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I love my pets, and I love to travel the world, both for pleasure and to spread the message about Fear-Free veterinary visits. Even though I love seeing new places and revisiting old favorites, the one thing that is always difficult is leaving my pets behind. They can’t go to exotic locales — the logistics of transporting them aside, I’d be worried they’d be eaten by a jaguar in Brazil or a leopard in Namibia — and I suspect they would prefer their 150 acres at Almost Heaven Ranch to the sprawl of Los Angeles or the concrete canyons of New York.
But still, I worry about how they’re doing while we’re gone. My wife Teresa and I even wake up in the night thinking about them, especially now that we have our dear little QT, who is still recovering from his near-fatal brush with distemper.
I have no doubt that many of you feel the same way when you must travel without your pets, whether it’s for business or pleasure. They are such an important part of our lives and one of the greatest stress relievers in existence. I know that some people become so anxious about leaving their pets that they stop traveling altogether. For me, that’s not possible or desirable, but I sure do understand the emotion behind it.
Even if we can’t have our special dogs or cats along on a journey, we can take steps to ensure their well-being while we’re away, so we can worry less about them while we’re gone. I’m here to say that you can travel and be a great pet owner. Our pets can survive and even thrive in our absence. Here are some of my favorite ways to ensure not only their comfort and happiness but also Teresa’s and mine. I bet they'll work for you, too.
Plan ahead. Find a pet sitter who provides a homey environment. When Teresa and I travel together, our dogs stay at the pet sitter’s home. They sprawl on her sofa, play in her yard and sleep in her bed at night. It’s like sleep-away camp for canines. They have so much fun there I sometimes worry they won’t want to come home. But I’m always wrong.
Leave prepared. Leave your pets’ caretaker with detailed instructions about how to reach you if there's a problem and what to do in case you are 80 feet underwater or staying in a safari camp and she can't contact you. That way you can be assured that your pet sitter or boarding kennel will know how to proceed until you can be reached. It makes it a lot easier to relax when you’re gone.
Communicate. Take a tip from ET: Phone home. Whenever I’m away, I always call home to talk to Teresa — and the dogs. I get a kick out of hearing about how their ears go up and their expressions change when they hear my voice. Nowadays, we can also visit “in person,” thanks to Skype and FaceTime.
Take your pet with you — in photo form. I always travel with a picture of the dogs; I place it on the nightstand by the bed. That way, they’re the last things I see before I turn out the light, and in the morning, I wake up to their smiling faces. And, of course, I have hundreds of photos of them on my smartphone. Sharing pictures with other pet lovers I meet on my travels is a fun icebreaker. It’s almost as good as having them there with me.
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