TAKING TO THE SKIES (Musings on Flying with a Dog)

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Whenever I talk about a trip, I’m often asked if I flew or drove. To me it seems obvious – I drove. I want to see our country. That’s why I love to travel.

Plus, I won’t put Tessi on a plane.

Most airlines force animals of her size to travel in the cargo holds of their aircrafts. I can’t imagine what leaving her imprisoned alone amongst baggage would do to her.

A few years ago, during our ferry voyage to Newfoundland, I had to leave her in the car. The expression I saw on her face through the window, as I glanced back while I walked away would have haunted me forever if a disaster had occurred. I’ve never seen her ears so flattened and drawn so far down. At least she was comfortable in our car – our home away from home. She had her canine friend, Missy, for company, as well.

I can envision my girl’s terror in being abandoned in the depths of a plane. Add to that, there’s potential anxiety from the commotion in the loading process. I also wonder how her fear of heights would factor in. Would she sense her position high in the sky?

Maybe in her younger years I could have trained her to withstand the negative aspects of plane travel. I did crate train her after adopting her, which is the first step to ease a pup into the flying life.

It’d be convenient to take wing to far off places, especially in winter, when driving can be treacherous. There are Canadian winter destinations I’d love to see, such as Tofino’s (on Vancouver Island) surfing waves, which, I understand, grow giant sized in winter. Furthermore, though I base my writing on Canadian travel, there are places in the States I’d appreciate visiting – to see my parents in Texas, accept an invite to Arizona from an acquaintance and catch up with our new friend, Linda, in Alabama (or wherever she may be on her travels).

As usual, it’s the horror stories that give me added pause. Dogs get lost or injured because of careless handling. They sicken or even die due to extreme temperatures or inadequate ventilation. Airplane flight is particularly risky for flat-faced, short-snouted canines, such as pugs, that are prone to breathing issues.

Horror stories, however, happen in any situation in life. I tend to not necessarily let them keep me from enjoying myself. So for me, I’m back to my basic objection in locking Tessi away in a strange environment, high in the sky without me by her side.

Smaller dogs are luckier; most airlines allow pets below a certain size to be included in carry-on luggage allowance. Another acquaintance of mine has easily flown with her dachshund on WestJet. He’s made his journeys tucked away in his kennel under the seat.

In past research, I’ve come across pet-only airlines, such as Pet Airways. For me, unfortunately, they operate out of the States, and the nearest participating airport is still a long drive away. I don’t know if I’d be agreeable with Tessi heading to the skies without me on the same flight, even if she is made to feel comfortable. At this point, I must admit, I’d want to us to experience a plane ride together.

If, after going through all the pros and cons, you decide to put your dog on a plane, plan well in advance and study policies very carefully. They can get complicated. You don’t want any surprises when you arrive at the airport.

In many ways, I’m thankful that I’m satisfied with exploring my own country from the road. There is a myriad of fair-weather destinations I still wish to see that are manageable by car. I don’t need to worry about that flying issue and I can continue to regale any willing listener with my tales of the road.

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  (c) Cheryl Smyth, 2014


Feel the same way! My mom would put their Pom in her purse years ago flying back and forth to CA!! No way today!! Yes... Just let me know you're pulling in the drive!! Agate the cat will be thrilled!! He loves his doggie "friends!"

~Linda T.

I could never put Rupert or Huck in a plane. Probably not even in the plane with me! I can't even imagine what their reaction would be to the movement of the plane. The thought of transporting them like cargo is nauseating too. Bringing dogs into my life certainly has affected decisions I make. They come first.

~Gen B.


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