Travel with Raja, pet travel advice, airplane travel tips, travel with my dog, how do I travel with my pet, Raja, shitzu, dogs
If your dog eats dry kibble, you can load up a bag and go to the moon with him- no problem.  If your dog eats canned food, well, just ship those cans forward to your hotel in Belize, and you’ve got dinner.  For most national brands, when traveling nationally, you can simply buy them at your destination. But what about the picky eaters, the eaters of home cooked food, the dogs who need it hot out of a pot, the dogs who think kibble’s just a little pile of rocks?  And what do you do when puppy’s tummy growls and Shanghai’s version of Alpo scares you? 

Well, may I ask, where do you eat when you travel?  If you eat in a bistro, hamburger (no bun) and the veggie of the day (no corn) will work.  Cut and mash to get a good texture.  If you eat in a fancy restaurant, order a little bit extra so pup can have a really good doggie bag.  If you eat street food… well… have mercy and order your dog something better as take out from a restaurant.  No greasy street meats for traveling canines, unless you want to ruin the trip for everybody.  (Your choice.)  And if your furry friend gets Delhi-belly, go to a real diner counter where they cook for you and order plain cooked hamburger and rice and mix them carefully.  

Peruse the hotel and restaurant “childrens menus” for small dogs.  Children like bland food that is not highly seasoned or sauced.  So do dogs.  Children’s chicken and rice makes a great meal for a small dog and you can be fairly confident that the ingredients are carefully selected.

Sometimes sympathetic restaurateurs will offer your dog leftovers from people’s plates free of charge.  It’s a kind and money-saving gesture, but if you wouldn’t eat food off the plates of strangers, perhaps your dog doesn’t want to either.   

Between destinations in developed countries, take advantage of the toddler foods you can buy in supermarkets.  Gerber Graduates “meat sticks” are one of Raja’s favorite travel snacks and the Gerber toddler beef and chicken stews were his main meals in Chile. 

I don’t know what or how others feed their dogs, but at home Raja eats a pretty healthy, lean and saltless home cook (see recipes tab) and the timings and quantities are pretty consistent.  But he’s not all that much a creature of habit.  When he’s on the road, like his family, he enjoys and accepts changes in routine.  It’s not a big problem because, in a week or so, he’s back home eating the good stuff.  The travel trick is to keep it simple, low salt, low spice, low grease and balance the meat, veggies and starches.   

International foods any dog would like: Puerto Rican Asopao de Pollo, French left bank shish kebab and couscous (OK it’s Algerian French); Italian anything; Swissrösti mixed with a little beef or chicken, Moroccan lamb tangine with squash. 

Always take a travel supply of tummy meds from your vet, just in case.  If you run out, you may use children’s Pepto Bismol and children’s Imodium to calm an overactive digestive system.  Let’s hope you don’t need them.  Forget them in your luggage, and, yes, you will.  

(Still working on Mexico and seeing how Raja feels about mole poblano.)

One reason I’m writing about planning for this Mexico trip is to demonstrate that dog travel to remote places can’t be undertaken casually.  For example, if we were going to, say… perhaps Asasp-Arros in France, even though it’s a little off the beaten track, I would just pick Raja up and go, because France loves dogs and France is predictable for dog travelers.  Oh sure there are surprises, like the surprise of discovering that, while dogs in Paris are not allowed in the small parks that dot the city (tisk tisk “pas de chiens”), people actually will also tisk tisk when you pick your dog’s little messes up off the sidewalk in a sac papier.  Well, that’s what the Parisians have those little green men in jumpsuits for… but basically France and dogs go together like… um… milk and cookies. 

And that may also be true of Mexico and dogs, but consider the information I have gathered this week: 

The Mexican Consulate in New York simply does not answer the telephone.  Never.  Ditto the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC.  Nobody picks up after multiple, mesmerizing rings.  So who knows if we need rabies documentation only, or if we need Raja’s AKC registration and paw print? 

