Christopher Elliott is well known in the travel industry as a consumer advocate and as the ombudsman at National Geographic Traveler. So when I came across his article, “Traveling With Pets Can Be Pricey,” I was interested to find out what he had to say.
And then baffled.
The piece starts off proclaiming, on the basis of a single anecdote, that lots of people sneak their small dogs on to planes because they want to avoid the expense of paying to tuck them under the seat. Seriously?
There’s a glut of pet lovers willing to zip their pups into carry ons, put them on a conveyor belt and have them X-rayed at security because they’re too cheap to pay an extra fee? Update: I’ve since learned no x-raying or conveyor-belting is involved, having gone through the process myself. But my main point holds.
Elliot goes on to discuss people who sneak cats into hotels — this time based on the anecdotal evidence of a single innkeeper — and notes that it destroys the rooms for future guests because of impossible-to-remove cat dander.
After suggesting that, aside from Pet Airways, airlines don’t wish to be in the pet transportation business and that’s why they charge high rates for carry-on animals — yo! airlines charge high rates for luggage too; it’s because they can — Elliot gets to the odd central premise of the piece:
The question that has largely gone unasked amid the traveling-pets scuffle is this: If your animal could talk, would it ask to join you on vacation?
He quotes Maria Goodavage, author of the “Dog Lover’s Companion” series, who says, “Your best friend loves being able to be at your side any time,” and responds:
I can understand that sentiment as a pet owner (three Bengal cats, who are watching me as I write this). But I can’t bring myself to anthropomorphize my furry friends. In fact, I think it’s kind of insulting. My kitties would prefer to stay at home, where they have a predictable supply of cat food and toys. I miss them when I’m away, but that’s my problem.
Many pet owners reading this will take their dogs and cats along anyway, because they believe their pets can’t possibly live without them. If you do, find a pet-friendly hotel and don’t hide the animal.
Is it me, or is this really peculiar? Worse than Elliott’s undocumented assertion that there’s a whole lot of pet sneaking going on is the conflation of dogs and cats as equally reluctant travelers.
Sorry, but no. Most — though not all — dogs would prefer to be with their people and to have new adventures with them than be left behind. That’s an observation based on well-documented canine behavior, not projection or anthropomorphism.
Still, Elliott did bring up a point that made me wonder: What about cats? Do they enjoy going on vacation with their owners?
Not being a cat owner, I posed the question to several feline-savvy folks in the terrific new BlogPaws community, invaluable if you want to tap into the expertise of other pet bloggers.
Stay tuned for the responses tomorrow.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with another question: Have you or anyone you know ever tried to sneak a small dog or a cat onto a plane? If Elliott has a valid point here, I’d like to know.