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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).

Vancouver, B.C. public transit with a pet: Sightseeing by bus, SkyTrain, and SeaBus

My grandfather, an otherwise elegant man, was a devoted fan of sightseeing buses. He acknowledged their faults, but insisted that there is no better way to get an overview of a new city, its history, and its main attractions. In time, I learned to agree. A bus, moreover, is a great alternative for tourists on soggy days, or as a break when you’ve walked your feet into stumps. Here’s the problem, though: While some hop-on, hop-off bus companies allow you to board with your small dog in a carrier (Paris’s Les Cars Rouges and L’Open Tour buses come to mind), many don’t. Vancouver, B.C.’s Big Bus/Pink Bus doesn’t, it turns out — but Vancouver’s public transit is pet-friendly, and with ingenuity, you can create your own tour of the city.

A few useful tips: Small pets in carriers are allowed on all forms of Vancouver public transit except HandyDART. Most of the neighborhoods a tourist is likely to visit are in Zone 1; the SeaBus ride is in Zone 2, and so is the ride to Horseshoe Bay, so for those you’ll need to buy a separate ticket or figure out Add Fare. Faresaver ticket packets ($21 for 10 Zone-1 tickets) can be purchased at little newsstands, or, more reliably, at drugstore chains like London Drug. The front door of the bus will pull up right in front of its street sign; people queue for the bus, so be sure to fall in at the end of the line. You validate your ticket at the front of the bus, and at standalone machines near the SkyTrain ticket machines (depending on how you’re traveling).

Many of the stops on the Big Bus/Pink Bus route are at downtown hotels, so the tour really focuses on a handful of attractions. They fall into groupings that you can easily visit by public transit:

Stanley Park — Bus route #19 deposits you just beyond the Stanley Park Pavilion. From there, you can easily reach all kinds of park loveliness. Heading in the other direction, route #19 exits the park via Georgia and Pender, traverses downtown, and then turns south in Chinatown (on Main St., just past the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden). Between 7th and 8th, it veers southeast on Kingsway (ending at the Metrotown SkyTrain stop), so it’s not an ideal route to take you to the antique shops, etc. on South Main (the #3 bus is the right choice for Antique Row: The shops are now strung out along Main Street, so you can find good stuff anywhere north of Marine).

Robson Street shopping — Chloe and I caught the #5 bus on Richards St., just uphill from Hastings, and rode it to its terminus (20 minutes, tops). While you’re still on Hastings, look to the left to see the Colisseum-like library (one of the Big Bus sights). Soon afterwards, you’ll turn right on Robson; in a couple of blocks, look left when you cross Granville to see a clutch of great old movie theater signs, including the “Orpheum.” You’ll pass Robson Square, you’ll turn left on Denman (and pass some nice-looking cafés), and you’ll eventually ease to a halt at Denman & Davie.

Second Beach, English Bay Beach, and Beach Avenue — After stepping off the #5, you could walk up the street a block to the stop for the #C21 bus — or you could, as we did, turn right towards the water. Chloe and I walked downhill to English Bay Beach, and then turned south along False Creek (if you want to catch another of the Big Bus sights, you could instead turn north along the water and make your way to Second Beach before returning south). After a while we clambered back up to Beach Ave. and caught the #C21 later on its route.

This lovely gazebo is in a park just above English Bay Beach, and just downhill from the end of the #5 bus route.

This lovely gazebo is in a park just above English Bay Beach, and just downhill from the end of the #5 bus route.

English Bay Beach in the foreground, with Second Beach around a small headland to the left.

English Bay Beach in the foreground, with Second Beach in the distance to the left.

The view out to English Bay from Beach Ave. (waiting for the #C21 bus)

The view out to English Bay from Beach Ave. (waiting for the #C21 bus)

Please note that the #C21 is a smaller bus — still comfortable, but you should be looking for a van rather than a big city bus. When you get in, sit in a seat on the right. If you’d like to hop over to Granville Island (which you’ll start seeing as soon as you turn south from English Bay Beach), you could get off at the Beach & Bute or Thurlow stops, and walk down to catch one of the bathtub toy ferries.

Granville Island, from English Bay Beach, on a day so bright that my phone camera just stopped trying.

Granville Island, from English Bay Beach, on a day so bright that my phone camera just stopped trying.

If you remain aboard, the #C21 turns left on Howe, away from the water, and then follows Pacific to the Yaletown-Roundhouse SkyTrain stop. Chloe and I got out and walked around Yaletown for a little while before taking the SkyTrain back to the conference center (Waterfront station). Our original bus ticket had not expired, so we fit three trips (two bus rides and a subway trip) into one $2.10 fare.

Granville Street (downtown) — You saw part of the Granville Entertainment District from the #5 bus, but quite a few buses will take you down the length of Granville, giving you more time to see its theater signs and shops. I chose the #50, which leaves from the convention centre area and goes, conveniently, to the south end of Granville Island.