An expert in butterflies from the Toronto, Canada Wings of Paradise Butterfly Sanctuary says the following:  The hike to the El Rosario Sanctuary is at 10,000 feet.  You will possibly faint on the way.  You will not be able to carry your dog if he gets tired walking the four miles because, at that altitude, the weight is unbearable.  At the gates to the sanctuary, armed guards with machine guns will be likely to stop you and your canine.  They take their butterflies seriously in Valle de Brava.  (Some people worry a great deal and are likely to need a fitness program.)  (I’m just saying…) 

A businesswoman in Mexico City tells me that the Sanctuary in El Rosario is a family friendly place and, if we buy a ticket for Raja, nobody will mind his seeing the Monarchs. 

A series of vacation web sites indicate that very ordinary looking people have gotten to El Rosario without fainting or being machine gunned.  And so it goes. 

Why am I even concerned?  Here’s why… Places used to dog travel are very urbane about Fluffy in the Musée National.  In places less doggy, without knowing the rules and rights, one is subject to petty tyrants- like that horrid man who saw Raja sleeping in his travel bag in Marrakech, Morocco and refused to let us in the St. Laurent Gardens, even though it was clear that Raja’s paws would never touch the ground.  So I want to know what I can do and what the system demands. 

I’m not irritated yet.  Complaining about how to get Raja to the mountains of Valle de Brava is a true luxury…. Which brings me to my main point this post:  My friend Claudine cannot afford the residual costs of her ampullary cancer treatments.  She spent her last dime on a misinformed doctor who mistreated her problem with debilitating radiation and chemo and then dropped her hopelessly with the statement, “I guess this is God’s will.”  If you have the inclination and an extra few dollars, please follow this link, read and help her out a bit if you can. 

May all our butterfly dreams come true and, sincerely, may all sentient beings attain happiness.

Every October through March the upland forests of the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly reserve in Michoacán Mexico are filled with Monarch butterflies that have flown all the way from Canada and other locations in the US to winter over in Mexico.  Who knows why?  Who knows how?  Every fourth generation makes this trip.  What does this say about the amazing inner clocks and instinctual migratory impulses of the Monarch? 

Raja and I want to see them first hand and we are planning a trip there in late October.  We will fly to Mexico City, take the road to the west to Angangueo, stay in a small hotel    heated by sunshine and fireplace, and hike up to the mountain valleys where butterflies fly about in the warm mid-day sun.

I admit, we were worried about this trip at first with all the bad news from Mexico- crime, a flu pandemic and reports of dodgy police.  But, after the panic, one observes that the sky indeed is not falling- certainly not at Cancún or Acapulco where the piñacolada tourists are flopped all over the beaches, nor is it falling on the butterflies.  And- lucky us- Mexican friends have shed some sanity on the panic of TV reportage. 

Raja has been all over the narrow, dark alleys and stuffy souks of Morocco and through downtown Santiago, Chile to the places where the guidebooks say the pick pockets go to work.  Nothing whatsoever has happened- which is not to boast that we are unstoppable, or to suggest that crime does not happen and viruses do not exist.  But the point is that areas where there are warnings are often less alarming in real life, than they are when we imagine what might hypothetically happen.  And, as we have so often observed first hand, TV news reportage takes advantage of its opportunities to sensationalize and multiply negative numbers.

Right now, Michoacán’s Winter monarchs of 2009 are in flower gardens and fields in North America and they are already beginning to feel the stirrings of a need to fly south.  And Raja and I do too.  Just keeping you in our loop! 

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Boone and Kenzie are two Scotties that have enjoyed getting out and seeing the world.  They've been to Europe twice, Canada once and across the US, from Seattle to Miami, down to Los Angeles and up to Boston.  They enjoy taking photographs of where they've been and sharing those photos with the world. Raja takes over the blog this week by interviewing them in an exposé that is up front and personal.  Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, scooch over and pass Raja the mic. 

Raja:  I have never met doggies who have traveled as much as I have and I am fascinated to chat with Boone and Kenzie, 9 and 6 year old Scotties from Washington State. 

