag (and a medium Sherpa bag) on a 737-700, but I’m still grateful to Kathy for her picture and report. For one thing, she’s not me, and I think it helps other readers to hear from more than one person that a carrier works well in a particular situation. For another thing, Kathy had the presence of mind to take a second shot that included the seat card for her plane, proving that it was indeed a Southwest 737-700:

Those of you planning to travel with your pup on a similar plane, with a similar bag, might want to bookmark this post, so you can show a Southwest rep — in a pinch — that the bag will indeed fit under your seat.

It’s also nice that Kathy’s pictures are from May 2014 — it’s just that much more convincing to see a current photo.

Thank you again, Kathy, for taking the time to send info back to the Dog Jaunt community (and for your kind praise for the blog)! I’m tagging this post so that it joins Dog Jaunt’s growing collection of pictures of carriers in action on planes.

Guest post: Traveling with Holly the Cairn Terrier across Latin America

Normally, I don’t accept guest posts — partly because I don’t want to betray your trust (there’s too much advertising masquerading as content out there) and partly because I like to maintain a consistent “sound” for the blog — but when I heard from Tamara Murray, I knew it was time to make an exception.

Tamara writes a travel blog of her own, called Our Leap Year, about the year-long adventure she and her husband and Holly, their 15 year-old Cairn Terrier, embarked on in October 2013. “We’ve brought Holly to Mexico, Chile and Argentina so far,” Tamara told me, “and we have some lessons learned about doing so — especially since we’re traveling so long that our USDA health certificate has long since expired. We’ve had to navigate getting a government-certified health certificate in Mexico and even had a close call (‘Sorry, but we can’t let her through’) coming from Chile to Argentina.” Dog Jaunt helped Tamara and her husband Chris prepare for their travels, she said, and now she wanted to give back to the community. Was I interested in a guest post? I certainly was, and here it is — Tamara’s post about bringing Holly to and around Latin America:

When my husband Chris and I decided to take a career break and travel Latin America for a year, we were confronted with a big question: But, what about Holly?

Holly.jpg

Holly is our 15-year-old Cairn Terrier and best friend in the whole world. (I’m sure you can relate!) Ultimately, we decided not to put off our dreams and take Holly along for the ride.

We set out in October 2013 with her and two backpacks. So far, she’s traveled across Mexico, Chile, and Argentina with us, acting as a goodwill ambassador and bringing smiles to locals’ faces.

Holly Volcan Osorno 400.jpg

We get a nearly universal reaction when we tell people we’re traveling Latin America with our dog. First, total disbelief. Then, a hearty chuckle. And lastly, lots of questions!

We’ve compiled some common questions and our lessons learned so far to share with Dog Jaunt readers. We hope they will help if you’re thinking about taking your small dog to a Latin American country!

Getting There and Back

How did you prepare to bring your dog to Mexico?

One of the first things we learned is everyone will tell you something different. That’s why we’ve learned not to rely on vets or consulates, except to help point us in the right direction. The ultimate keeper of regulations for bringing a dog to Mexico is SENASICA, a division of the government department SAGARPA, which is Mexico’s USDA-equivalent. Trust SENASICA’s guidelines and the USDA’s guidelines. Here’s exactly what we did:

45 days before leaving

  • Got Holly up to date on her rabies, bordedella, leptospirosis, distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and canine hepatitis vaccinations (Note: only a rabies vaccination is required for entrance into Mexico based on SENASICA’s guidelines)
  • Took care of additional things for our year-long trip:
    • Had her tested for internal parasites
    • Got a one-year supply of flea and worm preventative
    • Got one dose of deworming pills to bring with us, just in case

5 days before leaving

  • Took Holly for a health exam at a local USDA-certified vet, who filled out the official health certificate (Form 7001)
  • Brought the certificate and vaccine documentation to the USDA’s local office where an official veterinarian signed and sealed it
  • Made print and electronic copies of everything

What was the process like going through customs?

Once we arrived at the airport in Mexico (we flew into Los Cabos, Baja California), we proceeded through immigration and picked up our bags normally. When we arrived at the customs area, we declared her to the customs officer who directed us to a desk off to the side with a SENASICA official. He reviewed her health certificate, didn’t look at the dog, and kept the official copy. Then, off we went!

[I'm interrupting Tamara's post, briefly, to add some info about their flight to Mexico: They flew on Alaska Airlines from California to Baja California.]

Does your U.S. health certificate work for your whole, one-year trip?

