Yep that’s the story. Just when we thought the changes in security would affect pet travel slowly, Raja got frisked by a TSA worker in Seattle, Washington. And, nooo, it was not a friendly pat down- a guy with a sense of humor on the job who really wanted to pat the puppy.
So here’s how it went down: The traffic was very light. There was a ratio of about 20 TSA workers to 4 travelers when we went through security for a United Airlines flight from Seattle to Portland in the last week of January 2010. I helped Raja out of his airline travel bag so it could travel through the X-Ray machine while I carried Raja through the metal detectors. As we passed through, the TSA employee held up his hand for us to stop. He asked if Raja bites and if he could examine him. Raja doesn’t bite, but he’s never been given the once over by a total stranger in that way with no introductions and no friendly words. He told me to hold him out at arms’ length and then he passed his gloved hands around his neck and head, under his legs and belly and through the fur on his back.
OK, that was it… not too rough and pretty speedy, but 100% unexpected. Later I asked an idle TSA employee who had watched the scenario if this dog frisking was new. She admitted that it was totally new to her, but since the TSA employees had been asked to “step up their vigilance” and had been specifically requested to “do unexpected things” it did not surprise her.
How do I feel about dog frisking? About as enthusiastic as I feel about any of the processes of airline security. It’s not any fun, but I comply.
How does Raja feel? He’s not thinking about it now, but it creeped him out. Since he’s a small globe trotting dog, his training asks him to be both friendly and wary. Although naturally inclined to be sociable, he needs to resist being picked up by strangers because he’s no Doberman.
What’s the message for canine flyers and their people? Just as the show dogs stand quietly while the judge “frisks” them to check their conformance, all dog flyers should learn to stay calm if a TSA employee decides to do something “unexpected.”
Challenges, challenges, challenges… Mikey Hicks, Raja knows how you feel!
We just don’t know about this yet…would the introduction of full body scanners for airline travel mean pets also need to be scanned, or will Raja have to wait anxiously on the sidelines while I get scanned? Personally, I’d like to say I don’t mind being scanned, but I already mind having to take my coat, belt and shoes off and allow everything I own to go filtering through an x-ray machine while I pad through the metal detector picking up flug and dirt on my clean socks. I mean, we’re halfway undressed already, so why not just take it all off? And I mind having to pack it all up again. And I minded when we had film in our cameras and it printed out grainy because of the rays. Raja doesn’t like it all that much either, but he puts up with it better than anyone I know.
Hey, you know what else I mind. And this is picky I know. I mind that it’s OK to bring huge thick knitting needles through, but a little bottle of complementary, half-used hotel hand lotion needs to be put in a plastic bag to make it safe. And, HOW does a plastic bag make it safe?
Raja tells me I’m foaming at the mouth and might need to get my rabies shot, so I’ll table this tirade and get back to pet travel, which I suppose is why you are reading this.
We have done as much research as we possibly can to find out what full body scanners might mean for pet travelers. At present, full body scanners are reportedly on order for many international airline hubs. They are not widely in use yet and the controversy over and objection to such scanners is substantial. Airlines are not prepared to say much about use for humans, and as yet, there is no printed regulation for pets. I suspect that pets will be treated like babies and toddlers, although what that may mean is yet not clearly stated.
So, while I do not know anything about full body scanners and pets right now, I do know that, if you google “full body scanners” you can read that they will cause you to lose your memory, give birth to tarantulas and grow hair on your tongue. Readers, as soon as Raja and I know anything on this topic, we will tell you all about it, but until then, let’s just all chill. Do not stop traveling and do not leave your adventure loving pet at home. Adventures are for people and pets!
It’s not hard to find hotels, condos and B&B’s that are dog friendly in the ski town of Stowe, Vermont. There are lots of dogs trotting about Stowe all the time and the hotels have reached out to travelers who want their pets to have a nice holiday. In fact, there are so many pet friendly accommodations, that I can’t even recommend any for fear of snubbing so many great places. Google and you will find them.
During the winter, dog dining is going to be restricted since dogs do not get into restaurants and all the outdoor cafes are covered in snow. Nevertheless, a doggy who has a nice cozy condo, a warm sweater and snow boots can have a great winter vacation in Stowe.
