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Doggy Downtime by Jody Robbins
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Publishsed in: Calgary Herald, April 28, 2014

Inside the world of jet setting pooches

Make no bones about it, Monty Wade was one pampered pooch. Until his passing earlier this year, the spritely half-cocker, half-bichon frise had logged more travel miles than most bipeds. He even enjoyed a retirement trip to California, where he relished lounging in a backyard pool in Palm Springs and strutting through Downtown Disney, before checking into his kennel at the park.

“Of everything Monty had done in his life, he still hadn’t seen the ocean. It wasn’t the motivating factor for our family trip, but we wanted him to see it,” admits the pet’s parent Andrea Wade.

The Wades didn’t feel Monty should be left in the dog house, just because the rest of the family went on holiday. Many of their most cherished family memories were made when they took their pooch on vacation, and they’re not alone.

“People are travelling more with their dogs now then they ever have in the past. They’re coming in on a weekly basis asking for information,” says Dr. Daniela McLean, a Calgary Veterinarian at Canine Companion Clinic.

Pets are already a whopping $53.5 billion industry, with $78 million spent on pet travel in 2012. It’s such a growing market even National Geographic has gotten on the bandwagon, recently publishing The Dog Lovers Guide to Travel. The resource for traveling with furry friends features the best vacation destinations across the U.S. and Canada, so owners can get the inside scoop on pet-friendly hotels, restaurants and attractions.

So when did dog travel become a thing? In recent years, there’s been a change in the way we perceive our pets, says Dr. McLean. “Dogs are more like family members now and people have a tighter bond with them than they used to. Plus, travel has become easier with more pet friendly hotels,” she says.

Fairmont is one hotel brand that’s definitely going to the dogs. Over 10 Fairmont properties sport Canine Ambassadors, resident hotel dogs at the beck and call of guests looking for a handsome hound to take a walk with, or companion to pal around with their pooch. Don’t think the relationship ends when guests go home. They’re encouraged to stay in touch with their new best friend by sending "ani-mail" to the dog’s own email address.

At Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, canines checking into the hotel receive their own dish loaded with healthy, homemade treats, a copy of Bark Magazine and a pet brochure listing dog-friendly attractions. Over the May long weekend, the resort is hosting their first doggie bash. Dog Days of May is set to pampers pooches and their parents with everything from dog'centric classes to pup-friendly receptions.

Of course, there’ll be “ask the vet” sessions, a paw-gility course and guided hikes through Jasper National Park, but pet travellers are also party people. Catering to all mixed breeds, attendees can find out who Fido was in his former life at a session with the dog psychic. Should the information prove too traumatic, a treatment at the doggie spa or letting loose at the costume party would surely lighten the mood.

Over 60% of hotels in North America now allow dogs. Even luxury brands like the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental are pet friendly, despite not promoting themselves as having open paw policies.

“People aren’t having children anymore, they’re having pets. Hotels have to be more accommodating and in the last couple of years, they’ve made a big push to let the public know dogs are welcome and will be treated in the same manner as their two-legged guests.” says Kelly E. Carter, pet travel expert and founder of The Jet Set Pets website. 

But not every dog is a happy traveller. Owners need to consider if their pup’s temperament is suited for travel. Exposure also plays a role, as some pets tend to fare better if they start jet setting at a young age.

“Some dogs prefer to be with their owner, more than anything else. Monty wanted to be with us and didn’t care where we went. Leaving him behind would’ve been like leaving one of our kids,” says Wade.

More more information on Dog Days of May at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge visit:

Tips for travelling with your pet

  1. Talk to your vet as soon as you know your plans. It can takes months, sometimes up to a year for dogs to be given the appropriate protection.
  2. Call in advance to see if your hotel has size and weight restrictions for pets - many do.
  3. Speak to the hotel General Manager if your pet is over the allowance and ask if they can make an exception. If they do, confirm that in writing to present upon check-in.
  4. Consider making a YouTube video of your dog, so the hotel can see how well they behave. “Many would rather have a large, well behaved dog than a small, yappy one,” says Carter.
  5. Think about what you might do with your pet during your travels and get them used to it. If your dog has never gone into a carrier, get them accustomed to it before going on a plane.
  6. Practice no trace left behind. Take out everything you take in, including dog hair off the couch (a lint roller does the trick).
  7. Be considerate. Realize not everybody wants to sleep in a bed a dog has slept in, so bring a blanket from home to drape over the bedspread if your pooch is sleeping beside you.
  • Tips courtesy Kelly E. Carter and Dr. Daniela McLean