No. Form 7001 is only valid for 30 days, and most countries (and airlines) require an official health certificate from your country of origin within 7-10 days of travel. However, keeping the copy of our U.S. health certificate was helpful for vets and other officials to review when completing documents.

Since we were going from Mexico to Chile next after three months in Mexico, we had to get an official health certificate from SENASICA before departing for Chile. Every time you cross an international border, you need an official health certificate from your country of origin.

What’s the process like for other Latin American countries?

We can only speak to Chile and Argentina so far. Chile is notoriously strict when it comes to bringing in animals and food products, so we took extra care to follow every procedure. I even had an email exchange with someone from SAG, their USDA-equivalent, to confirm we were following SAG’s guidelines and had the appropriate paperwork. When we arrived in Chile, we had a similar experience as in Mexico, although we had to sign a document saying we would do our best to keep Holly away from other animals for 10 days.

When going from Chile to Argentina, we broke our own rule and listened to a vet’s advice. The vet in Chile said our vaccination records coupled with a health certificate on his letterhead would be sufficient for meeting SENASA’s guidelines in Argentina. When we got to the border, the customs agent told us he couldn’t let Holly through because we didn’t have an official, government-issued health certificate. We stayed calm, put on a smile, and walked him through the documentation we had. Because she had the appropriate vaccinations and was deemed healthy, he took pity on us and let us through. However, it was important that we were conversational in Spanish. I’m not sure what the outcome would have been if we tried to convince him in English.

Does your dog have her own passport?

Nope. We keep all of Holly’s original vaccination documentation and health certificates in a manila envelope, as well as copies in a separate envelope in case we lose one of our bags.

One thing I wish we’d done was get the equivalent of a “yellow card” for her. (If you don’t know what a yellow card is, it’s a small yellow document that lists all of a person’s immunizations in one place.) Holly’s documentation is in the form of print-outs from the vet that look more like invoices, so they’re difficult for non-English-speaking officials to review for pertinent details. In Mexico, they provide pets something called a carnet de salud, which is like a yellow card. Ask your vet if they can provide everything to you in a single (signed!) document or booklet if you can.

On the Road

How do you travel with your dog within the country?

While within Mexico, we flew from Baja California to Mexico City, but we only needed a basic health certificate (on the vet’s letterhead) to satisfy the airline’s regulations. She traveled in-cabin on that trip, as well as the flight from Mexico City to Santiago.

[One last interruption from me, to add flight info: Tamara and Chris and Holly flew from Baja California to Mexico City on Volaris ("you can book your space for your pet right on the website! no need to call"), and from Mexico City to Santiago on Copa Airlines ("note, they only allow pets to fly Monday-Thursday"). They will soon be on another Copa flight, from Buenos Aires to San Jose, Costa Rica.]

Traveling within Chile and Argentina has been interesting, since long-distance buses are the norm and small dogs are sometimes a gray area. We keep Holly in her soft crate on the floor by our feet and try to keep her incognito. So far, no one has stopped us to ask if we’re carrying a pet….

Are these countries dog-friendly? What about street dogs?

In the countries we’ve been to, attitudes towards dogs are different. I equate it to how people on farms in rural areas sometimes see dogs: as friendly creatures, but also as animals who live outside.

That said, Mexico City and Buenos Aires have off-leash dog parks and you see people walking dogs at all times of day. It was no problem to have Holly on leash while eating at a cafe outside in Chile. Just use common sense.

If you can believe it, the street dogs in Mexico, Chile, and Argentina have all been super friendly and docile. They either keep their distance or come up to Holly for a quick and friendly sniff. It’s other people’s pets that tend to be more aggressively playful, or will bark excessively.

Is it easy to find dog-friendly accommodations?

In Mexico, small hotels/bed and breakfasts had no problem with us bringing Holly because she was small and quiet. In big cities, U.S.-based hotel chains such as Holiday Inn are sometimes pet-friendly. We’ve had the most luck using Airbnb: even if places say pets aren’t allowed, they are sometimes willing to make exceptions if you contact them ahead of time. Also, since we have positive reviews from other hosts about Holly, that helps us a lot.

Many smaller hotel chains, especially in Chile, explicitly said that pets are not allowed without exceptions. Like in the U.S., make sure to plan ahead when looking for dog-friendly accommodations.

How does it work to go to the vet or groomer?