Some dogs work in the winter season. Dog Carting (you sit in a cart and an enormous dog pulls you), Skijoring (you put on your cross country skis, get your poles, harness up a big dog or two and try to have him pull you without stabbing him or falling and being dragged) and Dog Sledding (yeah, just like the Iditarod) experiences are rentable. Everybody says the dogs love to run and run and run while pulling things. And, indeed, they may. One wonders how much snow dogs like running while pulling amateurs down paths where they may have to shimmy aside for snowmobilers. Big responsibility. I’m sure the dogs see it as a professional challenge. Raja says it can’t possibly be fun, but he’s not wired to run straight ahead forever at top speed when off leash. Obviously snow dogs are bred and born.
Stowe was established in 1763, but it was Swedish immigrants who began skiing in 1913 on Mt.Mansfield. The first formal ski trails were cut 20 years later, but they still do not go all the way to the peak. If you’re adventuresome, you can take the Gondolier from the Midway Base Lodge as far as it goes and then hike up to the peak (about 800 feet more) and ski the whole length. In summer your dog can take that hike with you, but it’s pretty harsh in winter. And speaking of “pretty”, the place is just beautiful. Less than a mile high, none of the mountain is above the tree line so all views feature lovely tall pines and glistening white birches. You probably won’t see a moose or a black bear except as the ubiquitous motif in your condo. But those are the native wildlife and one can always hope for a not-too-close encounter.
Raja liked Stowe; so did I; you will too.
“Thank You!” to our wonderful blog readers. You made this year so much fun for us. You know who you are… and we do too!
Raja and I are headed up north into the snow to check out an Atlantic Coast ski spot and we’ll tell you all about it in a couple of weeks. For now, we wish you health, happiness and peace in 2010!
If you’re reading this, it’s likely your home is your dog’s castle. Now here come the holidays and those holiday guests from out of town, so expectant and demanding, might not always cohabit harmoniously with your dog. The following are some tips to help them get along with the 4 legged family member.
- Start it off right: Introduce your dog by name to guests, telling them a bit about her and conveying her status in your house. You could say something like: “Tasha came as a rescue and she is our most recent family member. She’s part retriever and part lap dog. That’s how she’s wired. Yes, it confuses her too and we’re very proud of how she has adjusted.”
- If your dog is not encouraged to eat table food and random snacks, explain that to guests. For many, the best way to bond with a dog is to give her something she’s not supposed to eat so as to become her “special friend.” Redirect the impetus to share chocolate marshmallow cookies toward the biscuit box of permitted snacks. Say: “Tasha may have five of these a day as special treats. She’s quite the health nut.”
- If your dog is free to sleep anywhere in the house at night, you probably will have to bend on this one. It would be best for all if you would close your dog in your room so guests do not hurt her by stepping on her in the dark. (Sure, they could hurt themselves too, but this blog is about the dog.)
- Unless you have a fenced property or your dog normally goes out at will, remind guests going and coming that they must make sure not to let your dog out. Tell them you will take charge of the trips outside. And don’t trust the guests. Holidays are notorious times for short attention spans and lost pets.
- If your guests unavoidably include children who are afraid of dogs or who have not been properly trained in how to play with dogs, you really will have to take the time to help the child learn how to have fun with your pet without annoying your pet. Seriously you cannot allow them just to work it out. Seriously.
- Guests do not stay forever. Well, the good ones don’t. The difficult ones seem to lumber around for weeks and weeks. If you find a guest is not being kind to you dog, remember, this home is your castle… and hers. Speak up. Say: “We never shove our dog (or whatever) in this house. It’s not our custom and if you do it again one of the humans will bite you. Have a nacho.” Smile.
Next week Raja will feature a totally silly, but beautiful, video of Holiday Dogs in Holiday Finery and then he’ll slip up north for a bit of ice skiing so he can blog all about it when he gets back.
Sitting pretty and ready to take it on the road.
It’s time to travel back to the homestead or to the houses of friends to spend the Holidays! And Traveling with Your Dog in the Car is going to be a lot more fun if she has a special spot, safe and comfortable, where she is accustomed to sitting when on the road. Just as you would never allow a child to roam about in the car (or would you?), you probably don’t want your dog leaping between the back and front seat. Most dogs love traveling by car. Dogs are natural nomads; they want to be with their humans all day long. The car is like a house on wheels for them. Safe dog car travel has several options.
