Never has there been a better time to travel with your dog.
Once relegated to campgrounds and relatively few motels, dogs are the new darlings of the travel industry, with accommodations from the very simplest to the most elegant now open to traveling pooches and their people.
Nor are dogs an afterthought, a grudgingly accepted part of the clientele. A growing number of innkeepers go out of their way to attract dog-lovers, and the dog camp -- a resort built around canine-friendly activities -- is a great idea that's spreading across the country.
No matter where you go, though, you'll need some travel basics for your pet's comfort and protection.
Your dog should be wearing a sturdy collar with a license and an up-to-date ID tag that has at least one phone number, area code included, that's not yours -- someone who'll be able to answer the phone should you lose your dog miles from home. Ideally, your pet should also be carrying an imbedded microchip for unshakable, permanent ID, and temporary ID such as a paper key tag with the phone number of your travel lodgings.
With your dog's ID needs covered, it's time to pack the gear. Start with a leash, at least six feet. A longer leash is handy, too, especially a reel-type such as the Flexi, which is great for giving your dog room to stretch his legs in areas such as rest stops.
Two bowls, one for water, one for food, come next. Look for water bowls designed for travel; they either don't spill or collapse for easy storage. I travel with a couple gallons of bottled water, because it seems I'm always stopping to walk my dogs in areas where no potable water is available.
Pack dry food servings individually in plastic bags with airtight locks, enough for the trip and a day or two more. If your pet eats canned food, you'll need an opener and a spoon. Don't forget to pack treats and a couple of your pet's toys!
A comb and brush, and tweezers or a ready-made device for pulling ticks are a must, especially on back-country trips. Some basic first-aid supplies -- scissors, gauze, tape, antibiotic cream and Pepto-Bismol, for canine diarrhea (check with your veterinarian for dosages) -- are likewise important to pack. Check with your pet-supply store for first-aid kits that come prepacked in a plastic container and ready to throw in your trunk.
Remember, too, to pack any regular medication your pet takes, and don't forget your pet's proof of rabies vaccination. A rabies certificate is necessary to get into some parks and is absolutely imperative to have should the unthinkable happen: Your dog bites someone or tangles with a rabid creature in the wild.
Bring cloth towels, for drying off wet, dirty dogs, and paper towels, for cleaning up more things than you can imagine you'll have to. A multipurpose cleaner in a spray bottle is a great item to pack. If you've room, bring an old sheet or blanket, for covering bedspreads, furniture or carpets in motel rooms. I always try to express my appreciation for dog-friendly lodgings by keeping the room as de-furred as possible.
Plastic bags for pet mess clean-ups are essential. Use them! Leaving pet messes of any kind behind is the fastest way to prompt the "no dogs allowed" sign at a formerly welcoming place.
My favorite planning guides are the "Dog-Lover's Companion" series from Foghorn Press, with books covering dog-friendly travel in Atlanta, Boston, California, Florida and Seattle. Mobile and AAA travel guides also note hotels and motels where pets are accepted. There's even a bimonthly newsletter for people who love to travel with their pets: "DogGone" ($24 a year; phone (561) 569-8434).
CYBERLINKS: Camp Gone to the Dogs, of Putney, Vt., is the original resort for dogs and their owners, and while its new Web page (http://camp-gone-tothe-dogs.com/) is very simple, it does tell you what you and your pet are in for should you choose to visit this slice of canine paradise. The TravelDog site (www.traveldog.com) lists more dog camps, along with dog-friendly lodgings, pet-sitters and kennels, and offers a link to "The Dog Run/Dog Park Reporter," an extensive review of places where dogs can be legally let off leash.
Gina Spadafori, the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," is affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international on-line service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or e-mail to Giori(at)aol.com.
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