So far, vets are plentiful and their rates are inexpensive. We paid US$20 for a basic vet exam in Mexico City. Some allow you to just drop in, while others might ask you to come back a certain day or time. Pet stores, vets and groomers are often combined into one location. Grooming is also inexpensive; it cost just US$15 for a corte-baño (cut and bath, including nail trimming) in Mexico and Argentina. If you’re picky about hairstyles, bring a photo or learn to live with it. Some breeds are less common in Latin America, so Holly usually ends up with a Schnauzer cut.

What did you bring with you? Did you have to bring all her food?

Mexico, Chile, and Argentina have a lot of the same pet products available: major food brands, basic toys and treats, brand-name flea treatments. We brought the following items, and have just purchased things along the way to maintain the supply.

  • 1 soft-sided travel carrier, 1 spare carrier-bedding liner
  • 1 ID tag, 1 collar, 1 harness, 1 leash
  • 1-week supply of dry dog food, 1 pack of treats, 1 collapsible food/water bowl
  • 2 toys, 2 rolls of waste pick-up bags, 1 portable hair trimmer, 1 mini bottle of shampoo
  • 12 months supply of flea and heart worm prevention pills, 1 dose of deworming pills

I find this post so inspiring, and so reassuring — I love how thorough Tamara is, and how she’s thought of all the questions someone just starting their planning process is likely to have. Thank you so much, Tamara, and please write to me/us again! I have no doubt that you’ll cover a lot of ground before your year is up, and it would be tremendously helpful to hear about the additional places you go and what you learn along the way.

Salt Spring Island, B.C. dog-friendly hotel: Hastings House Country House Hotel

As readers of Dog Jaunt’s Facebook page will know, I’ve long wanted to visit the Hastings House Hotel. It’s a Relais & Châteaux property, so I knew it would be lovely — and I knew it would be pricey too. It was, but with the help of a “winter escape” package, it didn’t break the bank. There is a $50/day pet fee. (As you can tell, we paid for our stay — I will always let you know when I’m reviewing something that has been paid for by someone else.)

The hotel — really, it’s misleading to call it a “hotel,” since it’s more like a country house estate, with a larger manor house and nearby rooms, at least two separate cottages, several charming outbuildings (the reception area is in the former chicken coop, and the spa is in, I think, a former barn), and a large, picturesquely-enclosed garden. So let’s say instead that the property is on Salt Spring Island, one of the larger of the Gulf Islands (an archipelago sprinkled between mainland British Columbia and gigantic Vancouver Island). It overlooks the tiny harbor of Ganges, the main village on the island, and if you wanted to, you could catch a seaplane and land just below the hotel. Salt Spring Air, for example, will take you (and your pet dog) from downtown Vancouver to Ganges in just over half an hour, or from Vancouver Airport (YVR) to Ganges in just under half an hour, and so will Harbour Air.

We had our car, so we opted to take the ferry instead. The B.C. Ferries terminal at Tsawwassen was a short (say, 20-minute) drive from downtown Vancouver, and we’d made a reservation for our sailing, so it was a non-eventful crossing to Long Harbor (the big ferries drop their Salt Spring Island passengers off at Long Harbor, not the little Ganges harbor). Once you get off the ferry, it’s only a few minutes’ drive to Hastings House. The sign is on the left, the driveway is long, and by the time you park outside the wooden gate and find the reception desk, you’ll already be calmer and happier. Rather than explaining why, I’ll show you pictures — what they can’t convey, though, is how cozy the place smelled (wood fires, how I love them) and sounded (particularly at night, when we were lulled to sleep — no, really! — by the sound of frogs):

Our cottage (well, we had half of it — Farmhouse East), one of the dog-friendly options. It was overcast and cool the weekend we were there in late March.

The cottage we stayed in is one of the dog-friendly options. Our half, on the right, is called Farmhouse East. I completely failed to take a picture of the inside — the pictures on the site are accurate, except the bedroom shot has been reversed for some reason.

Looking out the front door of the Farmhouse — Chloe is checking out the well, and the large garden is just out of the picture to the right (when it hits its stride, it provides all of the flowers and vegetables for the rooms and restaurant)

Looking out the front door of the Farmhouse — Chloe is checking out the well and another guest cottage, and the large garden is just out of the picture to the right (when it hits its stride, it provides all of the flowers and vegetables for the rooms and restaurant)

The Do Not Disturb dog has been sewn with a scrap of fabric from an old skirt of the housekeeper's in his mouth….

The Do Not Disturb dog has a scrap of fabric from an old skirt of the housekeeper’s in his mouth….

