Just about everyone who works here at PetRelocation.com has at least one pet at home, but not all of us have had the chance to experience what our customers do -- flying with our dog or cat.
When Pet Relocation Specialist Sarah S. recently took her Irish Goldendoodle Reba on summer vacation, we realized it would be fun to share her travel story -- and what she learned -- here on the blog.
This is what Sarah had to say about flying with Reba for the first time as well as what it was like to deal with the natural nervousness that pet travel can sometimes inspire.
Where did you go and why did you decide to bring Reba?
I went home to Michigan to visit my family. We were renting a cottage on Lake Michigan and I took Reba for several reasons:
I couldn’t imagine being without her for a week. Lame, right? (*Editor's Note: Not Lame!)
I knew she would have a blast running and digging in the sand.
My parents and sister haven’t seen her since she was a baby and I can’t deny my family the chance to see their only grandkid or niece!
What did you do to prepare her for travel?
We started crate training right away when she was a puppy. I bought the size 400 when I first got Reba in November, anticipating her size at the time of our trip here in July. It was a perfect fit, but very close. If she grows any larger, she’ll need the 500.
I started feeding her in her crate a month or so after I got her. I didn’t want to scare the brand new puppy right away with the kennel so I left the top off for months and fed her in there. We learned the word “kennel” and when I pointed, she went in and I’d give her a treat. She loves it in there! But she doesn’t like the door shut. So I didn’t shut the door at all until travel date.
I also completely wore her out the day before travel. We went to the park, she came to work with me, and I basically didn’t let her nap.
How were you received by airline staff along the way?
United in Austin (AUS) and Grand Rapids (GRR) were AMAZING on the way there. When I checked her in at GRR on the way back, the three people working the desk were not old Continental employees, they were newer United employees and none of them had ever checked a pet in before.
A guy in a yellow vest came in and started petting Reba and, and he told me "I have a dog of my own and love dogs. I’ll take really good care of Reba!” I knew it would be okay because the one actually handling Reba knew exactly what he was doing and that’s who I was most concerned with.
How were you received by your fellow passengers?
I had to check Reba in at the passenger terminal at GRR on our way home. She got to walk in on her leash but she wanted to be held. Everyone in line was oohing and aahing about how stinkin' cute she was.
How did Reba handle the experience? Did anything surprise you?
She was a little apprehensive when she arrived in GRR, but it’s because I wasn’t there. My mom received her and she hadn’t seen my mom in months so I think this was the main reason for her nerves. She was exhausted after her travels. Same thing on the way home…absolutely pooped! And very thirsty. And starving! But she didn’t go to the bathroom in her kennel and she wasn’t panting or anything.
Would you fly with Reba again?
Yes, if I was going for a week or more. She squeezed in at a total of 49 lbs so we got the <50 lbs rate of $250 each way, so it was $500. Not worth it for a weekend trip, but SOOO worth it for the 9 days I was gone.
What advice would you give to other pet travelers?
It just makes me appreciate their stress a bit more. I was freaking out about Reba’s trip, but she did just fine! The people at United are so nice and helpful. I really would send her again -- the only real downfall is the costs.
I tell my clients all the time that if I trust my own dog with United, that theirs will be safe as well. I’m particularly obsessed with my dog -- we’re talking like 800 photos on my cell phone. So if clients claim they’re overbearing dog parents, I totally get it because I am too! But now I know it’s not so bad. I think about how she would have been so scared if I had stuck her in a boarding facility for a week and the few hours on the plane make it seem way more worth it.
Thanks for sharing your story, Sarah! It's great to learn even more about pet travel by hearing about the experience from one of our own.