Traveling with Pets
Guilt: most every pet owner suffers from it...that overwhelming feeling of remorse that you've abandoned a beloved and helpless member of your family when you leave on vacation. For Jamaell Lyles of Washington, D.C., that sense of guilt may never quite go away. She thought she'd left her little Yorkshire Terrier, Simba, with someone she could trust: the veterinarian. But when Lyles returned from her vacation to pick up Simba, the vet said there was a problem.
Simba eventually died as a result of the attack, but this kind of tragedy isn't the norm. Experts including the Humane Society's Nancy Peterson says a professional pet sitter or kennel can provide quality care for your pet. Peterson says when it comes to a pet sitter who'll visit your home, you're better off not depending on the kid next door, because he's probably not as reliable as a professional. She suggests that before you hire a sitter, invite him to your home for an interview.
As a bonus, Peterson adds, some sitters will also take in your mail, water the plants and turn the lights on and off. But she warns pet sitters are not licensed or regulated so be sure they have liability insurance. And since they're coming into your home, check that they're bonded too. Now when it comes to a kennel, Peterson says it's a good idea to visit it beforehand.
At Bokhara Kennels in Elk Rapids, Michigan, it's possible to check that your dog is safe, even after you've left on vacation. Log onto www.bokhara.com. Bokhara's owner Richard Smith has set up digital cameras to take pictures of individual dog runs -- he calls them cybersuites -- so vacationing owners can check in on their pets at any time of the day.
The pictures update every 20 seconds and a text box provides information on how the dog's day went. It's a way to put the owner at ease and to put the kennel on display, says Smith.
But if Internet access isn't an option when you're on vacation, you can always try to ensure that your pet gets a vacation too.
Coomba is a 90-pound Chesapeake Bay Retriever. On this hot summer day, Coomba would rather retrieve fish out of the pond than a stick.
He's one of over 5000 dogs that stay at Shady Spring camp in Maryland every year. That's right, it's a camp for dogs, and Melanie Poff is the head counselor.
But not every dog adjusts to a camp or kennel as well as Coomba did. While most pets will be just fine being separated from their owners for a short period, for some it can lead to an anxiety attack, says Peter Borshelt, a doctorate of animal behavior in Brooklyn.
Cats, on the other hand, tend to adjust much better, says Dr. Borshelt as long as their needs are taken care of. But it's perhaps human anxiety that remains the biggest problem. Experts say if you've carefully picked out your pet's caretaker, chances are good that he'll be just fine. So go ahead and enjoy your vacation, but you might want to send home a postcard. Your pet can sniff it, and know that you're doing okay without him.
In Washington, I'm Annie Wu for The Savvy Traveler.
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