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In the fall of 2001, as a 20-year-old at the University of Texas I decided it was time to adopt a scared and skinny red and white husky from the local animal shelter. Seriously, I have no clue how a college student thought adopting a dog (eventually two) was smart, but I did it anyway. And those two crazy huskies were my companions in college, through boyfriends, through moves, through my first job, through meeting my husband and starting a family, and everything in-between. Eventually we were down to just one dog, the first one, my little husky girl.
Likely because of whatever she went through before I got her, she never grew to love everyone and everything, but she loved me, and I loved her.
Pets add a whole new layer to travel, as you can’t just head out the door without planning for them. This isn’t the same level of planning you have with children, but there are some similar logistics you have to account for. Our husky used to go to doggie daycare and cage free boarding when we traveled. That was sort of expensive, but pretty simple and straight-forward. Then she started staying with my parents, or even coming with us on a few car trips as she was getting a bit too old to keep up with the other dogs at boarding. Then last year we eventually had to get some in-home care for her when we were out of town. I have a post on tips for traveling with older dogs here.
Every pet owner knows that one day will be the day, and our furry friends will no longer be with us. Pet parents of elderly animals are even more acutely aware of that reality. As the mom of a 15+ year old dog, I am very aware of that reality.
Leaving her behind while we go out of town has gotten very challenging. She can’t “hold it” through the night, has accidents sometimes, and consequently needs more care and patience than just a walk and a fresh bowl of food each day. In fact, even transporting her has gotten basically impossible. But, she’s my girl, she has good days, gets excited about certain things, and we have made it work. If all this sounds sort of terrible, remember that every feisty young dog that’s lucky will grow to be an old dog, and their owners will face these challenges with them.
Today we are again on the eve of a trip, and the dog is not doing well. Whether from an acute injury from running when she shouldn’t have, or a sign that her body is giving out, she’s suddenly having a hard time using her back legs very well. There will be out-of-town grandparents here in the house while we are gone, but her needs are now probably a little above what can be realistically expected of those not as enamored and devoted to her as I am.
A vet will come to the house today, and we’ll see if some meds are worth a shot in the event she has tweaked something. I’m not overly optimistic, but as long as she seems to still be trying, I’m trying with her. When she is done, I’ll be done, too. Having a flight looming in the morning makes it all the more difficult to make the best decision for your elderly dog in need. If you have pets and travel with some regularity, there is a decent chance that a situation like this can occur at some point for your family.
It’s not easy. It’s not fun. It sucks. I don’t have the answers for what to do when a pet is ill on the eve of a trip that you can’t really change, but I am here to share our story so you know you’re not the first to make hard decisions for your furry friend knowing you will be away for a few days.
Those not quite as dog enamored as I am could easily say put the darn old dog to sleep and relieve the burden she’s putting on everyone. Then, just hop on your flight and relax on the beach. We may not be far off from that ultimate decision, but certainly not for those reasons.
Pets are members of our family, and we don’t take their ailments lightly. The timing of a pet’s illness or injury with an out-of-town trip that will take the owners away for a few days is a real challenge. We are lucky that we do have a couple of options for her, but none of them will be perfect, and she will certainly be on my mind while we are gone.
Has your family ever been traveling when a pet was sick?