Granville Island — Please note that while you can walk to Granville Island from the north (that is, from downtown), it’s tricky. There are good views from the Granville Street Bridge, but there’s also fast-moving traffic right next to you — and when you reach the south side of the bridge, there’s no easy trail to the island. A better choice is to walk or take the SkyTrain or a bus to the edge of False Creek and then catch a little ferry to the island. An even easier option is to take the #50 bus to the south end of the bridge: Get off at the 2nd & Anderson stop, walk forward to the corner, and cross the street.

As you're crossing the street, one of those big pillars blocks your view of the Granville Island sign — keep walking forward and you'll see it.

As you’re crossing the street, one of those big pillars blocks your view of the Granville Island sign — keep walking forward and you’ll see it.

Gastown — Gastown is an easy walk from the convention center, so I didn’t road-test any buses for you. Many routes go to/through Gastown, however, including the #50 — handy for tourists because it also swings through part of Chinatown and goes to the southern end of Granville Island. Alternatively, you could take the SkyTrain to the Waterfront station: When you exit the building (follow the signs for Cordova St.), turn left.

Chinatown — Chinatown is also an easy walk from the convention center (it’s just beyond Gastown), but by now you know that the #19 would be a good choice. The #22 would also give you good views of the neighborhood, since it travels down Pender (I’d turn around at Gore St. and head back again — if you stay on #22 as it passes back through downtown, it’ll take you to Cornwall Avenue in the appealing Kitsilano neighborhood).

In fact, you can easily take the bus or the SkyTrain to intriguing neighborhoods/locations the Big Bus doesn’t visit:

Yaletown — The #C21 bus, which you now know about, takes you to the heart of Yaletown, which looks a lot like NYC’s Meatpacking District, and is, like it, full of tasty restaurants and shops. Another good option is the #C23 bus, which will carry you along Davie St., parallel to the #C21 route. A fun option would be to take the SkyTrain to the Yaletown-Roundhouse stop, catch the #C23 heading northwest, and then return on the #C21 (with the English Bay Beach break I described above). If you detour to Granville Island, you could return to downtown on the #50 bus.

East Vancouver — Chloe and I walked the #20 bus route from the waterfront to Commercial Drive, and while there are some good old neon signs on Hastings, there are also blocks of grim urban grit.

One of several terrific neon signs on Hastings (also not to be missed: Save-On Meats, Hotel Empress, and Ovaltine Café).

One of several terrific neon signs on Hastings (also not to be missed: the signs for Save-On Meats, Hotel Empress, and Ovaltine Café).

The #20 does, however, take you down the full length of Commercial, a cheerful strip of funky shops, cafés, groceries, and bakeries. I’d get off at Venables and walk all the way down to Broadway, and then catch the SkyTrain back to downtown (the station is at Commercial and Broadway — you can see the overhead tracks from a few blocks away as you walk south).

Kitsilano — This neighborhood, southwest of downtown, has the same laid-back vibe of West Seattle. Chloe and I spent a fun morning taking the #44 bus from downtown across the Burrard Bridge and then all the way west on 4th Ave. (one of Kitsilano’s two main thoroughfares) to the University of British Columbia’s beautiful campus. Sit on the right side of the bus to catch glimpses of English Bay and Jericho Beach Park. The east end of 4th Avenue is packed with shops and restaurants: Get off at 4th and Burrard, soon after you cross the bridge, and walk west until you get tired of walking, and then hop back on the bus.

Consider returning, as we did, on the express #99-B bus (it leaves from Bay 2, near where #44 lets you off). It scoots quickly down Broadway, the second of Kitsilano’s fun shopping streets. Sit on the left side of the bus and look for the lovely intermittent views of downtown. I suggest getting off at the Alma stop and then walking east (stopping at Notte’s Bon Ton bakery en route, if you can — the service is cruel, but the baked goods are divine) to the Macdonald stop or perhaps as far as the Arbutus stop. Beyond that, the charm fades.

One warning: When you get on the #99-B at UBC, immediately find a seat — as soon as the bus takes off, it executes this appalling right turn that will hurl you and your dog onto the unsuspecting lap of a college student. Who will be extremely polite and forgiving, but still, dang. Glad it happened to that other lady and her dog and not, ahem, to me….

Granville St. (residential) — I have to thank this post for getting me started on finding scenic public transit routes around Vancouver. One idea I didn’t explore (but will next time I visit!) was taking the #10 bus south from downtown along Granville Street to looky-loo at grand old houses. There are few things I enjoy more than viewing historic homes, and this street is lined with them. I’ll be sitting on the right side of the bus in both directions, and I’ll seek out the higher seats in the back of the bus, so I have a better chance of seeing over hedges.

Horseshoe Bay — Another good idea from Julie Ovenell-Carter that I didn’t have time to execute. The #250 bus requires a Zone 2 fare, so buy your ticket or add fare accordingly. I’ll be sitting on the left side of the bus heading west, and then on the right side on the return trip, to get water views in both directions.