Boone, you’re two years older than Kenzie.  Before she came along, did you have any solitary adventures or did all the fun begin when you teamed up? 

Boone:  I never had the chance to travel outside of Washington until Kenzie came along.  There were short trips made to parts of Washington, but nothing that compares to what we've done since she came along. 

Raja:  Kenzie, I have read that Boone steals your toys.  Is he more cooperative when you are on the road?  Your travel videos make you look pretty simpatico.

Kenzie:  Boone and I really are a great team on the road.  There's a lot less time to focus on toys on our trips and so much to see that we're really just paying attention to the world around us.  We do well to point out sights, sounds and other animals to each other when we're on the road.  I especially loved seeing cows during our train trips through Europe and made sure Boone was well aware when they'd appear. 

Raja: Boone and Kenzie, let’s begin to discuss your travels from the concept up.  Many human beings leave dogs at home when they travel, shocking as it seems. (Kenzie, here’s a cold compress.)  What are your thoughts on the benefits of pet travel? 

Boone & Kenzie:  The benefits of traveling with pets are that you get to meet people along the way you'd never have met because, for a human, having a dog with you is the perfect icebreaker.  Having two however, and them being Black and White (a popular Scotch) draws even more attention and comments from all sorts of people. 

People would stop us that didn't speak any English and attempt work through a translation book just to say hi and comment on u s when, normally, they'd never bother. 

Raja:  I agree.  We are Diplomats of Global Social Exchange.  Boone, you weigh 20 lbs. and Kenzie, well, you are obviously a fashion model, but Scotties are not tiny dogs.  Are you comfortable on the plane and where do you ride- in cabin under the seat or in baggage transport. 

Boone & Kenzie: We're usually quite comfortable on planes and have only been in our bags under seats in the cabin.  We tend to get some attention and affection throughout the flight and even get to pop our heads out when the stewardess isn't looking.  We heard a story of a dog one time making it into the cockpit after getting out, so some people tend to be more strict than others regarding that. 

Raja: Kenzie, do you have any tips for us about how you pass the time whilst in the air? 

Kenzie: Sleep.  That's about all there is to do, but once in a while it's good to wake up and get some attention and affection. 

Raja: Me too- and I have been known to snore.  Moving on… Boone, France or Italy, which do you prefer?  I mean, France loves dogs and Italy, well you can’t get a bad meal if you sit up and beg?  Your thoughts… 

Boone: We spent a lot more time in Italy and really enjoyed it there.  We were allowed to frequent restaurants in both countries, which was very nice.  At Charlie Brown's in Milan Italy, we went a few times and they absolutely loved having us there.  We'd go back every night if it were possible. 

Raja:  Kenzie I noticed in your video that you like to window shop.  Do you ever get the chance to spend your own Euros and what is the best thing you have been able to purchase overseas?  

Kenzie:  We had the perfect chance while in the fashion capitol of the world, Milan.  We stopped by a store on the way to the city center and grabbed a couple of Italian leather collars with silver Scotties on them.  My collar is pink of course! 

Raja:  Kenzie and Boone, speaking practically- how was it entering the UK?  The quarantine is over but what kind of scrutiny, medical, physical and documental did you face- if any?   

Boone & Kenzie: For entering the UK we had to plan over 6 months in advance, pass all the blood work and paperwork through to the proper authorities and get it all signed and documented.  However we were delayed in entering the country a day because we needed to get another shot between 24 and 48 hours before entering the country, so we had an extra night stay in Calais France. 

After that, we were forced to stay down by the cars on the ferry ride over, but we at least were able to get visitors during the short trip.  Overall, it wasn't too bad of an experience, just a bit of a pain to prepare for. 

Raja: (Did you get actually to be at Stonehenge (so many upright things to pee on!!), or did you have to stay behind the cyclone fence?) 

Kenzie:  We weren't allowed to visit Stonehenge as close as humans do, the best we could do was see it from behind the fence next to the road. 

