Leaving our pup behind became much easier when we were introduced to Gentle Pet Protectors. This Dearborn based company is run by Lisa Phelps, an animal lover who believes that boarded pets should be treated with love and consideration for their need for familiar surroundings and routines.
Lisa’s folks are willing to care for a pet in house, or will welcome Fluffy into their own households. No cages or concrete cells for a bewildered pet left behind. GPP will also visit with animals during the day. Long walks and car rides are included. Voted “Best Pet Sitters” by News 4 , this company provides a service for animal lovers, but–for them, it’s really about the pet.
After traveling with kids, it’d seem toting a rather small dog would be effortless. T’was until the “peanut butter incident.”
The FAA and most airlines allow certain pets (no boa constrictors) to travel stowed under the cabin seat if the combined weight of the animal and carrier is less than 15 to 20 pounds. That’s about 10 pounds less than most handbags. So long as Ralph stayed off the treats for a few weeks, we were golden.
His first trip was at six months, so size was not much of an issue. Ralph could almost stand and stretch in the roomy carrier. Once our growing boy reached his full potential, he still stayed within range of the rules–barely.
The veterinarian advised against sedation. She wisely explained that the pup would not adapt to air travel if he never knew he had flown. A kong stuffed with peanut butter and left in the refrigerator overnight was her recommendation.
A kong is a hard rubber toy with an elongated hollow center. First trip it worked like a charm. Once tucked under the seat, Ralph would get the frozen treat. By the time he thoroughly extricated every scrap of JIF, we were well on our way. The motion of the plane would then rock him into a deep sleep. Wheels down, we bolted to the closest grass patch outside of baggage, a popular area for smokers and liberated pets.
Every method eventually meets a glitch, that’s why there should always be a backup plan. So we learned. On a trip south, upon boarding, a stern flight attendant announced to the cabin “Attention please, we have a passenger with a severe peanut allergy on board. Please do not open anything containing nuts. We will not be serving nuts with your beverage today.” Uh oh.
The polite “reminder” yip began straightaway. Bill and I exchanged panicked looks as the civility escalated to outright barking. We weren’t following Ralph's protocol, and other passengers were becoming annoyed by his understandable protest. A kind steward offered some scraps of bacon from first class. That bought about ten seconds of relief as Ralph gulped them down. Eventually he dozed off, exhausted from baying with disappointment. We tried hard not to make eye contact with fellow travelers while disembarking. On the return flight, as luck would have it, the same sensitive passenger was aboard. Ralph got a break from air travel for a while after that.
Enter Lisa, owner of Gentle Pet Protectors, and matchmaker extraordinaire.
Ralph fell in love with Claudia and Mike after spending the weekend in their lovely home. Claudia is an animal lover, and she was happy to spend some time with our pooch for the long weekend while Mike was out of town. By the second visit Ralph strained at his leash and ran into their home without looking back. Claudia thoughtfully texts updates. They let him sit on their laps while reading, and patiently tolerate his obsession with chipmunks in the drainpipes. Made our trip far more pleasurable, and our pooch is delighted. The cost isn't much more than a boarding facility.
Ralph still makes family vacations on occasion, especially if he can hitchhike along with someone arriving by car. There are pet friendly hotels all along the interstate which are readily found on the internet. Just be sure to cover the exits during any hallway games of ball toss. Ralph's beloved “chase game” ended in the ballroom where the escapee was eventually captured with the assistance of several hotel employees.
Still, it's always fun having him along. But staying behind can be fun too, especially when left with caring friends.