And why stop there? Why not take a mini-cruise across Coal Harbour, via the SeaBus? It’s a Zone 2 trip, so I bought a separate ticket at the machine in the lobby of the Waterfront station (the ticket lasts for 90 minutes, which gave us plenty of time to cross, shop and eat, and return). In both stations, walk down the ramp to the waiting area; a count-down clock at the bottom of the ramp tells you how close your ride is. Please note that the boat is double-ended; that is, it does not turn around after pulling out of dock. To look at North Vancouver as you’re approaching it, enter the boat and turn right; to look at downtown as you’re approaching it, enter the boat and turn left. Both are well worth looking at.

There is a nice little market of eateries, groceries, and craft shops at Lonsdale Quay, and it was a delightful lunchtime excursion taking the SeaBus across the harbor, picking up lunch, and eating it in the market plaza while gazing at downtown. Pet dogs are not allowed in the market, but if you’re traveling with a friend, one of you could get lunch; alternatively, you could pack a picnic. I broke the rules and darted inside (with Chloe in her messenger bag) to pick up a burrito and a sack of mandarin oranges.

The plaza outside the Lonsdale Quay market — a find place for lunch on a sunny day

The plaza outside the Lonsdale Quay market — a fine place for lunch with your pup on a sunny day

A view of downtown Vancouver from the SeaBus — other pictures I took, even more flawed than this one, included Stanley Park on the right, and a goodly chunk of East Vancouver on the left. Bad photos, beautiful views.

A view of downtown Vancouver from the SeaBus — other pictures I took, even more flawed than this one, included Stanley Park on the right and a goodly chunk of East Vancouver on the left. Bad photos, beautiful views.

Cobbling together a tour like this has its disadvantages: It’s a little more work than putting yourself in the hands of the tour operators (though I hope this post helps!) and you don’t get the benefit of the recorded guide. On the other hand, your small dog can keep you company, it’s significantly less expensive to take public transit, you see locals rather than other tourists, and you have a lot more flexibility (if your eye is caught by a shop halfway down Robson, for example, you can get off instantly, rather than waiting for the designated stop). There are apps for your phone that will help you plan your trip and track your buses, but I had good success doing advance research on translink.ca and consulting my pocket-sized paper transit map en route (available where you buy your ticket packets).

Have I missed a Vancouver bus route that you love? Please add a comment, so we can all add it to our list of must-dos!

Dog jaunt: Another piece of Vancouver B.C.’s seawall, then back by bus

I finally fell in love with Vancouver, B.C. in 2011, when Chloe and I came to town on our own for a travel bloggers’ conference. A born introvert, I skipped the beginning of the conference for a ferry ride to Granville Island and a long walk with Chloe along the seawall around False Creek. Three years later, we’re back in town, and our hotel is right across the street from the conference center — and the beginning of the seawall.

Here’s a map of the whole seawall [PDF], a project begun in the early 20th c. to prevent the city’s glorious Stanley Park from eroding (nowadays, the term “seawall” refers generally to that structure, related structures, and the pathways atop them for cyclists and pedestrians). The seawall is a total of 22 km long, and today we walked the first 2.5 km of it.

The beginning of the seawall, just below the conference center (that building looming to the left). The cobbles/bricks are the pedestrian path; bikers have a separate, smooth path on the left. The blue sculpture in the distance is called "The Drop."

The beginning of the seawall, just below the conference center. The bricks are the pedestrian path; bikers have a separate, smooth path on the left. The blue sculpture in the distance is called “The Drop.”

We headed northwest from The Drop, and followed the waterfront all the way to and into Stanley Park. It was a grey day, but after 16 years in Seattle, grey doesn’t bother me (and I had the memory, too, of yesterday’s clear and bright weather — the views from the seawall across Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver and the mountains beyond were ridiculously lovely).

Looking north towards Stanley Park — a seaplane is accelerating towards takeoff over Coal Harbor.

Looking north, with Stanley Park and West Vancouver in the distance — in the near distance, a seaplane is about to take off over Coal Harbor.

The shack is a cast aluminum sculpture called "LightShed;" to the left of this picture is a good-sized park your (leashed) pup will enjoy

The shack on stilts is a cast aluminum sculpture called “LightShed;” to the left of this picture is a good-sized park your (leashed) pup will enjoy. For an off-leash park, keep walking (see below).

Just around the corner from The LightShed. Now I want to move to Vancouver and live in a tiny converted ferryboat.

Just around the corner from The LightShed. Now I want to move to Vancouver and live in a tiny converted ferryboat.

Just a few minutes' walk beyond my ferryboats is the Devonian Harbour Park, with off-leash access (rules in the next picture). It looks a little bleak in this picture, but  it's not, in real life.

Just a few minutes’ walk beyond my future ferryboat home is the Devonian Harbour Park, with off-leash access (rules in the next picture). It looks a little bleak in this picture, but it’s not, in real life.