The sun finally made an appearance. We bought picnic fixings in Ganges and drove around the island until we found a good picnic spot (it didn't take long — you're spoiled for choice there!)

The sun finally made an appearance, so we bought picnic fixings in Ganges and drove around the island until we found a good lunch spot (it didn’t take long — you’re spoiled for choice there!)

The hotel provided a pet bed for Chloe’s use, but it was a little aged, and a little thin, and she didn’t show much interest in it. They also placed a small trash can outside our door, along with a supply of bags, which was useful and convenient. Happily, while I am amused and touched by pet amenities like a pet bed, bowls, and treats, I don’t look for them — as you know, we travel with sheets to put over beds and couches, pet bowls of our own, and plenty of treats. I count a place dog-friendly if the management is kind to Chloe (gear and treats are a way of showing kindness, granted, but it was enough for me that the Hastings House staff greeted her warmly) and if there are good walks for her. She loved the place — we kept her out of the garden, but she enjoyed rambling around the paths and into town.

The human amenities were right up our alley: A little bag of muffins arrived on our doorstep early in the morning, to tide us over (along with the surprisingly good in-room coffee) until the dining room opened for breakfast (like the rest of the food we ate at the Hastings House, breakfast was simply conceived, prepared perfectly from local ingredients, and served with kindness). You’re forced to fend for yourself for lunch, but a generous tea is provided to soothe your feelings, and then, of course, there’s dinner.

The manor house (including the dining room) from just below our cottage

The manor house (including the dining room) from just below our cottage

The view of Ganges harbor from the dining room (this is the same view, essentially, that our cottage had — you can see why arriving by seaplane would work just fine!)

The view of Ganges harbor from the dining room (this is the same view, essentially, that our cottage had — you can see why arriving by seaplane would work just fine!)

I made dinner reservations at the hotel for the first night we were on Salt Spring, not knowing how far we’d be from alternative options. It turns out to be an easy walk into Ganges, and an even easier drive (I suggest driving, because part of the walk is along a highway — a modest, rural, island highway, so there wasn’t a lot of traffic, but still, I was a little uneasy without a sidewalk). Next time I would go into Ganges for dinner the first night (the Tree House Café was recommended by the local folk we talked to, and we were glad we took their advice), and save the fancier hotel dinner for the second night.

One other helpful hint: Foxglove Farm & Garden, not far at all from Hastings House, is a source of good-quality pet food and treats and supplies on the island.

Vancouver, BC dog-friendly hotel: The Fairmont Waterfront

I know, it’s a big conference-type hotel. But we were going to a conference, and while we could have chosen a different option (boutique hotel, rented apartment), there’s a lot to be said — especially early in the morning and late at night — for a hotel that’s only steps away from the conference center. Happily, it turned out that the stay we had at the Fairmont Waterfront could not have been more pleasant, especially from Chloe’s point of view. I should mention that I paid for this hotel stay — I’ll always let you know when something I’m reviewing has been paid for by someone else.

Our room was on the 4th floor, and the elevators moved snappily, so getting outside for Chloe’s morning walk was blessedly rapid. The room was attractive in itself (pewter/silver/muted gold decor — so subtle, in fact, that it took me a while to notice and appreciate it), and it had a good view of Coal Harbour, including the departures and arrivals of the SeaBus. The hotel provided two stainless steel bowls for Chloe’s use, along with a bed that was close enough to new that it pleased me, and comfortable enough that Chloe actually used it. They also provided a couple of packets of locally-made dog treats that turned Chloe inside-out with joy (more about those in a moment).

Our room, with Chloe stranded on the credenza (she wants to be on the bed, but has to wait until I throw a dropcloth over it)

Our room, with Chloe stranded on the credenza (she wants to be on the bed, but has to wait until I throw a dropcloth over it). Her crate’s in the tote next to her, waiting to be unpacked and set up.

Chloe installed in the comfy bed the hotel provided for her use (they also provided those bowls). Crate now set up, with travel tote and food kit resting on top.

Chloe installed in the comfy bed the hotel provided for her use (they also provided those bowls). Crate now set up, with travel tote and food kit resting on top.