- For really calm and obedient dogs, the personal padded car seat is a comfortable choice. Seatbelted down, it elevates, cushions and soothes. Your dog can see out without standing up with paws on the window. Look how much fun agility and therapy dogs Chloe, Cara and their sister Bella have in the car. They train well and enjoy taking their special places before driving off.
- For dogs who tend to roam about the car when bored, consider a closed carrier. The carrier, for small dogs, can be either a soft sided pet airline carry-on bag or a small crate and either should be strapped to the seatbelt so it cannot move in the case of an accident or a swerve. The back center seat is the safest location.
- Larger dogs can be secured in the cargo area of a van, SUV or station wagon by the installation of a safe, strong wire mesh fence that prevents them from being launched into the seating area in the case of a sudden stop.
- Larger dogs can also use dog sea belts. Various companies manufacture padded, seat belt straps for dogs that are similar to the “Y” straps on infant car seats. None of these have proven to be entirely safe or comfortable as the straps can dig into the dog’s skin during an accident.
Obviously when driving we all should be as careful as possible and bear in mind that canine travelers cannot be secured as well as human passengers, to let’s take those turns slowly and drive defensively to avoid a quick stop and a bad accident during this happy and frantic time of the year.
Cara's ready for a safe ride to puppy school.
Raja spent last weekend in Montreal, Canada- a crystal of a city sitting on the St. Lawrence Seaway, right over the US border state of Vermont. Is Montréal, dog friendly? Not so much. Can a small dog tourist find happiness and fun in Montreal? Mais oui, bien sur!
First, Raja and I want to say that Montréal is a very old point of civilization. The Algonquin, Huron and Iroquois tribal groups variously occupied the area beginning over 8000 BP. Around 1650, French settlers founded the mission / fur trading town of Ville Marie. Friction between settlers and indigenous people subsided (along with the indigenous people) largely around 1700. Thereafter, in spite of British domination after the mid 1700’s, Montréal remained largely allied with French culture. Today French and English are spoken in Montréal, although French is somewhat preferred and Québec-ian separatism means that tourists ought to ask “Is this made in Montreal?” rather than “Is this made in Canada?”
What did Raja do on his weekend? He walked all the way down La rue Saint-Denis (located centrally in Plateau Mont Royal and positively littered with scenic architecture, cafes and boutiques) to the St. Lawrence River and then paraded along the seaway on the Promenade du Vieux-Port. He visited the Museum of Archaeology and History and saw a very fun, interactive exhibit called Pirates, Corsairs and Freebooters which runs until January 3, 2010. And he prowled the underbelly of the seaport in the museum’s underground archaeological excavation exhibits (really great!).
He was invited into a pub-restaurant, Montréal Poutine on Rue Saint-Paul (right near the Museum) serving the delicious, but hardly healthy, poutines- a Montréal dish of French Fries served with various high-cholesterol toppings. Delicious! The restaurant has a beer garden and also serves Quebec’s artisanal beers, Dieu du Ciel and Éphémère- about which we can’t say enough nice things.
While Raja stayed in a friend’s apartment, Montréal has a Marriott Residence Inn located in the glittering downtown on Peel Street that accepts pets. It would be much nicer to stay in the old part of the city near the port in one of Montréal’s many boutique hotels, and it is possible a pet could be negotiated in, especially in the month of November, the slowest tourist month of the year for this festive town.
If any readers have gone or go to Montréal, Raja and I invite you to write back in via the comments to give us some tips from your experiences in Québec.
My gift from the Pirates Exhibit- a plush ship's rat!
Curk up with a good book!
