Monday, December 2, 2013

Our Vacation without Dogs

I rarely go on vacation. We tend, instead, to take short weekend trips or visit friends and family, where we can bring along the dogs. But that isn't always possible.  A few weeks ago we took a long-anticipated vacation to Walt Disney World.

What? A vacation photo without dogs in it?!

And because someone (who will remain nameless!) is afraid to fly, we took a 24 hour train ride.

Here's the train pulling into the station in Florida.

And dogs aren't allowed on Amtrak at this point. So we had to make arrangements for Kelly and Ike. Here's what it took:

1. Our son moved back home for the week to be here for the dogs after work and overnight.
2. We hired a pet sitting service to walk the dogs once a day, while our son was at work.
3. Gramma came over once a day for another opportunity to let the dogs out and give them some attention.

We also had our new pet cam, which we've been testing for Samsung, and could check in on the dogs via our smartphones.

Hi Ike!

It wasn't easy for me to feel comfortable leaving the dogs in other people's care. I work from home so they are used to me being around all day. We have a routine. Would someone else let them outside as often as I do? Would they understand the dogs' subtle signals? Would the dogs get sick while I was away? But I know they love my son and that he'd give them lots of attention. And I felt good that they'd be getting a nice mid-day walk. And Gramma would give lots of TLC (and a few doggie treats.) So we went off on our big trip, sans dogs.

The first day we checked in on our webcam quite a bit. Mainly because we were sitting on a train with nothing better to do. The dogs were lying around like usual, so all was good. The rest of the trip we checked in just once or twice a day. lol.  Our pet sitters were supposed to text us a message and a picture every day, but they only texted a picture the first day and a message twice the whole week. I was disappointed in that. But I trusted that the dogs were getting a nice walk and that was what was most important. Phone calls to our son told us that the dogs were eating well, and seemed happy and healthy. Kelly mostly curled up in her favorite spots, and Ike cuddled with our son and pretty much didn't leave his side.

We were able to enjoy our vacation without worrying about the dogs, and when we returned they were excited to see us, and seemed to have done just fine. phew!

On a side note, I noticed several service dogs both on the train, and in Walt Disney World. I've read that there is some abuse of the "service dog" designation but I am not qualified to judge if these were real service dogs or someone bringing along their pet. I always thought it would be great to travel with my dogs on the train. We had a little sleeping compartment and, although it was tight, we could have added a dog or two! Of course, it's a long trip and getting dogs out for a break when needed wouldn't have been easy--except for the times when the train made a long station stop. Then it would have been possible to run them out for a quick walk. That is something that would have to be researched in advance, to know how long apart the stops were and how much time there would be to take a walk. I'd also want to be sure it was a situation that would be pleasant for the dogs, rather than stressful.

This is what our little train bedroom looked like. Can you imagine Kelly and Ike in here with us?

Some dogs might enjoy being in Walt Disney World, while others would find it overwhelming. Even in November when crowds were low, there were still lots of people. The weather was pretty good for dogs (and people), but in the summer I would think the dogs would need booties to protect their paws from the hot pavement. According to the website, "trained service animals are welcome in most areas of Walt Disney World." Some of the attractions that service dogs are restricted from are:
Splash Mountain
Space Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain
Test Track
Rock 'n Roller Coaster
Tower of Terror

I'm trying to imagine a dog on a ride, such as It's a Small World. I guess it could work.

Sing it with me! It's a small, small world....

I've never actually seen a dog on any of the rides, although there are many attractions/shows/movies that would be fine--such as the Hall of Presidents. But I did see some dogs accompanying their handlers on the paths in the parks.

This service dog accompanied his family in the Magic Kingdom.

The Walt Disney World website also says that "service dogs are welcome to use any open outdoor area for relief.  There are also designated service dog relief areas in each park and in hotels.

So what do you think? What vacation arrangements work best for your dogs? Should dogs be allowed on trains? In Walt Disney World? Are people abusing the designation of "service" and "assistance" dog to bring their pets in public places? What places do you think dogs do not belong? 

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  1. Pamela | Something WaggingDecember 2, 2013 at 6:44 AM

    I definitely believe dogs belong on trains. And as for break times, if Amtrak can add extra cars to carry people's personal cars, why couldn't they have one train car that would serve as a puppy relief area? There's a lot more flexibility with trains than with airplanes.

    Glad you enjoyed some of your time away and that you had good options for taking care of Kelly and Ike. Of course, we never want to leave our pups behind ever, do we?

