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Recently, we had a family emergency and had to travel out of state on a moment's notice. We didn't know how long we would need to be gone so we brought our dog, Honey. This turned out to be a mistake. It was difficult to find a cheap hotel that allowed pets and it was too hot for her to stay in our car. We wound up taking turns caring for her, which was a distraction from the purpose of our visit.
When we later visited our relatives in the area, Honey continued to be a nuisance. Although it had been fine when we had visited with Honey in the past, this time was different. The resident dogs were very concerned about her and barked the entire visit. The cats were terrified. It added stress to an already stressful situation. I wished that I had arranged for someone to watch her at home so I could concentrate on the family who needed my attention.
We always bring Honey when we hike, camp, and go to the beach. When we go out of town on vacation, we have Honey boarded at a local kennel and doggie daycare. She obviously loves it there and gets excited when we turn into the parking lot. She has lots of time to play with the other dogs and a safe place to doze. They will also groom her for a small fee so that you return to a nice clean dog. At the end of the stay, they send me pictures of her playing. It is an additional expense but we consider it a cost of traveling.
Here is a picture of Honey from the kennel. She is the Chow Chow in the middle and I can tell she is happy by her expression and tail.
Another more frugal option would be to ask a friend or relative to watch the pets for you, preferably at your home. This is ideal for people with more than one pet or for pets who do better in their normal surroundings. Your house sitter can also collect the mail, water plants and keep the home from looking deserted. Just be sure to tell your neighbors so they don't worry.
If you have the sort of pet who would be happier staying home alone than going to an unfamiliar kennel, you may want to take advantage of a pet sitting service. The sitter you pick can visit your home a pre-arranged number of times each day to feed your pets, take care of bathroom detail, and give your pets some companionship. Be sure to choose your provider carefully -- make sure they have insurance, and ask for referrals. Trust your instincts, and your pets' instincts; if you or your pets don't like the potential sitter, you probably shouldn't hire that person.
If you don't want your dog or cat to be alone most of the day, you can always ask a family member to house-and-pet-sit for you. Teenagers are usually glad to handle this one. They will be at the house most of the day, even overnight if you want, to take care of the pets. Beware of the potential for unwanted visitors -- you should lay out the rules beforehand if you are having a younger family member do the sitting.
Many doggy day cares also offer a boarding service, where your pet can stay for a few days. And I've seen some pretty luxurious ones, with raised beds and Animal Planet playing for entertainment. It can be an expensive option, but you can usually trust that your pet is being well cared for. You provide your pet's own food, bedding, and toys for the stay, but the staff makes sure they get attention and exercise. Again, be sure to choose your provider carefully -- make sure they have insurance, and ask for referrals. Find out about emergency care, should your pet need it.
You can always drop your pets off with family or friends for a few days. This can be kind of an imposition on them, to suddenly be responsible for a new furry friend. But lots of animal lovers are glad to help. You may want to do a trial visit before your long vacation -- let your dog or cat visit overnight just to see how it goes. The nice thing about this option is that you know your friends and family and have seen how they interact with your pets. You don't have to worry about a stranger in your home, or taking care of your beloved animals.