Let your pup spend her off-leash energy here, before heading into Stanley Park — at the entrance to the park, you'll see signs telling you to keep your pup leashed, for the sake of the wildlife.

Let your pup run her extra energy off here, before heading into Stanley Park — at the entrance to the park, you’ll see signs telling you to keep your pup leashed, for the sake of the wildlife.

By the time we reached the park, I was ready to head back to the hotel for lunch and a nap, and I was ready to do it by bus (a sore disappointment to Chloe, who could happily have continued). Vancouver allows small pets in carriers on all of its public transit options except HandyDART, and we’d set off with Chloe’s messenger bag over my shoulder. I’d also equipped myself with a packet of 10 Faresaver tickets ($21 for Zone 1, which covers most areas you’d want to reach during a short visit). You can find the packets at newsstands — the third one I tried, a kiosk in the Waterfront station on Water St., had them in stock (be sure to ask, too, for a metro transit map). Each ticket, therefore, costs $2.10, but they last for an hour and a half after they’re first validated, so you can take a couple of trips on each. Tear out a ticket, and validate it in the machine by the conductor as you board.

To find the bus, you'll need to leave the waterfront and head into the park — the Lord Stanley monument is a good landmark to head for.

To find the #19 bus, you’ll need to leave the waterfront and head into the park — the Lord Stanley monument is a good landmark to look for.

One end of the #19 bus route [PDF] is a convenient spot in Stanley Park, about 200 metres north of the Lord Stanley monument. Walking north (past the statue’s coattails), you’ll see the Stanley Park Pavilion — continue past it (we ended up walking through its parking lot) and you’ll soon come to the bus stop. Here’s a detailed map of the park [PDF]. The #19 heads out of the park on Georgia St., and then angles left on Pender St. We hopped off at Howe to return to the conference center, but the route continues to Chinatown, turning right (south) on Main Street, and next time we’ll stay on to investigate that neighborhood. (It’s tricky to tell from the little transit map, but #19 continues far to the south and east, ending up at the Metrotown station.) We’ll also take the bus in the other direction, into Stanley Park, saving our energy for a walk around its edge.

For other posts about traveling with dogs on public transit, take a look at Dog Jaunt’s handy guide!

Photo Friday: Scoop law sign from University Place, WA

Part of me applauds this scoop law sign, found in a town/neighborhood just southwest of Tacoma and sent in by alert reader Chandler — it’s uncluttered, it gets the point across, and it dodges the ever-vexing question of how to represent dog poop graphically (and yet not graphically, if you get my meaning):

The other part of me — the one I try to keep tied up in a sack — looks at that sign and sees a really gigantic ice cube going into a really gigantic cocktail glass. That’s the trouble with posting these photos on a Friday….

What a magnificent view the sign has, by the way:

I'm not sure which direction Chandler was facing when she took this photo — that could be one of three different Puget Sound islands in the distance. The weather, alas, is entirely characteristic for this time of year….

I’m not sure which direction Chandler was facing when she took this photo — there are four different Puget Sound islands off Chambers Creek Park. The weather, alas, is entirely characteristic for this time of year.

Thanks to Chandler for this fine addition to Dog Jaunt’s scoop law sign collection! To see others, click on the “scoop law” tag below this post, or type “scoop law” in the search bone.

Reader’s report: Medium Teafco Argo Petascope carrier on a Delta 767 plane

The Teafco Argo Petascope is a handsome carrier, but long ago I’d decided that only the small size would work in-cabin — and at 18″L x 10.5″W x 9″H, it’s too small for Chloe. A friend of Dog Jaunt’s though, reported on Twitter that she’d traveled successfully on a Delta 767 with Hondo, her mixed-breed pup, in a medium-sized Petascope (23″L x 11.5″W x 11.5″H). She kindly agreed that I could post her picture and info on Dog Jaunt:

Medium Petascope, aisle seat in Economy, on a Delta 767

Medium Petascope, aisle seat in Economy, on a Delta 767

Delta has a variety of Boeing 767s in its fleet, but they generally have seven seats in each row in Economy — two pairs on each side, and a trio in the middle. @TheReelLi was sitting in an “aisle seat in the middle section in coach,” and, based on her picture, it was an E seat (with the aisle to her right).

The available under-seat space is likely not a full 11.5″ tall, since she noted that “The carrier does flex a bit in height.” She also pointed out that a couple of the Petascope’s 23 inches in length are taken up by a fabric awning: “The silly fabric flap adds 2 visual inches. It stuck out a bit, but no one seemed to care.” That leaves a carrier that’s essentially 21″ long — noticeably longer than Chloe’s large SturdiBag (18″ long), but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and @TheReelLi says all went well. Here’s a shot of her pup Hondo at the airport, poking his head out for a scratch:

This was Hondo’s first plane trip, and it was a smash success — “he was silent the entire time! Oh yeah!”