  2. I've had that idea of a puppy relief area on the train too...with a whole car where the dogs can run and exercise. I enjoy train travel and this would make it so much better! Maybe, like Pet Airlines, there could be a Pet Amtrak! Only it would allow people with the pets.

  3. Mom loves that place where the rat lives. I bet the train ride was fun too

  4. Great post and way to go getting everything set for your vacation! It's so tough vacationing without the pooch! I think dogs should be allowed on trains - I'm not sure about Walt Disney World because there are so many kids who might be afraid. Kayo and I were at a dog beach yesterday where a woman took her daughter who was terrified of dogs. A couple dog owners actually asked them to leave because her daughter was screaming every time a dog went by, and her nervous energy was actually attracting more dogs to her!

    People are definitely abusing the service dog rules and it's sad when it makes it harder for people who genuinely need them. But I think there should be some other designation - like Canine Good Citizen - that would allow reliably well-behaved dogs into certain establishments without being service dogs.

  5. Would be cool to bring a dog on a train journey. I'd imagine they'd do even more sleeping than normal :) Love the idea of a petcam whilst you were away. Did any others know of its presence?? Thanks for joining the Walk your Dog BlogHop & Happy FitDogging

  6. Dogs on could open a whole lot of issues, 'potty breaks', what size dog, what 'type' of dog, what about's just easier for them to say no. Although I think it would probably be just fine you always have those people who abuse the system and the rules.
    Glad you are home and obviously feeling better.

  7. I love your idea of the CGC designation.

  8. Hmmm... dogs on trains - not sure about the tight spaces and the need for breaks. It's a nice idea in theory, but might not end up being great in practice! Luckily we are usually able to trade dog-sitting with my sister, so I don't have to worry about our pup being well taken care of! Love that dog-cam! Hope you are feeling better!

  9. I went on a train ride with my mother who is afraid of flying precisely once in my grown up years. Next time I will fly and meet her there. :P

  10. wow a 24 hr train ride to get to there. I think dogs should be allowed on trains and in the cabin of planes but I don't think amusement parks are any place for them. I don't like seeing people bringing their dogs to the flea market on really hot days or other places like that. They just don't look like they have any fun when it is so darn hot. I bet they were glad to have you home.

  11. one person's viewDecember 2, 2013 at 11:57 PM

    I am always happy to leave my dog at home, as he is very high maintenance and would be very unhappy at an amusement park! If I want to vacation with him, we go to relatives where he is welcome, or go camping. But if there was some way to work it out, then people who do want to travel with their pets should be able to.

    I am actually surprised that you can bring a pet (not service) dog around with you at Disney. Last time I was there, they were only welcome in the kennels provided.

  12. As much as I'd like to take my dogs everywhere, I have to agree that there are just some places they shouldn't be allowed. It is probably a very good idea that dogs are not allowed at Disney World or other amusement parks. There is just too much going on, too many strangers wanting to pet your dog, too many strange and loud noises, too many costumed characters that can freak a dog out, etc. Most dogs just aren't used to this kind of thing. And even if they were, if people claimed their dogs could handle it, how would Disney be able to determine who really does know well what their dog can and can't handle and who is lying just so they can take their dog? Disney would just be setting themselves up for additional liability, requiring higher insurance payments, which would get passed along to us. This same logic could apply to businesses operating trains.

  13. snoopy@snoopysdogblogDecember 4, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    Hi Peggy

    You certainly organized everything meticulously for your trip!

    I think I'd love to go and visit with Mickey! :) I thought they were changing the rule about no dogs on Amtrak? Maybe not? It would be so handy if I could go on the train, I'm sure I'd get to go on more trips, and I'd be a good boy! :)

    Glad you're well again :)

    I hope you're having a fun day,

    Your pal Snoopy :)

  14. Jan K, Wag N Woof PetsDecember 5, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    I'm glad you were able to get away for a vacation! It's not easy leaving the dogs behind and that's why we don't take many vacations either. But my hubby thinks it's more relaxing for us to go without them. We have two trustworthy pet sitters, and it's great you had family to help too.
    I don't like flying either, and think the train looks like fun! I would never fly the dogs, but I might consider the train, if they start allowing them again.

  15. My hubby and I don't go on many trips without the dogs. For our honeymoon, we went on a 12-day hike in Europe and we couldn't bring them along. They were in good care but we spend the whole three weeks missing them terribly.


Kelly and Ike say thank you for your comments!