Dog Relocation & Cat Relocation: experience from an anxious owner.
From: Michael L.
Subject: International Pet Relocation of AIRES (Lab-X) & CLAUDE (Cat)
Date: Sun, 21 Feb 2016 18:14:49 +0000
While walking my dog Aries in a downtown Toronto green space in last year, I struck up a conversation with a British expatriate who had just flown her dog to the U.K. She mentioned that she would never do this again. This chance encounter slipped from my memory until I was faced with the same challenging task.
I learned that Aries and my cat Claude would have to travel as commercial cargo. This entailed additional delays in a kennel both before and after the flight. Essentially a 6 hour journey would turn into a 12 to 14 hour marathon. I had little doubt Claude, my cat, could handle the ordeal. She had previously travelled comfortably in cabin from Montreal to Florida and her confident personality would inevitably carry the day. Aries was another matter. His extreme sensitivity and reticence to enter a kennel were cause for concern.
The pet relocation service (Manoir Kanisha) offered to board and train Aries for 3 weeks. The goal was to desensitize Aries to the kennel and teach him to sleep in it for extended periods of time. The thought of relinquishing custody of “my best friend” to total strangers for 3+ weeks was abhorrent to me. Nevertheless, I realized that Aries’ crate phobia had to be addressed. One never knows how a stressed animal will react.
I was referred by my veterinary clinic to a wonderful animal behaviour specialist who did house calls. At the end of the very first session, almost all of Aries’ fear had dissipated. By the 2nd visit, he was happily entering and remaining in the kennel. Shortly thereafter, Aries fell asleep in the kennel while I was working nearby on my computer. The trainer advised me that her work was done. She agreed that forcing Aries to sleep in the kennel overnight while I was in the house would probably be more traumatic than beneficial.
Positive reinforcement associated with the kennel (games, treats etc.) diminished the stress factor for both dog and owner. I suffered a last minute surge of anxiety 36 hours before the flight when the vet advised me that Aries’ ear infection which I had been treating was not completely cured. I was scheduled to fly the day before the animals and did not really have the option to cancel the trip. The vet prescribed a new medicine and my gut feeling told me that Aries would be fine.
When I picked up my friends at Heathrow airport they were both in excellent spirits. Clearly they had been handled in a caring and professional way. A London vet confirmed that there were no traces of infection or irritation in Aries’ ears.
It is difficult to say who was more traumatized by the ordeal but I suspect it was me.
Lesson to be learned: A little preparation can go a long way to ensure a smooth flight.