Sheryl Jean loaded her two pups, Veronica and Picadilly, into her car and took a super ambitious road trip all the way from Saskatchewan, Canada, eastward through Manitoba, and then southward through the American heartland into the Florida panhandle to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Then she drove north out of Florida and turned west, crossing the south and southwest to Los Angeles. After splashing in the Pacific Ocean, she and the pups finally turned north to drive through the Rocky Mountain corridor, recrossing the Canadian border into Alberta and returning to her home in Prince Albert. It was the Great Kahuna of doggy car travel odysseys! OK, that’s pretty fabulous as it is. What she did while traveling was visit 24 friends she had met online through the online social networking community Dogster.com. Everyone she visited had dogs, and the account of their travels heartwarmingly shows that people do represent themselves honestly through social networking sites and friendships made online are real, not virtual. Furthermore, it documents the breadth and effectiveness of Dogster.com to bring people from diverse areas together through their love of dogs. When she got home, Sheryl wrote up the story of their adventures as a children’s story cum travel tips narrative, complete with maps and real and graphed photos. She acknowledges and highlights the personalities of all the dogs Veronica and Piccadilly met, offers some tips about canine travel do’s and don’ts, comments on building dog relationships and graciously thanks all her wonderful hosts. According to Sheryl, Veronica and Piccadilly returned to Canada wiser and more sociable than they had left- highlighting the fact that dogs thrive when taken on trips with their owners, rather than worry and wait when left at home. What must they think about when they muse on their great adventure!? You can get yourself a copy of the adorably illustrated Our Road Trip Tips: Dog Travel Tips and Behaviours and link up with Sheryl and her photographs of North America with Veronica and Piccadilly by going to http://www.sheryljean.ca and following the links. Let’s all support Sheryl Jean and her nascent traveling and publishing empire with the nomadic and adaptable Veronica and Piccadilly! A word from Raja and me: we should have been in Valle De Bravo, Mexico right now seeing the Monarchs, but we got a link up to a map of Mexican drug cartel activity. Disappointing discovery: Lots of fighting and retaliating on the very road we would have to traverse. Raja and I are all for adventure travel, but our idea of an adventure doesn’t include being near the mean and the crazy. So we’re off to Montreal instead. We’re a lot less alarmed by Quebec’s separatists.
A book review of Alexandra Horowitz’s Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. (Scribner, 2009, US $27.00)
Alexandra Horowitz teaches psychology at Barnard College. Her specialization is cognitive science, the science that studies thought, and she has spent lots of time comparing human thought to that of rhinoceroses, bonobos (you know those really hip monkeys), and dogs- the hippest of all the three species.
While Horowitz has nothing but respect for dogs, she hopes to persuade us to understand that dogs do not see things as human beings do. Canine thought is different from human thought no matter how much each enjoys the other’s company. For example, dogs do not want to earn money so they can buy premium dog food. They just want to eat- anything at all and the more fetid the better. (Well, not Raja who prefers to avoid food, but he’s different.) While dogs may seem a bit indiscriminate in some areas- to us- Horowitz points out that dogs notice things we choose not to notice. And we are not referencing sensitivity to smell, sound and twilight lighting that are hallmarks of dog perception; Horowitz means that dogs notice irregularities.
“Dogs don’t stop looking- at the gimpy walk, at a rush of leaves…, at our faces. The urban dog may be bereft of natural sights, but he is rich in the odd: the drunken man swerving through a crowd, the shouting sidewalk preacher, the lame and destitute. All get long stares from dogs who pass them. What makes dogs good anthropologists is that they are so attuned to humans: they notice what is typical, and what is different. And… they don’t become inured to us, as we do- nor do they grow up to be us.” (163)
Thus, dogs come to know us and they anticipate us- giving us that eerie and wonderful feeling that our dogs see more layers of the world than we do. (Yes, Raja, I know it’s true, you do. You so do.)
My favorite parts of the book begin on page 241, “What It Is Like” to be a dog. I enjoy the way Horowitz reminds us that dogs do not see at our level and that they do not see or interact with what does not relate to them- which explains how much dogs enjoy the smelly, swirly, tactile world they know intimately near the ground- a world we keep our noses out of.
What I would like to see Horowitz address in her next books would be the companion socialization of small dogs specifically. While I have been schooled not to say “Raja loves to go on the airplane,” nothing he does suggests he’s not wildly happy to go on a plane ride. Yes, I know that’s the genetic encoding for ultimate companion dog taking over in all unusual and un-canine activities- but I’d like to hear what a psychologist might say about how companion dog wiring and general dog wiring interact.
And I’d like to read a little more science. Horowitz’s “Notes and Sources” yield lots of primary materials I want to read, but unpacking more science in her works for non-academic readers would help her, even more, to reveal the intriguing, logical and emotional, cognition of dogs. Raja and I recommend you read this thoughtful, respectful, dog-loving book.