As you can see in this photo, the top of the Petascope is solid. I prefer a mesh panel on top, so I can see down into my pet’s carrier — and ideally a panel with a hatch in it, so I can also reach in easily with pats, treats and ice cubes. There are large mesh panels on each long side of the carrier, however, and the door is mesh too, so I have no concerns about ventilation (please note that Teafco also makes the Argo Aero-Pet carrier, which has significantly smaller mesh panels — it’s for tiny pets, but still, I can’t love it).

I should note, too, that the Petascope does not include straps through which you can pass a car’s seatbelt. Your best option for securing the carrier in a car is the handle — sneak the head of the seatbelt through it, and do what you can to spread the belt across/around the carrier. That said, the Petascope is a well-built carrier, and a stylish one too. It comes in a range of cheerful colors, but given its size, I urge you to buy it the slimming charcoal/black @TheReelLi selected.

Amazon link: Teafco Argo Petascope Carrier, Medium

Thanks so much to @TheReelLi for sharing her photo and the encouraging news that a carrier this size works on a Delta 767 (and in Economy class, too!). I hope this is just the first of many great trips you and Hondo take together. I’m adding this to Dog Jaunt’s ongoing series of posts recording airplane under-seat measurements, and I’m tagging it so it appears in Dog Jaunt’s ever-growing collection of pictures of carriers deployed under plane seats.

Reader’s report: Pet relief area at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) — Terminal 2

Reader Ahmé last wrote to us with details about the under-seat spaces she and Thomas (her Miniature Schnauzer, traveling in a large SturdiBag) encountered on a couple of different Delta flights. She kindly wrote again last fall, after she and Thomas had visited a pet relief area at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.

According to the airport’s website, STL has two pet relief areas, both located outdoors (and therefore requiring you to exit and then re-enter the secured area):

“Each relief area offers 400 square feet of gated space with park benches, trash cans, plastic mitts for cleanup and even fire hydrants. Terminal 1’s animal rest area is located on the upper level, west end, outside exit 6. The Terminal 2 animal relief area is located outside exit 15.”

Ahmé and Thomas were traveling on Southwest, so I believe they visited the Terminal 2 pet relief area. To find it, follow the signs to baggage claim. Once you reach the lower, arrivals area and are facing the airport roadway, exit and turn right. The pet relief area is on the right-hand side of the building — here’s a view of its location from across the roadway, looking back at baggage claim:

The Terminal 2 pet relief area is just beyond and behind the second of the two yellow Parking Spot vans (thanks to Google Maps for this view)

The Terminal 2 pet relief area is just beyond and behind the second of the two yellow Parking Spot vans (thanks to Google Maps for this view)

And here’s Ahmé’s picture of the pet relief area:

As you can see, it’s fairly small, and the grass is tired. Ahmé noted that it’s right next to “a large area of beautiful grass” — all the more appealing as at least five previous pet owners had failed to pick up after their dogs (despite “great signage about cleaning up after your dog, a really nice garbage can and plastic bags provided”). “Why would I not just use that?” she asked, and I don’t have a good answer for her. Do pick up after your pup, wherever you end up letting her go — not that Dog Jaunt readers would ever be anything other than courteous.

Speaking of courtesy, thanks so much to Ahmé for sharing her photo! If any of you visit the other STL pet relief area, outside Terminal 1, please send me a photo and let me know how challenging it is to find. I’m adding this post to Dog Jaunt’s ongoing series of reviews of airport pet relief areas. To see others, visit Dog Jaunt’s handy guide to airport pet relief areas

Indoor pet relief area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport: The saga continues

Seattle’s airport is one of a handful of U.S. airports that offers travelers with dogs a pet relief area on the air side of security, meaning that you don’t have to exit the airport and return through security to give your dog a bathroom break. It has changed appearance over the past couple of years, and for a few months shifted locations, and my post about it became increasingly baroque with cross-outs and amendments. Now it’s back in its original location, and it’s time for a new post, with new photos.

To find the indoor pet relief area at SEA, make your way from any of the concourses to the Central Terminal and, specifically, the Pacific Marketplace — you’ll recognize it by the massive wall of windows and the cluster of restaurants and shops (including an extremely convenient Ex Officio shop). Directly across from the Hudson Booksellers shop (Vino Volo is also a good landmark), you’ll see a round, illuminated pet relief area sign on the wall:

Standing where I am, looking at the front of the Hudson's, the pet relief area is behind me, over my right shoulder

Standing where I am, looking at the front of the Hudson’s, the pet relief area is behind me, over my right shoulder

The sign for the pet relief area — just beyond it, you see the hallway you'd use to exit the secured area. Don't do that! Instead, walk down the short hallway I'm standing beside.

The sign for the pet relief area — just beyond it, you see the hallway you’d use to exit the secured area. Don’t do that! Instead, walk down the short hallway I’m standing next to.

