Saturday, April 20, 2013

Xingxing Crosses the Canadian Rockies (1)

Bringing your dog into Canada from the United States is easy.  All you need is something in writing from your veterinarian verifying that your dog's rabies shots are up to date.  Often, nobody even asks to see this bit of documentation. But you need to have it with you, just in case. And these days, you also need your American passport.
We did this trip last July. It was Xingxing's first big trip, as well as his first experience of an airplane, a train, a bus, a boat and a gondola. He was less than a year old, and I didn't know how he'd cope -- but there was only one way to find out.
We used a travel agency, Fresh Tracks Canada. They were fantastic. In fact, we're doing another trip with them, this year.  Canada's service dog legislation is vague, and seems to only recognize Guide Dogs, so there was a fair bit of negotiating involved. These days, people tend not to use travel agents so much, preferring to make their own arrangements on the internet.  However, we've discovered that when you're traveling outside the United States with a dog, there are a lot of advantages to using a travel agency, whether your dog is a service dog or not.  Your travel agent already knows the hotel managers and the tour operators, and can often solve problems before they become problems.  And of course, he or she has a vested interest in making sure your trip works.
Moreover, given advance notice, we've found that the management of many tour companies can be persuaded to allow a well-behaved dog to accompany his person on a tour. On the other hand, if you simply turn up with your dog, the person running the tour or driving the bus can flatly refuse to let you join the tour -- they're only employees, they often don't know the law (and sometimes, there isn't any law) and from their point of view, it's just safer to say, No. 
 Fresh Tracks Canada obtained letters from all the hotel managers and tour providers involved, specifically welcoming Xingxing.  Getting it in writing is always a good idea, especially outside the United States. We had no problems at all, at any stage of our tour.
So the big day arrived, and we set out for the airport. Some airports are horrendous (I will never set foot in La Guardia again) but Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport is friendly, rather than frantic. We were graciously guided through security, with plenty of time to spare. 
I fly First Class. I use my Frequent Flyer points. Being comfortable is important to me, at my age. I'd rather skimp on other things. 
 I always tell the airline in advance that I'll be traveling with a service dog. (You are not required by law to do this.  But it makes life easier) However, you can't do this online. And if you book your tickets using a living, breathing customer services representative, they charge you extra. The way I get around this is to book the tickets online, and then call the airline to advise them I'm traveling with a service dog. 
We're usually given the bulkhead seat, so there's plenty of room.  On his maiden voyage, Xingxing curled up at my feet and slept all the way to Vancouver.  I don't think he even realized he was on an airplane.

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