If pets were eligible for frequent flier miles, Montecristo, a long-haired Chihuahua who lives life “eight inches off the ground” would probably qualify for a free flight around the globe. The 6-year-old pup even has his own travel blog, which provides dog owners with pet-friendly locations, transportation and accommodations, along with tips, tricks and advice.
It all began when Monte, as he is called by his friends, first traveled with his owners Sonja Lishchynski and Stefan Dumas from their Ottawa, Canada home to visit a relative in Naples, Florida.
“I looked into flying with Monte and the paperwork needed to cross the Canada-US border. I discovered that it wasn’t as big a deal as I had thought,” says Lishchynski. “After returning, friends with small dogs bombarded me with questions. I created [the blog] in order to debunk the myths around traveling with a dog, settle beginners’ fears and show the naysayers that it can be done and fun!”
However, good travel dogs aren’t born. They are trained. Monte understands the commands “quiet” and “indoor voice” better than most children.
“Each dog has his or her own personality. What you are really looking for is temperament,” Lishchynski says. “Chihuahuas tend to be rather fearless little dogs which makes them a fantastic choice. However, I have met Chihuahuas who are too high strung to travel well. Lots of training would be required.”
The most important command? Stay. “This halts him in his tracks instantly. It has saved his tiny butt more times than I can count,” she says.
Rather than being a liability, traveling with a dog can be an asset.
“Monte is, hands down, the best ice breaker ever,” Lishchynski says. “People assume we are locals, not tourists, because we have a pet. We even got invited to a stranger’s wedding because the bride just had to have Monte there.”
A couple who joined Monte and his owners in the South of France vouched for his good manners and popularity.
“We had no idea how much fun it could be to have a dog along on a trip until we spent ten days with Montecristo,” says Roanne Moktar. “Everywhere we went, he became the center of attention.”
Monte’s favorite European destinations? Florence, the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia and Switzerland. “I hear very good things about Peru, Costa Rica and South Korea being pet friendly, so they are on our list,” she says.
Whenever Monte travels, he has an emergency first aid kit put together by his veterinarian.
“We have yet to use it,” Lishchynski says. “But it is nice to have. Our vet has showed us how to induce vomiting in case Monte swallows something he shouldn’t, how to splint his leg if need be and we always have a generic eye and ear drop for infection.”
Here are some addition travel tips Lishchynski and Monte swear by:
Find the right carrier: choose an easy-to-open but escape proof, sturdy carrier, no larger than 17 x 12.5 x 8 inches, with a leak-proof bottom and mesh ventilation on both sides. It must be crushproof and have at least one outside compartment. Monte’s carrier collapses into a flat envelope.
Carry on your essentials: pack one leash, one harness/collar, an ID tag with phone number, one toy, medication (if needed), pee pads, poop bags, small sealed food container and a collapsible water bowl. Do not give your dog tap water on the airplane. It is not safe for humans or animals. And remember, your carrier counts as one of the two carry-on bags you are allowed.
Include time for walks: feed your dog and give him a long walk until he has a bowel movement before you leave and walk your dog again before entering the airport.
Don’t forget your health certificate: carry the original certificate with several photocopies with you at all times.
Do not use ticket kiosk: always check-in at the main desk and do not panic if they cannot find your pet’s reservation. This happens! Just hold your ground.
Once onboard, be considerate: advise passengers sitting next that you are traveling with a dog in case they have allergies or fears. Offer to change your seat if necessary and, if possible avoid sitting next to infants and children (any crying or loud voices may upset your dog).
Images via: Montecristo Travels