Here's a more useful (but equally blurry — we're all running!) picture from reader Gery — the pet relief area is down the nearer hallway, past the vending machines

Here’s a more useful picture from reader Gery — the pet relief area is down the nearer hallway, past the vending machines

A short hallway leads to a small, brightly-lit room:

Another blurry photo — alas, too often I'm taking these shots on the run

Another blurry photo, alas — as is so often the case, I took these shots on the run

Be cautious around those doors at the far end — they're alarmed, and you don't want to jostle them

Be cautious around those doors at the far end — they’re alarmed, and you don’t want to jostle them

Another good shot from reader Gery, and you can see that when he and Alfie were there, the hallway sign was inside the room, and poop bags were provided — things change from day to day

Another good shot from reader Gery, and you can see that when he and Alfie were there, the hallway sign was inside the room, and poop bags were provided (but there were no paper towels) — things change from day to day

As you can see, it’s minimal. That roll of Astroturf has seen a lot of use over the years, and is now an unpleasant object. Chloe will pee on it, but only reluctantly. There is a trash can, and there are some paper towels — often your best option for picking up poop, since poop bags aren’t always provided.

It’s perhaps no worse than most other indoor airport pet relief areas — the San Diego, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Pittsburgh airports have equally minimal indoor pet relief areas, and Salt Lake City has a very basic outdoor air-side pet relief area — but it falls sadly short of the standard set by the indoor pet relief areas at Washington’s Dulles airport.

Please note that Seatac also has two outdoor pet relief areas, one to the far left as you exit the baggage claim area, and the other a stiff hike to the far right, but visiting either spot will require you to return through security.

Thanks so much to reader Gery for the photos and for the kick in the pants — it would have taken me even longer, without you, to post this update. I am adding this post to Dog Jaunt’s ongoing series of reviews of airport pet relief areas. To see others, visit Dog Jaunt’s handy guide to airport pet relief areas.

More recommendations for English-speaking veterinarians in Paris

It’s a bit tricky to identify English-speaking veterinarians in Paris, so I’ve been posting names as I’ve learned them, and now I have two more to add to your list.

Rather than make you search for my past posts on the topic, I’ll recap: Back in August 2009, I told you about Dr. Pierre Métivet, and a year later I mentioned La Boetie Clinique Vétérinaire (which I think now has the clever name Clinique Vétérinaire Labo & Cie, but is still located at 15 rue la Boétie). The latter was recommended by reader Jessica, but until recently I had only Internet reviews for Dr. Métivet. Fellow blogger Gigi Griffis told me in October, though, that she’d taken her pup Luna to Dr. Métivet, and liked him very much. She also reported that his English was very good — so useful, because even if you can get around comfortably in French, you may not have at your fingertips the vocabulary that’s needed for a vet visit.

Despite knowing about Dr. Métivet, I went instead to Dr. Eric McCarthy, a veterinarian in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, to get Chloe’s E.U. pet passport. That was partly because his office was on our way to another stop we planned to make that afternoon, and partly because reader Jenna — who kindly invited me and Chloe to have breakfast with her and Tara, her French Bulldog, in their stunning Airbnb rental — recommended him to me. His name suggested that he might be a native English speaker, and since I wanted to ask him complicated questions about the pet passport, that too was appealing.

It turns out that despite his name, Dr. McCarthy is utterly, utterly French — but we were still very pleased with our choice. He speaks good English, and he couldn’t have been kinder to Chloe. Normally, she starts trembling as soon as she realizes she’s at a vet’s office, but she never did at Dr. McCarthy’s. He treated her very gently, and showered her with treats. Dr. McCarthy’s nurse’s English isn’t as good as his, so I recommend stopping in to make your appointment, rather than calling. She was, however, kind and cheerful — and at Dr. McCarthy’s request, she nobly called a long list of other Paris vets to locate a new bag of Chloe’s t/d kibble (Dr. McCarthy’s office carries Hill’s Prescription Diet products, and she could have ordered it for me, but I only noticed at the last moment that Chloe was running low).

Here’s the link to his website, and here’s his contact info: Dr. Eric McCarthy; 37 boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris 75005 [nearest métro stop: Maubert-Mutualité]. His e-mail address is mccarthyclin.vet@orange.fr and his telephone number is 01-43-54-40-01. His fax number is 01-43-54-33-58.

The other name I have for you is VetoAdom, which provides 24-hour emergency service at your home (or rental). We didn’t need their services, thank goodness, but blogger Heather Stimmler-Hall reports that they did a good job of fixing her pup’s cut paw, and recommends them.

One last tip for you: The word “vétérinaire” can be tough to say correctly, especially before coffee. A lady in our Montmartre neighborhood, who befriended me after we and our dogs kept meeting (early in the morning, before coffee), kindly told me that it’s normal to say “véto” instead — which is significantly more manageable.

