Deb Donnelly knows what it's like to smuggle a dog into a roadside motel.
She refuses to board or leave an airplane without seeing her animals safely in and out of the cargo hold.
Still, in spite of all the inconveniences, Donnelly couldn't imagine leaving home without a few of her four-legged friends.
According to a 2001 survey by the American Animal Hospital Association, 68 percent of pet owners now travel with their pets.
And thanks to a growing number of pet-friendly airlines, hotels and tour companies, owners who want to take Fido or Fluffy along have been given a new leash on life.
DOGGONE is a 16-page bimonthly newsletter that highlights some of the fun places and cool things you can do with your four-legged friend.
Robyn Peters of Boulder, Colo., a licensed counselor who took over as publisher a year ago, does most of the research with her 4 1/2-month-old cocker spaniel, and relies on free-lance writers and loyal readers for the rest.
Each issue spotlights a different pet-friendly vacation destination, offers travel and grooming tips, describes a state or national park that welcomes furry friends, and features restaurants that allow you to dine with your dog.
Peters also maintains a database of more than 33,000 dog-friendly lodgings in the United States, Canada and abroad, everything from cheap motels to cozy bed and breakfasts, and coastal bungalows to mountain lodges.
Because she's constantly updating it, Peters says her database includes hotels and resorts that are often left off of lists put out by groups such as American Automobile Association, which publishes an annual 650-page guide to traveling with your pet.
Although pet travel is becoming more common, Peters says dogs still have still not shed their caininus non grata status in public.
Deb Donnelly believes it's irresponsible owners who travel with ill-mannered pets that ruin it for the rest of the animal-loving world.
The Donnellys have six dogs,: Gibson, a their Several of the dogs will usually accompany Deb and her family on their frequent visits to her mother's lake cottage in Wisconsin, and to Rochester, Mich., the headquarters of Leader Dogs for the Blind.
Deb, an obedience trainer and occasional breeder, also logs many miles on the dog show circuit.
Her travel habits often will often depend on the weather. The hotter it is, the harder it is to travel with her pooches, whether by car or plane.
All the major airlines allow small pets to fly in the cabin, as long as the animal and its carrier can fit under the passenger's seat.
Otherwise, the pet must be checked as baggage or shipped in the plane's hull as cargo.
But in the summer months, most airlines won't check pets as baggage because of the dangerous heat in the cramped cargo hold.
Companion Air, which is awaiting final certification to start flying planes in which pets will be treated like regular passengers, hopes to rectify that.
The small planes will be able to accommodate up to six people and 12 pets in cushy, climate-conditioned cabins - not cargo holds.
"There are a lot of people like us whose animals are part of the family, and they couldn't imagine sticking them in a cargo hold," said Rick Roof, a Boca Raton, Fla., tech company operator who founded the airline last year with his wife, Diana.
Their idea stemmed from their own frustration traveling with their golden retriever mix, 4-year-old Murphy. Since announcing their plans on a Web site, the Roofs have been inundated with letters and e-mails from ecstatic pet owners.
"It's clear there are a lot of passionate pet owners out there who are looking for alternative ways to travel," he said. "That's why we're so enthusiastic about Companion Air. We think it's one of those niches in aviation that people have just ignored."
Unlike regular airlines, Companion will run a flexible schedule, picking up and delivering pets at thousands of secondary airports. But it will cost two to four times the price of airfares on major airlines.
A one-way New York to Chicago fare will run about $249 for pet, and $199 for its human companion.
Roof expects to launch service on the west coast later this year and then expand eastward to cover the entire United States.
Places such as Holiday Inn, Red Roof Inn and Motel 6 will allow pets. But some of the more exclusive hotels charge both a daily fee and a hefty security deposit which may or may not be refundable.
Even in chains, though, some individual hotel managers are more accommodating than others.
At Lowes Hotels, however, pets are not just allowed, they are given VIP treatment.
Pet owners and their companions are showered with goodies such as water bowls, a special pet food room service menu, dog-walking services and a pager that hotel employees can use to reach sightseers whose pets are getting loud or destroying property.
"There's a trend toward pampering your pet and people are more serious about pets than they have ever been before," said Emily Kanders, a spokeswoman for Loews Hotels, which has 17 properties in the United States and Canada. "It's been a huge success for us."
With an assortment of activities and creature comforts to keep dog and master happily occupied, Three Buck Inn on Lake Tahoe also has earned four paws up from many doggie vacation Web sites.
At the luxury resort, canine guests are given their very own squeaky toy, ceramic food bowl, a doggie video collection, Fido-friendly magazine, leopard-print dog bed and a full dog bath. Fishing, hiking, skiing, biking and river rafting are just outside the door.
There are even vacation and tours created specifically for adventuresome pet owners and their creature companions.
Rovin' With Rover, for example, organizes motorcoach tours in northeastern Ohio for dog owners and their canine companions.
Janice Wenig, a part-time massage therapist who lives in Streetsboro, Ohio, started the business in 1998.
Her idea stemmed from a trip to Colorado where she noticed that almost everyone, from the hotel managers to the shop keepers, was accompanied by a dog.
"When I came back there was an article about how traveling with a pet is today's travel trend," said Wenig, who has three Siberian huskies, Nikita, Kiana and Alexei.