The view out our window — Canada Place and the Pan Pacific directly across the street, Coal Harbor and the hills of North Vancouver, the SeaBus heading off on a run to Lonsdale Quay

The view out our window — Canada Place and the Pan Pacific  across the street, Coal Harbor and the hills of North Vancouver mid-picture, with the SeaBus heading off on a run to Lonsdale Quay

The Fairmont Waterfront is located directly across the street from Canada Place and the Pan Pacific Hotel, and at an angle across the street from the conference center and the beginning of the Seawall, a great place to start a dog walk. It has to be admitted that there’s a dearth of grass near the Fairmont Waterfront — you can find some a short walk away down the Seawall — but Chloe, thankfully, doesn’t require grass. The FW is also nicely located for easy walks downtown, to Stanley Park (a longer but doable walk), and to Gastown and Chinatown.

The only flaw I experienced was the room service breakfast omelet (really, I should have known better). There is a very basic food court on the concourse level, however, and I was perfectly happy with a morning Egg McMuffin (don’t judge!) and a Starbucks coffee (hey! don’t judge!). I do draw the line at TacoTime, however, so I was relieved to find Arturo’s, a competent Mexican food truck, parked at the corner of Cordova & Howe every afternoon for lunch. Since we’re speaking about food, I can also report that the hangar steak on the menu at the hotel restaurant (recently renamed The Arc) was so good that I had it five nights in a row. Vancouver is full of good food, I know, and I should have sought it out, but by dinnertime I was pooped from exploring the city.

Food brings me back to the topic of those packets of Kali Wags treats the Fairmont provided for Chloe. The staff at the front door had them too, and Ryan, in particular, adopted Chloe as his own. It only took one treat-packed love fest for Chloe to start pulling at the leash as we rounded the corner, and by the end of our week she was approaching the hotel at a gallop. Ryan fell into a routine of walking her into the lobby and handing her off to one of the front desk staff, all-female during our visit — who would click out in heels and immaculate outfit and hurl herself onto Chloe. Every staff person we encountered, in fact, was unusually kind to Chloe (and to me, but that’s not my main measure of a hotel these days!).

An empty (oh, very empty) packet of The Treats

An empty (oh, very empty) packet of The Treats

There are other hotels on the TED conference list (and they include another Fairmont hotel), but we have already signed up to return to the Fairmont Waterfront in 2015, it was that positive an experience. Why mess with success?

The Fairmont Waterfront isn’t inexpensive, but the pet fee ($25/night) is tolerable. The valet/self parking fee is heinous, however, so I recommend parking elsewhere, or doing without a car altogether. After a week of taking public transit (with Chloe, of course), I can report that it’s useful and clean and felt safe.

Photo Friday: The Fuzzy One en route to Venice

What a pleasure it was to open a recent e-mail message and see a jubilant report from reader Wanda about spending four months in Europe with her pup! Here’s The Fuzzy One, a seven year-old, 13 lb. Shih Tzu, on a Trenitalia train to Venice:

Waiting to get underway at the Turin train station

Waiting to get underway at the Turin train station

Officially, per the Trenitalia website, your pet dog must travel in a 70x30x50 cm container, but heck, it’s Italy — I suspect that by this point in their trip, Wanda and TFO had learned that there’s often a big difference between official requirements and what happens in real life.

Here are Wanda and TFO together, shopping sensibly (“sotto costo”) in some location where Italian is spoken:

Wanda wrote to me from Switzerland, but they’ve covered some ground — here are her quick impressions from the places they’ve visited so far:

“In Europe we rarely had trouble getting our little one on public transport or in restaurants; sometime grocery stores would stop us (as an American that was totally understandable). Spain was the most challenging and least welcoming of her, Italy was better, but oh the French, they love dogs.”

Wanda had suspected that TFO would be a good traveler (“Your blog and The Fuzzy One’s personality gave us the confidence that we could take this 4-month trip”), and, happily, she was right: “She is amazing. 99% of everyone she meets are charmed by her quiet demeanor and tiny cuteness. When they learn she has traveled all the way from Colorado they are amazed.”

Safe travels and an easy return home, Wanda and TFO! Thank you so much for the pictures and the report, and thank you, too, for the inspiration of your example — not only for undertaking a big trip together but also for consciously choosing to be good ambassadors for pet travel (“We are super-conscientious pet owners, never wanting to be the ones that make traveling with a pet more difficult than it already is”).