PetEgo’s Pet Tube: An update on how to install it

Last July, I wrote a post praising PetEgo’s Pet Tube, the car safety solution we’d newly adopted for Chloe. We still use it, and I like it just as much as ever — slightly more so, in fact, now that I’ve learned how to install it properly.

Yes, that break-through discovery (“In an accident, if the hanging straps were cinched short enough, the Pet Tube would swing up and forward without hitting the passenger seat in front of Chloe”) was all wrong. I have reader Terri to thank for setting me straight. As you’ll see in a comment on that post, she sent me a link to a video review of the Pet Tube by DorsetDog.com — and in it, at the 1:30 mark, Dorset Dog shows you how it’s done.

Instead of shortening the straps and looping them over your car seat’s headrest, you lengthen them and pass them around the back of your car’s passenger seat. In my defense, I direct your attention to this very misleading photo by PetEgo, and I’d also like to point out that the accompanying video is heavy on the sensual caressing of the Pet Tube and light — very light indeed — on details about how to install it.

Photo by PetEgo

Photo by PetEgo

But never mind. Live and learn! Onwards, and also upwards! Our focus is now on correct installation of the Pet Tube, and you’ll need to release the car seat’s lock and tilt the seat forward to do that — and be sure to secure the strap that’s closer to the center of the car first, before securing the strap closer to the door.

It’s an awkward business — keep part of your mind on your nose, ears, and glasses frames while you’re poking the head of the strap through the seat crease, and pulling one end of the strap up to meet the clasp on its other end — but after a brief wrestle, the straps will be in place, one on each side of the head rest and neither interfering with your car seat’s locking mechanism:

View of the back of the seat, still tilted forward, with the straps secured around it but not yet cinched tight

View of the back of the seat, still tilted forward, with the straps secured around it but not yet cinched tight

Seat locked back into place, straps cinched up snugly

Seat locked back into place, straps cinched up snugly

Same view, but a from a step back, so you can see the tube part

Same view, but a from a step back, so you can see the tube part

My Dorset Dog colleague secured his straps entirely in the back, closing the clips and the extra strap pieces in the rear of his vehicle, and it would look tidier like that — but I like having the clips accessible. It’s nice to be able to give the straps a tightening tug when they need it, without having to unlock the seat (both seats, in fact, since in my car you have to unlock the driver’s-side back seat before you can unlock the passenger’s-side back seat). If you rotate the clips to a lower position than they’re shown in that last photo, the extra strap length tucks nicely out of sight behind the tube.

Proof that this actually is the right way to install the Pet Tube is in this last photo, showing Chloe’s side “windows” nicely horizontal:

Also, both of the Velcro strips can now be used to stabilize the Comfort Pillow — oh yes, the evidence is there

Also, both of the Velcro strips on the wall of the tube can now be used to stabilize the Comfort Pillow — oh yes, the evidence is there

As I mentioned in my update to the post I wrote last year, we used the Pet Tube for more than six months wrongly installed, and were quite content with it. I don’t believe it’s unsafe used that way, and it certainly is easier to move from one car to another if the straps are merely hooked over the headrest. On the other hand, secured around the seat back, the Pet Tube doesn’t budge — and it can be installed even in cars without headrests.

My thanks again to Terri for the gentle nudge towards accuracy — how grateful I am to Dog Jaunt’s readers!

New car harness for dogs: Sleepypod’s Clickit Utility harness

As I mentioned in a post last July, I replaced Chloe’s first car safety solution (a combination of the medium-sized Snoozer Lookout car booster seat and a harness-and-belt that she wore while in it) with the Pet Tube from PetEgo, about 24 hours after I watched a series of videos filmed by the Center for Pet Safety, showing what happens to a crash-test dummy of a Boxer wearing a number of safety harnesses/tethers (makers unidentified) in a 50 mph crash.

We’ve been very happy with the Pet Tube, and it works well, too, as a travel solution, since it can be collapsed into a fairly compact pancake and packed in a suitcase. However, it’s still bulkier than the harness-and-belt that we originally used on road trips away from home, and I missed having that minimal alternative — especially on trips where I didn’t know if there would be car travel at the other end, and wanted to pack a just-in-case safety solution.

Enter Sleepypod, maker of the Sleepypod Air pet carrier, the Yummy food/water bowl set, and other good-quality pet travel products: They announced that they were releasing a new dog car harness that would protect pets “in the same frontal crashes that ensure the effectiveness of child safety restraints, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213″ (which turn out to be at 30 mph). As soon as the Clickit harness was available, I ordered one, and now I’ve had a chance to try it out on Chloe. Please note that I paid full price for my Clickit harness; I will always let you know when someone else has paid for, or given me a favorable price on, a product I review.

The long version follows below; the short version is that the Clickit harness works well in the car, but did not work at all as a walking harness. I loved the sturdy construction of all three pieces, and as you can see in this photo, Chloe was unfazed by their weight and by how thoroughly they attached her to the car. I’ll keep using the PetTube, mainly, since it’s easier to get her into and out of, but I’ll keep a Clickit harness set in my husband’s car, and I’ll pack one on those trips when we might travel in a car (or when I know we’ll travel in a car and my packing space is limited).

