If you are anything like me you struggle with the idea of leaving your pets when you go travelling. Unless you take them with you, this can be something that could either stop you from doing extensive travelling or stop you from going anywhere at all.
Some of us are fortunate enough to have a support network or someone in particular that they can rely upon. Some of us don’t. Most of us do not want to leave our furry friends in the hands of strangers, but sometimes we may not have a choice.
Believe me, this is my first thing I think about when I am considering travelling. It is all well and good to throw caution to the wind and book something, but my two fur kids are my children and I simply will not leave them in the hands of people I do not know.
How many of you that have animals watch your beloved fur friend get that sad look in their eyes when you start to pack for a trip? Oh, My Lord!!!! I tell you my two dogs, especially the older one, really make me feel like I am deserting them when I am packing. And as much as I try to hide the packing process from them (trust me I have tried many ways of doing this) they just seem to know.
My older dog, Ralph, picks up on things pretty quickly and man am I in the doghouse (see what I did there? Lol) for days on end. He has, many of times, turned his back on me and won’t give me cuddles for days! So, it is so super important that who I have looking after them is someone that I trust and someone that will give them the attention and love that they need.
For many years I was really lucky in that my brother and his wife would look after my two. They at the time lived in Melbourne and loved having time with my fur kids (well I hope that they did). I trusted them with my dogs and I know that the kids loved them immensely. But all good and easy things must come to an end at some point, and with their move up to the Gold Coast a few years ago the ease of booking a trip became a bit more complex.
While I could put them in a kennel, it simply is not an option I would consider. I am not dismissing the convenience of using a dog kennel as I know some people do not have the luxury of anything else. But for me, I just couldn’t. I’ll put my hand up and say my dogs are spoilt. They follow me around, they eat super well (home cooked food), we have snuggles on the couch every day AND they sleep on top of my bed.
One is a touch on the anxious side and quite old (14) and the other is adorably crazy. They are as reliant on me as I am of them. So, to put them in a kennel for an extended period of time just does not work for us.
My first trip overseas after my brother and his partner moved, I had two good friends look after them at my place. The second time another two good friends took it in turns at my place. The third, a short trip to New Zealand, offered up a place for a friend who was in between houses. The fourth trip overseas my cousin was living with me at the time, so she looked after them. The last trip overseas, a work colleague who was in between rentals.
When I have family or friends staying at my place to look after my dogs and they have never looked after them before I will always get them to come over to go through a few things. It is important for your dog sitter to know how much to feed them, what they do’s and don’ts’ are, where to walk them and general quirks that my dogs have. We will always go on a walk together so that they know what my dogs temperament is like when on a leash.
I am also crazy enough to have a dog manual in print that stays on the kitchen table for them to use should they need. I know, I am a crazy dog lady! But it is important for me to feel comfortable leaving my fur kids as much as it is for the friend to feel comfortable in my home and with the kids.
I ensure that:
- There is enough food and treats so that the friend does not have to go shopping for anything.
- Leave extra money in case food runs out or the friend wants to buy treats.
- The dogs are groomed, washed and smelling fresh for their visitor.
- Beds are clean.
- There are enough toys to keep them occupied.
- The person has emergency contact list including vet, emergency vet, other family or friends in the area that can assist.
- Offer to pay the person looking after your fur kids. I often get told to “piss off” with this one so I either buy them something from my travels, take them out to dinner, treat them to something or buy them a gift that I know that they will love.
- I need to check my expectations. Just because they sleep on my bed does not mean that the friend is comfortable with doing that. Even though I walk my two daily, it does not matter if that doesn’t happen every day when I am away.
- Remember the favour that has enabled me to travel.
- Try not to be a pain in the arse by not contacting the friend every single day! You have them there for a reason, you trust them. Enjoy your holiday!
Being in contact while I am away is super important for me. I won’t lie. The first couple of days are always rough as I go through my own separation anxiety. But as soon as I settle in and know the dogs are ok, I tend to relax a little. I always ask for whoever is looking after them to send me photos or videos and let me know how they are going. This works really well for alleviating any anxiety that I may have.
Relying on friends and family not only gives you the option to be that crazy animal owner and ask them to ‘reeeeeally’ look after your family, but they are trusted people in your network of people. You know them, you trust them, and you know that they understand how important your fur kids are to you.
But what if you do not have that option?
- Friends of mine have become connected to dog meet up groups on social media and have met trusted dog/house sitters through that option. Generally, people who join these kinds of groups love animals so will have your fur kids’ best interest at heart.
- Consider taking them with you. I know not an option for a lot of overseas travel, but if you are travelling locally and if it is somewhere you can easily drive to, or if animals are allowed on trains and buses, why not try out dog friendly accommodation. Just as much as you love getting away, I am sure your animals do too. You can read about our recent dog vacation to Macclesfield here: ‘Dog Vacation Victoria – Luella Rise’.
- Look at trusted house sitters’ websites such as: Trusted House Sitters, Mad Paws and Happy House Sitters. Be selective with who you choose. Remember you must be able to trust the person to look after your animals. Ask them questions, treat it like an interview and ALWAYS ask for references. Blind faith is a hard thing, trust your gut. If it feels like a good option, it is likely that it will be. If you are feeling too anxious about the person, find someone else.
- Consider your animals staying at a family or friends place rather than in your own home.
I have been very fortunate not to have many mishaps while I have been away travelling. The dogs have been in good health, the people that have looked after them are people I trust explicitly. There has only been one time where I had someone booked in to look after my two that put me at unease. Communication was pretty shit leading up to my trip, and the limited contact we did have I was constantly told “not to worry, I have this sorted”, something did not sit right for me. So, I cancelled her and asked someone else.
If it doesn’t feel right for you, find someone or something that does. I know it is a huge responsibility to place on someone else, and I ALWAYS remember that this person/people are doing me a massive favour. But nothing would more heart breaking than knowing your beloved fur family was not looked after.
When you have someone doing you a favour as big as this (because it truly is) ALWAYS remember to be gracious. Your animals are ultimately your responsibility. But if you are having a family member or friend look after your fur kids, do the right thing and show your gratitude. I am so super thankful to the people that have looked after my dogs. If ever there is a time, I repay their generosity in some way.
What it has enabled me to do is that I have been able to travel knowing that the two things I love more than most things in this world are doing well, happy and content. Most of the times after the trip is over and things return to normal, the friend ends up back at my place because they miss my two! Hopefully me too!
For me, nothing feels better than turning the key to my front door after a trip away and a long flight home to see my two dogs. The excitement levels are through the roof and in all honesty, I don’t think ANY human has been as excited as my two dogs to see my face when I have come home from a holiday. Equally as good is knowing that they have been loved, cared for and they are happy and in good health.
So, when planning your trip when you have animals to care for, I hope the above gives you some insight on some of the things that you can do in order to feel comfortable travelling. As well as what other crazy animal lovers do to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their beloved pets.