Rovin' With Rover trips include canoe outings, covered bridge tours, trips to Niagara Falls, guided walking tours, boat rides and train rides, where dogs and their owners can spend a leisurely afternoon or weekend together.
One of Wenig's most popular, a day trip to Put-in-Bay Island on Lake Erie, runs $99 per person, which includes bus and ferry ride, lunch and park admission.
"It fills up every year," Wenig said.
She's had people from Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Pennsylvania on her tours. Her only stipulations are that the dogs be leashed, vaccinated and well-mannered.
Wenig sees Rovin' with Rover as not just a tour company, but a full-service club for dog owners.
She hopes to expand her business to include longer trips, a newsletter, a weekly dog-walking club and a name exchange for pet sitting.
Another pet travel company, Dog Paddling Adventures, arranges canoe and wilderness excursions on Ontario's lakes and rivers for people and their pooches.
Eren and Kathryn Howell, and their 2-year-old huskie mix Jessie, guide most of the tours, which are tailored to suit experienced paddlers as well as beginners, and all size and breed of dog.
Eren, an experienced wilderness guide, got the idea when he took Jessie on a paddle two years ago. It was so much fun, his wife said, the couple decided they would never leave Jessie home again.
Dog Paddling offers day-long, weekend or extended canoe outings, and hiking trips. Meals, equipment, park permits, life jackets and backpacks, for both owner and dog, are provided.
Travelers in the Hoosier state don't have to roam as far as Ontario to find pet-friendly destinations.
There's the Wilstem Guest Ranch and Patoka Lake Village Cabins in French Lick; the Fairfield Inn and TownPlace Suites in Jeffersonville along the Ohio River; the Drury Inn and Suites and Residence Inn in Evansville; and the Mulberry Lane Inn Bed and Breakfast in New Castle, to name a few.
Pets are also permitted in most state parks and state forests, as long as they're kept on a 6-foot leash.
Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Seymour features 700 acres of trees, trails, lakes and fields for Fido to stretch his legs.
Jackson County is also home to many small-town outdoor festivals, a vast array of living farms and a scenic forest, where pets are welcome.
Before you leave:
- Make sure pet's identification and shot records are up to date. A tag with your name, address and phone number, as well as the pet's name should be firmly attached to the collar. Take along a recent picture and a detailed written description of your pet.
- Have pet checked by a veterinarian and discuss your travel plans. You will need a health certificate and proof of current rabies vaccinations in order to fly.
- Feed your pet the same food and use the same bed, dishes, and toys from home. When packing, be sure to include grooming supplies, a first aid kit and any necessary medications.
- Call ahead and check pet polices at all all lodgings, airlines, and campsites you plan to use.
- Get a sturdy, properly ventilated crate of adequate size for your pet to stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortably. Affix a travel label to the carrier.
Traveling by car:
- Try a series of shorter trips before taking a long one if pet is not used to traveling by car.
- Feed pet lightly before beginning the trip, two to three hours prior to departure. Small amounts of water can be given periodically in the hours before the trip.
- Restrain your pet, using a pet seat belt or secured carrier. Do not let a dog stick its head out the window or ride in the back of a truck unsecured.
- Stop frequently to stretch their legs, and yours. Be sure pet is leashed before opening the car door.
- Never leave your pet unattended in the car, even if the windows are partially open. In hot weather, pets can suffer from heat prostration very quickly. On cold days, hypothermia is a risk.
- Make reservations and arrangements early if you must ship a pet by air; always confirm 24 to 48 hours before departure.
- Determine where pet will fly. Small pets can be taken in the cabin as long as they fit in a regulation-size container under the seat, other pets must fly in the hold as checked baggage or as a cargo.
- Book direct, nonstop flights, especially for pets that will not be traveling in the cabin. Avoid weekend or holiday flights, when possible.
- Allow up to two extra hours for check-in and, if your pet is not traveling with you in the cabin, arrival procedures.
- Do not transport any pet under eight weeks of age. Additionally, ill, very nervous, pregnant or older pets should not be transported by air.
- Make sure feeding instructions and ID with the words "live animal" are attached securely to your pet's carrier.
- Never give your pet sedatives or tranquilizers unless under a veterinarian's prescription.
At a hotel:
- Verify in advance that pets are welcome. Properties may impose restrictions on the number, type, size or weight of pets they allow, or they may designate only certain rooms for travelers with animals.
- Request a ground floor room to make late night bathroom runs easier. Walk the pet off the property and always clean up after them.
- Practice good "petiquette." Feed and give water to your pet in the bathroom or on a tile or hardwood floor, and cover any furniture and beds your pet will be allowed on.
- Try not to leave your pet alone, but if the hotel allows it, crate or otherwise confine your pet. Leave toys around and a radio or television on.
- Place a sign on the hotel room door to inform any unsuspecting hotel staff that a pet is in the room.
For a directory of pet-friendly hotels and hot spots, and guidance on traveling with a pet, check out these Web sites: www.petswelcome.com, www.petsonthego.com, www.petfriendlytravel.com, www.travelpets.com, www.takeyourpet.com and www.dogfriendly.com
Dog Gone Newsletter
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Traveling With Your Pet, The AAA Handbook