I got the opportunity to interview my friend Mimy about traveling with her puppy Zazu.
How many flights has Zazu been on?
Zazu has been on:
Alaska Trip = 4 planes
Tampa – Dallas
Dallas – Anchorage
Anchorage – Dallas
Dallas – Tampa
Move to Spain = 2 planes
Miami – Dallas
Dallas – Madrid
Christmas Trip to Miami = 2 planes
Madrid – Miami
Miami – Madrid
So, in total we have done 3 trips with Zazu but a total of 7 flights (plane rides). In Alaska we also did a lot of long car rides because we did a road trip from the south to the north and back.
Any recommendations on how to get the paperwork for your dog to be an emotional support animal?
The paperwork is quite easy to get, but I believe US travel regulations with Emotional Support Dogs (ESA) have been withdrawn because of the overuse of people for this. The only thing you need to define your dog as an ESA is have your psychologist, psychiatrist or family doctor write a formal letter (valid for 1 year) stating why you need a dog as an emotional support animal with your diagnosis and how they help.
However from what I have read, since December ESA will no longer be able to travel for free in the cabin with you. Small dogs (less than 8kg including carrier – for most airlines) will be allowed to fly for a fee, and larger dogs will be required to fly in cargo. Only Service Animals will be allowed to fly for free in the cabin with their owners.
*Just being responsible, I would urge anyone trying to move around this term not to pretend their dog is a service animal when they are truly not (look online at the difference between an ESA and a Service Animal) since you will harm people who require these companions for daily tasks in the future.*
Also, the US is (or was) the last country accepting ESA in cabins for free; in Europe, you have to pay a fee and comply with weight regulations. We plan on flying with Zazu in Europe soon, so once we go over the process, we can say more about this experience first-hand!
When you packed for Zazu, what did you think was essential not to forget to bring?
For the first flight, I definitely overpacked, so from our experience, the essential list to pack will be the following.
Leash and collar or harness
Tags with updated phone information, microchip, rabies info
Paperwork (rabies, travel certificate) really recommend the Pet Pass for US dogs
Wipes for your dog, disinfecting wipes in case he pees
Whistle Fit to track his activity
Blankie and/or comfort toy with smells they recognize (Zazu has his white blankie and tiger for all flights) try to make sure this toy or anything you pack does not squeak or rattle since it may disturb other passengers
A chew they like (we took a bamboo chew and an antler)
Water bottle dispenser we use this one we found on amazon because the water leftover goes back in, so it’s easier when you’re on the plane
Retractable food bowl and a portion of food depending on how long your flight is (ours were always more than 12+ hour trips)
DOG DIPPERS are a MUST (Zazu has been potty trained since he was three months old, but on our first flight (only 2 hours long), we assume it was the nerves or something, he peed twice on top of grandpaw, so ever since I always put male dippers on Zazu just in case. He has never truly used them and pees as soon as I take the diaper off when we land and are walking in the airport but better safe than sorry)
Pee Mats – not all airports have pet relief areas (and most pet relief areas are gross, some are clean, but most are gross), so having a pee mat can be of use when they try to pee anywhere in the airport.
In your luggage for the trip
Food for the whole trip (Changing your dog’s food abruptly is not recommended, so make sure you take enough for the entire trip and a bit extra)
Treats – Just so that they have some if they pose for pictures or just because
Toys that are easy to take – we always like to take toys Zazu likes that can let him play around in the hotel, Airbnb, or wherever we are.
Weather appropriate clothes – When we went to Alaska, I checked the temperature and made sure to take layers for Zazu just like I did for myself, so we took
Django Reversible Puffer - https://djangobrand.com/collections/dog-coats/products/the-puffer-cold-weather-dog-coat-lava-red
Yellow Hoodie (we got it from amazon, but I can’t find the link) but Django has AMAZING hoodies - https://djangobrand.com/collections/dog-hoodies/products/the-dog-hoodie-forest-green
Dog microfiber towel: Learnt this the hard way when we had to improvise bath for Zazu after he rolled around in the mud.
