Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Travelling with pets: ideal dream or worst nightmare?

Everyone usually has their own horror story when it comes to preparing and packing for a summer vacation. Frantically running up and down the stairs, trying to find the bottom half of that particular blue bikini, and shouting over to your sister to see if she’s still got the white dress you lent her months ago. The back of the car is usually full by the time you arrive with your own ‘tiny’ suitcase. These are just a few of the frustrating traditions that take place in our household before we head off on vacation, and this hassle only grew twice as big the first time our three-year-old golden retriever joined for a trip. Twice as much love and entertainment, but also twice as much stress.

When we first got our dog, Samu, we gave up on holidays altogether for a while. He was too small and mischievous, and the idea of taking him on a longer holiday didn’t even cross our minds. As he grew and, according to my mum, became more ‘mature’, the idea of a holiday, with Samu included, was suddenly back on the cards.

The plan is to go to Venice next summer. However, we knew Samu would not be able to join unless we had a trial run beforehand, closer to home. It would be helpful to see how he behaved on holiday first, somewhere where there was no chance of him, or us, falling from the streets right into the sea. So last summer we ended up going to Lake Balaton, in Hungary, only an hour and a half’s drive away from home.

I spent hours searching the internet for an accommodation that would allow pets. Happy to finally find somewhere, I did not think much on it further. As a result, we spent hours trying to find a beach that allowed dogs the first morning, and similarly long in the evenings, trying to locate dog-friendly restaurants. My advice to anyone planning to take their pets on holiday, is to organise and plan the days extensively. It might be a bit of extra work before you leave, but it’s guaranteed to pay off once you arrive at your destination.

Right before the vacation, we took Samu to the vet for a well-recommended safety check. The sight and noise of the nurse’s gloves had me in tears, begging a terrified Samu to come through the door. My brother was trying to push him into the room from behind, while my mum apologetically smiled at the vet.

Luckily, Samu is very good with travelling in the car, so we didn’t have to worry about that. Having researched tips beforehand, the first thing we did upon arriving was take him for a walk, so that he could immediately get familiar with the new environment. So while my mum checked us in, my siblings and I took Samu down to the lake. If you’ve seen Marley and Me, you’ll somewhat remember the scene where Marley chases a bird on the beach, as Owen Wilson desperately calls and runs after him. Samu had us reproduce this exact scene in front of an entire group of hotel guests. We realised that perhaps it would have been a good idea to practice the main commands with him a few more times before the holiday.

I could write pages on that one week, but to put it briefly, let’s just say we were never bored. Never really relaxed either, but the trip was still a lot of fun. Arriving home and watching Samu cuddle up in his bed and fall asleep, as if nothing had happened, I looked at my exhausted family one by one, and I could tell we were all thinking the same thing. Samu in Venice might not be the greatest idea.

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