Raja:  Boone, we notice you and Kenzie like to swim.  Did anybody say anything when you decided to take a dip in the reflection pool outside the Louvre, and may we assume dogs are allowed on the beach in Isla de Cristina, Spain or did you just run pell mell into the sea “catch me if you can” style?  

Boone:  Nobody said a word as we dipped our toes into the Louvre, it was hot that day, so it would've been hard to expect otherwise from us.  As for Isla de Cristina, there were no signs saying otherwise, so we enjoyed our first free run at the beach while in Europe.  It was quite liberating. 

Raja:  Kenzie, how about your experiences in the American West…. Was Old Faithful as impressive as you expected, and did looking into the Grand Canyon make you as dizzy as it did me? 

Kenzie:  Old Faithful was pretty underwhelming.  Unseen in the photos and video was the cloud of gases from the geyser that passed by us as we stood there.  The rest of the crowd dispersed immediately, but we didn't have time to move. 

The Grand Canyon was an amazing sight, I bet it'd be even more amazing being down inside of it. 

Raja:  Boone, my impression of your adventures is that curiosity, charm, audacity and the element of surprise have gotten you through your fabulous photo ops.  Do you have any how-to advice for dogs who want to be seen in famous places? 

Boone:  My recommendations for taking photos are practice, treats and practice.  It took two people to take our photos, one to set us up properly and the other to take photos.  Holding the treats (really just our every day dog food) above the camera gave us a good idea of where to look too.  After that, it's up to your imagination how you want to be seen in all those places. 

Raja:  Boone and Kenzie, you two have been wonderful.  In wrapping up I hope you won’t mind if I refer to the unfortunate bobble meeting Barney, White House Dog of the past administration.  Surely that selfish gatekeeper who threw cold water on your plans is no longer there.  Are you game to try again- do you have any plans to try to shake the paw of Bo Obama?      

Boone & Kenzie:  While it'd be nice to meet Miss Beazley and Barney, even if they're not in the White House any more, I'm sure we'd jump at the chance to meeting any President for a photo op.  It'd be nice to add to our collection if nothing else, but it'd also be quite an honor. 

Raja:  Thanks Boone and Kenzie.  Clearly you take all your adventures in stride.  I can tell you’re unflappable no matter what comes your way!  I will be following your travels of the future. 

Readers if you want to learn more about Boone and Kenzie and see their fabulous videos and slide shows, check out their website at: 

Sean is a writer’s representative, outdoorsman, and, most importantly, dog man.  Please check out his really, really good book review site, “Libri Vir - Book Reviews for the Masses” for books you truly will want to read @:  

A few weeks ago, Helen kindly asked me to take a guest blog spot on her wonderful website. While I don't remember exactly how I said yes, I do know the deadline is lurking and I am on the wrong side of having it done. Without further ado, let me tell you about our day trip to Black Butte here in Central Oregon this last Sunday. 

Helen writes about all of the amazing places she has gone with Raja. I am jealous. You see, I have a weimaraner. Having a weimaraner means when you are not with them, someone else is. Humans must always be watching the nefarious pale eyes of this cunning breed. Otherwise your couch, carpet, or favorite shoe is sure to suffer. So the truth is while my sweet girl has seen a lot, it is mostly indicative of a whole lot of time in the car to get there. It reminds me of a funny quip by Dave Barry (low-brow humor at its finest), "Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear." Bella holds true to that standard. 

The reality is, Bella is a trail dog. She would rather be walking straight up a narrow cliff than she would just about anything else. My fiancé and I decided last week we would drive over to Black Butte and hike to the top. While our handy guide book, Canine Oregon - Where to Play and Stay with Your Dog said it was a difficult hike, we felt up to the challenge. 

Holly woke about 5:30. This is notable for two reasons. Holly NEVER wakes up early and the alarm was not destined to ring for an additional 2 hours. Regardless of any words I had to say to the contrary, she was up and was waiting for me to follow. I had loaded my backpack the previous evening so after a quick breakfast (for humans and pooch alike) we were on the road. 

