What’s An Owner To Do?


A reader asked if I would address an issue that is causing her some conflicting emotions. She and her husband like to travel on occasion. What deeply bothers her is the reality of pets that must be left behind. She has a friend that will take care of the basic daily needs of her cats. Yet, she worries about loneliness and shirking responsibility for the animal’s well-being. She notes the cats have difficult schedules and need special attention. Her concern is deep enough that it is affecting her willingness to travel.

For some of us with pets, friends willing to act as pet-minders don’t exist. That means our furry family member must endure days or weeks in a kennel cage. Sure, the better facilities will make sure the dog or cat gets daily exercise and human contact. Even so, to think of Muffin in a cage, away from all she knows, can be just as upsetting for the human owner.

One option is a pet sitter. We have used this option a time or two with good results.  A trained and vetted person moves into your home or apartment for the time you will be gone. They will allow the animal to stay in a familiar setting and retain its usual schedule. Obviously, the owner must be comfortable having a stranger spend time in their home, sleeping in their bed, using their facilities, all while caring for the pet. There is a level of trust that may be uncomfortable for some. While not inexpensive, our experience is the cost is no greater than a good quality kennel. 

Even though our beloved Bailey died almost a year and a half ago, we are experiencing the same travel-dog issues as the reader. One of our daughters is out of town a lot for her business. That means we are home to her doggie, Adler, for probably 100 days a year. The good news: we love her, and she loves our house. For the first few days, she mopes around wondering where her real mommy is. But then she settles into life with Gran and Grandad.

The only problem, and it is a minor one, is our travel. Any plans we have must be fitted into those times when we aren’t dog-sitters. A spur-of-the-moment getaway has to be carefully planned, which kind of kills the spontaneity of the concept! But, we willingly accept that restriction because we know Adi would not do very well in a kennel environment. She is a very people-centered pet who needs to be around humans on a continuous basis. She has never been crate-trained so a kennel would not be in her best mental interest.

Plus, we can save our daughter thousands of dollars in boarding fees by opening our door and hearts to her fur baby, and the hole in our home left by the passing of Bailey is amply filled by Adi. All in all, a win-win for our daughter, her pet, and us.

Obviously, there are solutions to the pet-travel puzzle. However, none really address the very real problem of being able to leave a beloved pet that may have special needs. Worry is not conducive to a great travel experience.

So, here is my question to you: if you have a pet, how do you handle this situation? What steps do you take to feel OK about leaving? If you don’t have a pet at the moment but did at one time, I invite you to share your story. 

Each one of us has a different attachment to our pet(s), For some, the pet is such a part of the family, and we have bonded in a way that our emotional attachment can alter travel or lifestyle choices. For others, the dog or cat is a positive addition to one’s life, but not something that affects decisions at this level.

There is no wrong answer to this dilemma. But, I trust we can offer this reader some options, or at least words of support for this predicament. She is aware her feelings are an impediment to fully enjoying travel and vacation options. I think she just wants understanding and “I’ve been there” kind of backing.

And, for those of us with pets, I am anxious to learn how others address this situation.