A small portion of dog shampoo – in case of emergencies (we had to buy baby Johnson and Johnson shampoo in the middle of nowhere in Alaska)
Extra set of leash and harness in case it gets wet.
Dog seatbelt if you’re going to do a road trip
What did the airline require from you to fly with Zazu?
All airlines require a vet certificate validated by the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) – This can only be done 10 days before your trip!
**Always check if your destination has specific requirements; Alaska required our vet to send them the health certificate copy directly and us taking another physical copy
Then most of them have simple forms you can fill out and send at least 48 hours before the flight (I always do it as soon as I can). They ask for flight information, age, breed, chip, etc.
How complicated was it going through security with a dog?
Super easy, the only difference of going through without a dog is that you have to take their collar and harness off and carry them through the machine with you. And then they swipe the paper through your hands to check for some residue, and when it’s cleared, you’re through.
Do you suggest bringing your pet in a carrier?
Yes, in my Alaska flight we didn’t and to the move in Madrid either but when things get chaotic in the airport it’s easier to just whisk your dog up and put them in their carrier, especially if they consider it a safe space like Zazu does (he goes in without being told as soon as I open it). This is the one we use:
At the airports, you have been to, have you seen spots for dogs to use the bathroom?
Yes, they’re called pet relief areas. MIA doesn’t have one (that I could find); DFW had some (one was gross, and the other one was kind of nice). ANC didn’t have one inside, but as soon as you get out, there is a lot of green space, and Barajas (Madrid) doesn’t have one.
That’s why I always recommend taking the dippers and pee mats. Also, NEVER take them out in front of Miami Security Personnel, Zazu peed in front of one on Christmas, and he was super rude even though Zazu peed inside the diaper and not on the floor.
I know your dog is small, but do you recommend purchasing more legroom for your ticket? Do they allow you to have your dog on your lap or does the dog have to stay on the floor?
I always recommend purchasing more legroom (if you can afford it) since it will be more comfortable for both you and your dog. Usually if they are not service animals or ESA, they should stay in their carrier at all times. But in my experience, it depends on the aircrew if they are flexible with dogs or not, if the flight is full or not. Since we have only flown during the pandemic with Zazu, most flights were quite empty, and the crews in American and Iberia were nice and didn’t have an issue with Zazu being in my lap or on the seat next to me on top of his blanket the whole flight.
Since you have taken long flights, do you give Zazu water during the flight?
I do give Zazu food and water during my flights, even the short ones, because he is good at holding his pee, and we had the extra precaution of the dipper. I get dehydrated during flights, so I try to offer water to Zazu too; sometimes he drinks sometimes he doesn’t, so he does him quite well.
Any other tips and tricks that you can think of?
I have never really given anything to Zazu to make him sleepy, but if the dog is very hyper or tends to bark to unknown things I would recommend talking to your vet about giving him a small dose of Benadryl for the flight to be easier for both.
The take-off and landing are the scariest parts for them so try to pet them to calm them down and distract them. Putting your feet under the carrier reduces the vibrations they sense from the plane. And you can use a plane blanket to keep them warm since the floor is colder than the seats.
Always call the airline and let them know you’re taking your dog as soon as you book your flight because they have a limited number of dogs allowed on the plane.
Always call the hotels and Airbnb’s and make sure they’re pet friendly and get informed if they have extra fees (which they usually do) so there are no surprises when you get there.
If you’re taking your dog, make sure to have activities they can also enjoy, like hiking, water-related activities, etc. If not, it would be better to leave them home! Zazu went everywhere with us in Alaska and still does here in Madrid. It depends on the type of trip you’re taking.
When you went to Alaska, I know you left Zazu with someone; how did you find that company or what kind of arrangements do you make prior to traveling with Zazu?
We used Rover and Facebook to find safe places to leave Zazu for the activities he couldn’t go with us. We made sure to read the reviews, look at pictures and message the caretakers to ensure Zazu was in good hands. We were quite happy with everyone we found along the way and will be doing the same when we travel around Europe with him!
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