Traveling by B.C. Ferries with a pet dog

Over the past week, we’ve taken several ferry rides on B.C. Ferries, ranging from a quick hop on the tiny Skeena Queen (connecting Fulford Harbor, on Salt Spring Island, with Swartz Bay) to a long chug on the Spirit of Vancouver Island (one of the massive ferries connecting Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen). Pet dogs are allowed on board, though not above the car decks. The B.C. Ferries web site is austerely brief on the topic: “Pets must remain on vehicle decks for the duration of a voyage.” When you’re on board, that message is reinforced by signs:

I was profoundly interested, therefore, when my husband returned to the car from a foraging expedition and reported that he’d seen a “Pets Area” on our deck. I couldn’t find any reference to pet areas on the B.C. Ferries web site, but here’s proof that they exist:

The "pets area" on the Spirit of Vancouver Island, a boat so huge that I simply don't know which car deck we were on — I suggest asking an employee (they wear bright safety vests) for the location

The “pets area” on the Spirit of Vancouver Island, a boat so huge that I simply don’t know which car deck we were on — I suggest asking an employee (they wear bright safety vests) for the location

The room is very basic, as you can see. To my left were a couple of long benches (not pictures, because I didn't want to invade the privacy of the three pet owners installed on them)

The room is very basic, as you can see. To my left were a couple of long benches (not pictured, because I didn’t want to invade the privacy of the three pet owners installed on them)

I called the main number for B.C. Ferries and the customer service rep I spoke to told me that the facilities for foot passengers traveling with pets vary by boat. The two big Spirit boats (the Vancouver Island that we traveled on and the Spirit of British Columbia) have “lightly-heated” rooms like this one, as do the three Coastal behemoths (Coastal Celebration, Coastal Inspiration, Coastal Renaissance).

At the other end of the scale, small vessels like the Mayne Queen and the Queen of Cumberland (and the Skeena Queen) have no facilities, or perhaps only a bench. Stacking chairs are on order for the Mayne Queen, I’m told.

How about the mid-sized vessels, like the Queen of Surrey, or the Queen of Nanaimo? Again, the facilities vary by vessel. The Nanaimo currently just has “benches” for travelers with dogs, but the Surrey has a “segregated pet area” (which sounds like something less than a room and more like an open area in the middle of a car deck) with “padded benches” and a heater. The thing to do is ask an employee as you get on board if there’s a place for you and your pup that’s out of the wind (my customer service rep told me that the staff typically volunteers the info, when they see someone walking on board with a dog). Also, be sure to equip yourself and your pup with warm clothing and/or a blanket, so you’re prepared for a just-a-bench situation (or for a heater that’s gone on the fritz).

The room I visited was fairly small, but it had lots of windows (the views were of the car deck, granted, but that’s still better than no windows at all). It was equipped with poop bags, trash can, basic cleaning supplies, and a water bowl. There were two benches running the length of the room and facing each other (I failed to notice whether they were padded or not). The three owners I met had, between them, four large dogs. One owner was reading, a couple were chatting, and the dogs all seemed content.

Drivers with a pet dog, like us, will be more comfortable in their cars. Here’s Chloe, snoozing her way to Salt Spring Island from Tsawwassen:

Be sure to pack some throw blankets (it can get cold on the ferry, even in warm weather) and pillows

Remember to pack some throw blankets (even in a closed car, and even in warm weather, it can get cold on the ferry) and pillows

Be warned: On that particular ferry, there was no way to see out from the car deck. For someone accustomed to the open-sided boats of the Washington state ferry system, this view was a grim surprise:

It was bad enough not be be able to see out the sides, and then they closed doors across the fore and aft opening too….

It was bad enough not be be able to see out the sides, and then they closed doors across the fore and aft openings too….

Bring a Kindle or other backlit e-reader (there’s not enough light to read a regular book or do crafts, alas), watch a movie, or take a nap, and hope that your subsequent boats will have views more like this:

The little ferry from Salt Spring Island to Swartz Bay. The pictured pup and his owner walked up the stairs to the right and spent the trip on a outdoor bench on a kind of mezzanine deck above the car deck.

We’re parked on the open deck of the little ferry from Salt Spring Island to Swartz Bay. The pictured pup and his owner walked up the stairs to the right and spent the trip on an outdoor bench, I think, on a kind of mezzanine deck above the car deck.

I was relieved to find that the Spirit of Vancouver Island, which took us from Swartz Bay back to Tsawwassen, had open sides, so the quality of the car deck experience must also vary by boat. There is wifi in five of the B.C. Ferries terminals (I can report that the Swartz Bay wifi does not reach as far as the parking lot), and on some “select” vessels accessing those terminals (none of our boats was sufficiently select, or perhaps it’s the case that the wifi signal doesn’t reach the car decks).