International Travel with a Small Senior Dog – An Interview
I am thrilled to welcome Raquel Fernandes of Mr. Crowley ChiChi to the Montecristo Travels “special correspondent” interview series — the series in which we prove we are not the only ones travelling with our pet(s) and the first step in building a community of people passionate about both their pets and travel. So welcome, WELCOME! I am extra excited because Mr. Crowley is a senior at 12 years young and I know that’s a perspective many Readers would be interested in knowing a little more about. So… without further ado let’s get this Interview on international travel with a small senior dog going!
First off can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? Who is who; do you have a basecamp? How did you all find each other?
We live in Northern NJ (Bergen County). My husband V.J. and I were interested in adopting a dog, and we knew we wanted to adopt a senior dog that had been passed over and just needed a comfy place to hang. We found that most senior, shelter dogs in our area are abandoned Chihuahuas, and when we saw Mr. Crowley’s profile, and we just knew he was the one for us.
He was left in a box in Westchester, NY, and the local SPCA had found him. He had luxating patella, a collapsed trachea, jaw and teeth infections, and he was underweight.
He had been at the shelter almost two months with no potential adopter showing any interest in him. When we met him for the first time, he just melted our hearts. He picked us. We’ve been together over a year now (14 months), and every day with him is magic. He has the best personality- he’s just up for adventures; he’s easy going, very sweet and loving, and just a love bug. He’s the best decision we ever made and we can’t even remember life without him. You can read more of his story here.
How many countries have you all been to so far? Do you have a favorite (I know that is such a tough question!) and where was it the biggest challenge and why?
We’ve been to England, France, Belgium, and Denmark with Mr. Crowley, and we absolutely loved Denmark! We would move there in a heartbeat if we could. The culture, the vibe, the people- it was just a magical place. We found the biggest challenge when traveling with a pet are the varying restrictions and the lack of communication regarding those restrictions, especially when it came to England.
England was the most stressful country to bring Crowley to by far. Not only do they have many more time-sensitive requirements, but they don’t make all the information available to the consumer. For example: When we planned this visit 6 months in advance, we had researched their official government website, blogs, forums, and spoken to two veterinarians.
We thought we were prepared, but when we got to the airport to board the flight, we found out 2 hours later that no flights to England allow dogs or cats to travel in cabin. That important piece of information was not on their website. Not on any website. They only addressed the vaccinations and guides Crowley needed to get into the country- they didn’t specify that all of those requirements were meant for putting your dog or cat in cargo… and not just in the cargo hold of your flight. Your precious pet would have to have had you book him a seat on a separate cargo plane that would arrive at a later date. So your furry family member not only doesn’t go with you, he has no food or water until the cargo flight takes off and you have to go to a special service area to pick him up whenever he arrives.
When we asked the airline to send us a link to where this information is located so that we could share this information, they told us that it’s not available to consumers; it’s located on their internal “net” and only available internally. SO THIS IS WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES: the airlines have information that is not available to the customer. It was undoubtedly the most stressful experience we’ve had during any traveling experience (and we’ve been to well over 12 countries).
The second part of the problem was that no one had any alternative suggestions. No airline, no customer service desk, no one told us that this was:
- Common going to England,
- Provided suggestions based on other customers experiencing the same issues.
It was like no one had any idea what was going on. It was horrible. We luckily happened to find a pet shuttle service called Pet Moves who saved our trip! They drove us from Belgium to France, through the pet customs check point, and into London using the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. We had the best experience with them, and I highly, HIGHLY recommend them for anyone who wants to travel to England with their pet, but doesn’t want to put them on a cargo airplane.
That is absolutely dreadful. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine that we often have to act as the one educating staff on their own policies, let alone provide expertise on services they offer. For future reference and for my Readers, there is a good blog post with Dog Jaunt on taking the Euro Tunnel into London from Paris with a pet. This would likely be how we would do it. Our friend Gigi Griffiths and her canine companion Luna of The Ramble have travelled to London (and have also had some bad experiences) on more than one occasion and have a great post about how they do it.