Shortly after this photo was taken, she fell asleep

Shortly after this photo was taken, she fell asleep

I was initially daunted by the size and weight of the harness. I ordered the Extra Small size for Chloe, after measuring her as directed by Sleepypod on the Clickit page (tape measure looped around her neck and chest in a figure-8), and the assemblage I received (harness and two side straps) weighs 1 lb. 4 oz. Each piece is solidly constructed of quality materials, and I wondered whether it would all be too much for a 13-lb. dog. It was no walk in the park, either, to adjust the harness to fit or to shorten the side straps. Happily, Sleepypod has posted a video that helps, particularly with the harness fitting (the separate side straps are another matter — I ended up just fiddling with them until they were shorter).

Where the video left me uneasy, though, was in its use of a plush-toy German Shepherd as the model — for one thing, Chloe has long hair, and I worried that it would be caught and pulled, especially by the seat belt, as it passes through the two back straps. Also, that plush-toy GSD is a very tranquil creature indeed, while Chloe is a girl who likes to participate in what’s happening to her — how would it all work with a real dog?

Here’s our video, showing, first, the installation of the two side straps in a car (in this case, my in-laws’ Chrysler mini-van), then the installation of the harness on Chloe, and then the connecting of harnessed Chloe to the car:

Two things to mention: I misspeak in the video when I am telling you about attaching the side straps to the sides of Chloe’s harness. Instead of facing “upwards,” the hooks should in fact face “downwards,” so the active part is away from your dog’s fur. I actually got it right on her right side, as you can (barely) see in this photo:

Clip facing away from Chloe's side

Clip facing away from Chloe’s side

Also, Sleepypod wisely includes a card that covers the main points of harness fitting and installation, and I suggest that you keep it with your harness kit for quick reference, especially when you’re out of YouTube range. It and the harness pieces will fit nicely in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag.

You’ve already seen a photo of the happy ending: Chloe absolutely did not mind all the gear (despite that  yawn halfway through the video), nor did she mind the seat belt through the back of her harness. As I’ve said, I approve heartily of the pieces’ construction (the padding on the chest part of the harness will bring a tear to your eye, and the straps have the same massive metal clips and seat-belt-like construction that delighted me in our old PetBuckle strap).

That black strap doesn't actually go around her leg — it's just the excess length of the side strap that's flopped onto her

That black strap doesn’t actually go around her right leg — it’s just the excess length of the side strap that’s flopped onto her

The part that did not work for us was using the harness as a walking harness. The idea is an appealing one — for short jaunts especially, why bother taking the harness off your pup? Why not just clip a leash onto it and go?

Two reasons, it turns out. The first is that the leash clip is on the collar part of the harness, so you’re restraining your dog by her neck. I choose not to do that with Chloe; since Cavaliers as a breed are prone to syringomyelia, a dreadful ailment, I do everything I can to take pressure off her neck. Second, if you leave the back straps long enough to allow the seat belt to pass through them, the harness dangles away from your dog’s chest when she walks around in it — to the point, for Chloe, that one or the other front leg worked out of it within just a few steps, and she was prevented from walking comfortably:

Right leg all the way out of the harness, and you can see in this picture, too, how the leash attaches at the collar

Right leg all the way out of the harness, and you can see in this picture, too, how the leash attaches at the collar

A Sleepypod rep may be reading this and shaking his/her head, thinking that I left the harness’s back straps too long, but I swear I didn’t. As you can see in the video, the seat belt just passed through them, and I verified that there wasn’t extra slack. In any event, not being able to use the harness for walking is by no means a deal-breaker: It’s a pity not to take advantage of the clever Velcro strap Sleepypod includes to silence the parts that would otherwise clank together during a walk, but it isn’t hard to remove your pup from the harness.

One last source of concern are those latch bars. My in-laws’ van has two of them per seat, and they’re nicely visible (which is why their car appears in the video). My own car has two of them per seat, but you have to dig around in the seat crease to find them — like you did in the old days to find seat belt bits. Older cars, however, may lack latch bars (and some cars that aren’t so old, too, like my mother-in-law’s Lincoln sedan). If your car doesn’t have them, Sleepypod suggests that you consider having them installed, and provides a link with info about how that can be done.

The Clickit harness has been tested for dogs up to 75 lbs. How small can a dog be and wear one? I believe that Chloe is about as small as you can go, given that I cinched the collar as tightly as it would go before it fit her. Sleepypod has a picture of a Dachshund wearing the Clickit, which makes sense to me — Dachshunds have shorter legs than Chloe, but their neck circumferences are comparable. Chloe’s neck is just over 10″ in circumference; if your pup has a thinner neck, the Clickit is probably not for you (for smaller dogs, Sleepypod suggests one of its carriers).