With the holidays right around the corner, the last thing you might be thinking about is, “How will my pet be spending the holidays?” Another very important question to ask yourself is, “How will my pet be cared for during the holidays?”
The answers to those questions lies in considering the following possibilities:
- Is my pet going with me?
- Is someone coming in to care for my pet?
- Are my relatives and friends arriving with pets?
- Am I arriving at a pet free environment with a pet?
- Am I driving a significant distance with my pet?
- Am I flying with my pet?
If any of those scenarios describe what you are doing this holiday season, then the following three tips for celebrating conflict free holidays with a pet are for you.
Ask, Prepare, Choose
Ask if your pet is welcome to visit with you. Ask if your guest intends to bring a pet into your home.
Whether you are pet friendly or not, setting up the ground rules for a visit by Fido or Fluffy is key to keeping conflict at bay. If you are bringing a pet to someone’s home, initiate this conversation and respect the boundaries the person whom you are visiting sets. Talking about these guidelines before you (or they) arrive helps everyone get clear about how the visit will go and allows everyone to make appropriate choices based on that information.
Having this discussion early gives the pet owner a chance to choose whether or not they feel comfortable bringing their pet. Plus, it gives them ample time to decide what will work best for them and their pet if alternate care plans need to be made. Speaking about ground rules gives the host(ess) peace of mind that her wishes for the visit were expressed. This helps to avoid unnecessary (and preventable) misunderstanding and miscommunication!
Prepare early for your pet care or travel.
This isn’t the part where we talk about stuffed toys and food. This is the part where we use Google maps to locate emergency vet clinics along your route, if you are driving, and at your destination if you fly. It can be the most valuable use of your holiday preparation time. What is your peace of mind worth?
When flying assure the pilot knows your dog is on board. Do not assume the ground crew is speaking to the pilot. Make a flier with your seat number, name and cell number, the dog’s name and their species for both the top of their crate and the pilot’s hand.
If you’re driving cross-country with your pet, do the best you can to find a vet clinic, preferably an emergency clinic, at every 50-mile marker. Call each place you find before you leave to ask them about their holiday hours and when someone will be manning the fort.
If there are no emergency clinics close by, it may be worth while to call a few regular vet hospitals and ask to speak with the vet. Learn their holiday suggestions for their clients. The best way I know of to befriend an out of town vet is to say, “I’m doing some preventive reconnoitering for my holiday visit to Aunt Mary’s. I’d love to stop by and introduce myself.” This will show your dedication to the pet and respect of the vet’s time.
Choose whether your pet will be safer, happier and more content with you, at a kennel or at home. If stress will be the result of you bringing your pet to Aunt Mary’s, when she or several other attendees don’t like dogs, your pet will feel that and react. If you truly don’t want the pet in your home, either because it is untrained, unruly or your home is pet-unfriendly, take a gentle stand for yourself (maybe for the first time) and choose to speak to the family member about leaving Fluffy or Fido at home. The pet owner often appreciates honesty over watching you suffer in silence.
Everyone wants to enjoy their holidays. No one wants it spoiled by a mis-behaving pet, or a relative who behaves badly toward a pet. Clearly communicating what works and what doesn’t is always best for everyone concerned – Fido and Fluffy, too!
There are several other things you can do while traveling with your pet. One of the most important is to bring your pet’s Pet Passport along on the trip. If you don’t have a PetPassport already, you can create and download one for your pet (it’s free) from my website. This one document will help you organize and have on hand all your pets’ pertinent information and picture when you’re traveling with your furry friend.
Happy Holidays and Enjoy your pets!
Debra Vey Voda Hamilton