Black Butte is about 6 miles west of Sisters, Oregon on Highway 20 (and some good and not so good forest roads from there). Geology tells us that it is an extinct cinder cone volcano that has not erupted in 1.4 million years. For the casual passer-by, it just looks like a giant black cone. It was to be our climbing muse for the day. As we gradually made our way to the trailhead, Bella was in the backseat alert and ready. With her sixth dog sense she somehow always knows when we near the parking spot as her whines will gradually start building in tempo as we get closer. By the time we arrive at our destination most trips, I am in desperate need of ear plugs. 

We pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead a little after 8am. Much to my surprise there were several other vehicles already waiting. After loading up on water, we headed on our way. Up. Our path lead us through the shade and comfort of the ponderosa pine for about the first mile. Eventually we broke free from the timberline and had expansive views of the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson and too many other mountains to name. Bella dutifully lead the way. At this point I must also add that when in the outdoors, we follow the rules. While I think it may be stupid to come all the way out into pristine nature only to leave my dog on her leash, I do it. It is the rule of most trails. Sadly many people don't and it makes me have to be far more cautious because of it. 

We continued to plod our way up to the top. Black Butte has been an active fire watch since the early part of the 20th Century. It is still occupied as such today. We knew we were close when we could finally see the tower looming above us. As we finally crested the top of this beautiful mountain we found some of the last remnants of winter snow. 

We had arrived! It was time for water and snacks for all! Holly and I munched on trail mix and Sharkies (okay, Bella had some Sharkies too) while Bella had her fill of water and dog snacks. We spent around 45 minutes on the summit drinking in the amazing scenery. The human part of our equation was feeling a little tired but our canine master wanted to explore everything she could sniff out up on top. We were able to grab one group photo of our intrepid little team (see lead photo up top). 

We slowly began our decent back toward the car. All the hard work it took to get up to the top seemed to drift from memory as our lazy legs lurched down the steep decline. We made it back to the trailhead in about a quarter of the time it took to make it up. Even Bella seemed a little tired after our break-neck trip down the mountain. 

After knocking the dust of our legs and refreshing with some more water (your pup can never have too much water) we decided that a celebratory lunch was in order. Holly, Bella and I loaded back into the car and headed back toward Camp Sherman- arguably one of the best spots in the entire United States to stop off for a quick riverside lunch on the Metolius River. 

We shared a fantastic lunch watching the river roll by us. Bella got to say hi to several new dog friends that walked by (although she seemed more focused on our food). Once we had our fill, we drove down the river a bit so we could get our toes and paws wet and remove some of the dust thus far accumulated. 

With full bellies and freshly clean feet we pointed the car toward home and started making our way back. There is a comfortable soreness that follows a good hike. Your body telling you that while yes you may sit at that desk during the week, it still craves some rigorous use on the weekends and thanks you for it. As we neared home we looked back to see thunderstorms were now covering our recently vacated vantage point. Holly snapped a photo while Bella slept in the backseat in complete peace like only a dog can. It was a good day for all. 

Sean, Holly and Bella, deepest thanks from Raja and me for sharing your beautiful day with us.  Oregon, dog travelers, is the place to go for mad adventure out and about!  Next week, please check back to read Raja’s interview with two traveling Scotties for whom access is "pas de problem."  They’ve been to Universal Studios and to London to see the Queen (well they saw the Beefeater Guards!) and everywhere else in between. 

finding a patch of summer snow!
It's beautiful at the top with Holly and Bella.
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    Helen  feels most comfortable in places where she doesn't speak the language; she  likes to do almost everything, except hunt and watch TV sports. 
     Raja is a Shih Tzu.  Directly descended from the Mongolian wolf, Raja is hardy and loves to roam with his pack.  Tamed in the monasteries of Tibet, he takes the long view.  Finished in the palaces of 16th century China, he is elegant.  Rescued from China by the artistocrats of Europe, he is a ham.


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