Now, I have to ask — what do you believe is the best part about having Mr. Crowley with you while you travel? I know that for us, having it brings a variety of perks; the most unexpected and best one is that we aren’t treated like tourists. People think we live there and so the entire “vibe” changes. We don’t feel targeted by the tourism industry. What is your take?
For us, the best part of traveling with Mr. Crowley is being with him. We are obsessed with our dog- he’s our furry little son- and the thought of leaving him for 2-4 months at a time is unbearable. We wouldn’t enjoy our trip as much. So the best part is being able to experience the joy of traveling together, as a family; to go to sleep with him tucked beside our feet, to wake up with his nose in my face, to hear him snore while we sit in the car… it’s a gift to be with him.
We know a lot about flying in-cabin with a small dog. Can you walk us through what it means to have senior dog – one with health issues (what are they and what are the solutions)? People with a small senior dog might feel concern; is it warranted?
Thankfully, Crowley has no health issues that hinder him from flying in cabin. Age is only a number for this little man. A bonus to traveling with an older dog: they love to sleep! He is much easier to travel with than say a young pup that has more energy and probably doesn’t want to sleep in a bag for 8 hours. Crowley sleeps 16 hours a day or so, and usually in the same bag we travel with, so he is very comfortable sleeping on a plane. He is so easy, such a great travel buddy. I swear he was made for a life of adventure!
I think it’s important to do research when traveling with any pet, and yes, if your senior pet has any specific needs (maybe they need to “bathroom” often, or perhaps they need access to water more frequently), you should consider how to best meet those needs during travel. Talk to your vet; look through forums, read blogs… Plan WAY in advance so you can accommodate your precious family member in the best possible way.
What is the big #1 tip you would like to share for “Small senior dog!” travel?
Listen to your dog. If he is restless, or you have any, even the slightest hunch that he isn’t OK, act on it. We took Mr. Crowley to three vets, all who confirmed he was fit to fly. We listened to him, watched him, and were very focused on him the entire trip. Turns out he was a better traveler than we were!
What have you learned about your pet on the road? Something you are convinced you would not know had you not taken this adventurous route. For us, it’s the fearlessness that seems to come out when on the road and the fact that we are far less likely to coddle “the small dog”. We learned not to underestimate endurance. What about you?
He is so much tougher than we thought! For being only 3 pounds, and old, this little guy is tough. We initially would coddle him, and he didn’t need it. He loved the trains, loved the plane, and loved the adventure of it all. We learned that we have the best little travel buddy!
A vet told me that sometimes, leaving your pet behind can be more stressful than traveling, and we know that for the most part, that’s the case with Mr. Crowley. He is so attached to us – maybe because he was a rescue. Leaving him in a doggy camp or pet sitter for 2- 4 months would be more stressful for all of us.
To Crowley, we are a pack, and packs travel together. We are his home, not the house, or the couch. So if we are together, he is confident and trusts our leadership. If you can leave your pet in your house with someone he knows, then that’s great! It’s a familiar place with a familiar person. They can smell your clothes; they know you will come back. If you bring your pet to a new place, but he is with you, that’s also great! They know that you are a unit, and are more comfortable because you are their rock. If you have to leave your pet in a new place ad with a stranger, chances are they’re not thrilled. There should always be a balance.
How do you choose where to go next? Do you feel boxed in or limited by having your dogs as your travel companions? Does Mr. Crowley being a senior add limitations to your choices? For us, if it’s not pet friendly we don’t go but I know some would have issues with that… do you?
We travel a lot for work, and we are extremely fortunate that every place we’ve gone has had no issues accommodating pets (some places even have pet stations and lawn areas). We are a family, the three of us, so if Crowley is not welcome, we don’t go 🙂
Having a senior dog doesn’t limit how we travel. We are very walk with a cup of coffee type of travelers, so Crowley fits right in with our pace (sans coffee :))
I can’t thank you enough for accepting to do this. I am certain we will reach out again to include quotes from you guys in other posts from time to time for the senior dog angle! Thank you! I can’t wait to see where you are all off to next and I assure you we will continue to follow you on Instagram! I LOVE that you are showing the world that having a small senior dog and international travel are not mutually exclusive!
Thank you so much for including us and I hope our paths cross one day soon!