Flying with a carry-on dog: Postscript
Posted at 02:26PM - Comments: (11)
So, I flew across the country with a little dog. She did great, never made a peep! But there were a few little hitches – none of which turned out to be the ones I expected.
When I made the reservation for the dog (my daughter-in-law’s) on the flights (from Boston to Sacramento, through Atlanta, on Delta), the airline agent gave me the maximum dimensions for the carrier I could carry on those flights. I bought a Sherpa carrier that met those dimensions. Even so, I was concerned, because I have heard many accounts of carriers being turned away by the front counter agents when a traveler tried to check in for his or her flight with her carry-on dog – based on the bag’s size, or the apparent comfort of the dog within the carrier.
As it turned out, the front counter agent barely looked at the carrier, much less measured it, much less checked to see whether the dog I had inside was comfortable and able to stand and turn around – one of the few actual federal regulations regarding the appropriateness of carriers. So much for one of my biggest worries.
I was also concerned about the dog’s behavior, although there isn’t a whole lot I could have done to manage it beforehand. I had flown to the East Coast on business, and would be meeting the dog I was carrying with me for the first time just hours before our flight. I had brought the carrier with me – and though I could have ostensibly shipped the carrier to the family who had custody of the dog beforehand, asking them to put her in the carrier each day for a period of time, to get her used to traveling in it, without being present to make sure the experience didn’t traumatize the more than desensitize her, I decided to just take my chances and hope for the best. I did bring a Thundershirt with me, and after meeting Sadie, and seeing that she was, in fact, a bit nervous about being handed off to a total stranger, I put it on her. Those shirts (and, as an alternative, a TTouch “wrap”) do seem to work to calm anxious dogs, and Sadie was a total trooper. She never made a peep or whine in the carrier the whole trip.
The biggest issue I experienced on my trip was one I didn’t not anticipate at all. In all my travels, I have seen signs for “pet relief areas” at airports, but since I’ve never needed to use one, I never investigated these further. I found one outside the terminal at Boston’s Logan airport – a grungy, 10-foot square of space out on the curb, fenced with chain link. It was about half concrete, and half bedded with rubber shavings – and surrounded by people smoking their last cigarettes before they went into the terminal. I stood and breathed shallowly while hoping and praying Sadie would pee before I had to put her inside the crate for the next four or five hours, and thank goodness, after a bit of sniffing around, she did pee. I figured that when I changed planes in Atlanta, with more than an hour between flights, I would be able to take Sadie to another pet relief area, so she could again urinate before the last leg of our flight to Sacramento.
But no – it turned out that the only pet relief area at the airport in Atlanta is also out at the front curb – before security. I’d have to go OUT of the airport if I wanted her to be able to pee, and then go back through security – and since my flight was delayed leaving Boston, there was not enough time to consider such a thing. I asked several airport and airline employees: “Are you SURE there is no relief area for dogs in the terminal?” And they all said, no, the only one is outside – UNLESS that’s a service dog; there IS an area where you can take service dogs to go potty.
Well for crying out loud. I’m glad there is a service dog potty area, but I’m not going to lie about a non-service dog being a service dog. Now, if I had flown from Europe, say, and she had not had an opportunity to relieve herself for more like 8 or 10 hours . . . for her comfort and health, I may have been tempted to do so. What a ridiculous situation to put people in.
Trying to think as fast as possible, and not miss my flight, I carried Sadie into a handicapped stall in the women’s restroom, thinking maybe I could let her out of the bag and give her a pile of paper towels or toilet paper to pee on. I didn’t know whether or not she was paper-trained; it’s possible, lots of little dogs are. But I no sooner closed the door behind us in the stall when I heard an attendant rapping on the door: “Don’t you let that dog out in there!” she said sternly. “It’s against airport regulations and I will get security in here!” Ahem. So, apparently, I’m not the only one who has had this problem.
This issue is one of the reasons why Sleepypod, makers of the extremely luxe small-dog carrier pictured on page 23 of the current (May 2014) issue, sells something they call “Dryfur,” an absorbent disposable pad that can be placed in the bottom of a carrier, in case a dog is forced to relieve herself in the carrier (see http://sleepypod.com/dryfur). The pad is well-made; unlike something like a puppy pee-pad, if the dog does not relieve herself, it can be used again and again.
In addition to marketing its pet travel products, Sleepypod maintains a travel-related website (http://www.pettravelexperts.com/) and a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pettravelexperts), which is where I learned that at least one airport, Detroit Metro, installed a pet relief area recently right in the terminal. Awesome.
What sort of travel-related issues have you experienced flying with small dogs in the cabin? And are you aware of other airports with pet relief areas for carry-on dogs in the terminal?