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Tips on flying with Fido

Posted: Friday, September 10, 2004

Doggie Do'sBy Linda Shipman

Perhaps you're considering a trip south with the advent of autumn weather? Have you made arrangements for your dog while you're gone? Hiring a pet sitter for two to three weeks can be expensive. Traveling with your well-mannered dog may cost you nearly the same. Yet, you have the added benefits of mutual companionship, a handy conversation icebreaker, and a reason to walk for exercise and discover areas you might miss without a dog along. Caveat: Air travel can be stressful for canines, so consider your dog's age, breed, temperament and health.

Alaska Airlines is remarkably dog friendly. They charge a reasonable $75 one-way fee for dogs that accompany their owners. Small dogs may accompany their owners in the cabin in a soft-sided, under-the-seat travel bag. Larger dogs travel in a pressurized, temperature-controlled compartment with subdued lighting below the cockpit. See http://www.alaskaair.com/ www2/help/faqs/Pets.asp for more details.

If you travel by air beyond an Alaska Airlines destination, book with its partners http://www.alaskaair.com/ mileageplan/MileagePartners_Airline.asp after you confirm their canine policies. More information is provided at the AKC Web site on U.S. airlines pet travel policies: http://www. akc.org/news/airline_chart_0503.pdf.

Book as many direct, non-stop flights as possible in order to reduce crate time and minimize the risk your dog will be lost or mishandled during transfer to other flights. Your dog must have a current rabies certificate to travel. If you travel out-of-state, you must also obtain a health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian within the last 30 days.

Airlines generally have a limited number of flight kennels on hand for purchase. However, you may want to come prepared with an appropriately sized, airline-approved flight kennel, strong enough to withstand the rigors of travel. A crate dolly with wheels is handy for large airports, where you must walk long distances. Small dogs fit in soft-sided travel bags. You can purchase all of these items locally or over the Internet, though shipping costs may be exorbitant. Take time to familiarize your dog to its flight kennel in the weeks before a trip. Make these positive experiences by feeding your dog or providing chew items inside the crate.

Check www.dogfriendly.com for hotel chains that accept dogs. "Vacationing with your Pet" by Eileen Barish lists over 23,000 hotels, motels, inns, ranches and bed and breakfasts that welcome guests with pets. Make sure you verify lodging policies before traveling.

The night before your flight, freeze water in the crate trays. The ice will melt slowly during the trip providing your dog a steady source of water which doesn't spill. Pack your travel bag with a collar and leash, poop bags, a bottle of water, a plastic sandwich bag filled with kibble and perhaps a reward for your dog at your destination. Provide a cushiony throw for your dog to lie on in the flight kennel.

Make the crate easy to identify by applying colored duct tape to spell out the dog's name or create easily identifiable patterns. Tape an information sheet to the top of the flight kennel with your dog's name, age, flight numbers and where you can be contacted (both lodging and cell phone). If your dog is micro-chipped, write the brand name and ID number here also.

At check-in, have your dog's paperwork ready along with yours. Ask when you should have the dog back to be boarded. Then take it for a potty break outside. Return your dog to airline personnel on time, since it needs to be screened by security also! Take the dog's collar off and tie it to the outside of the kennel's front grate to prevent it from catching on something inside and strangling your pet.

Then head to the flight departure lounge and watch for your dog to be loaded on the airplane's right side, just below the pilot's cockpit. When you board, inform attendants you are traveling with a pet and provide its name and your assigned seat number. Many airlines, including Alaska, now have pull-off tabs that baggage handlers remove from the crate and hand to the attendants once your dog has been boarded. If you are flying with a small dog, you will need to stow your pet underneath the seat and not remove it from its carrier during the flight.

When you arrive at your destination, reclaim your large dog at the baggage claim area about 30 minutes after arrival. rovide your dog water and a walk as soon as possible.

Look for the guidebook series "The Dog Lover's Companion To ..." to find listings of dog friendly parks, beaches, lodging and restaurants at U.S. destinations.

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A future column topic will be on "petsitters." If you are one and hold a current Alaska business license, please contact me by Sept. 17 at linda.shipman@chezor.com or 789-1245.



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