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Pets on the Go
Don't leave home without them. No, I don't mean your American Express card, I'm taking about your pet. If you take your companion with you on the road, they won't have separation anxiety-and neither will you.
Many drivers won't leave home without their pets and if you are in that crowd, there are some real issues to think about to keep pets safe and healthy. There is also proper "pet-iquette"-good pet manners. For example, if your dog poops where people walk, then pick it up; there is no excuse for allowing your pet to destroy property or irritate others. Bad pet behavior just makes it harder if not impossible for the next driver to be allowed to ride with theirs. Many trucking companies have strict rules about pets in trucks, but some are more lenient. Companies can make an easy decision to not allow drivers who have pets to work for them at all when some drivers do not follow good manners.
The most common pet out there with drivers is probably the dog. But I have seen cats, snakes, raccoons, and I am sure others have been tried with varying degrees of success. But consider these facts as stated in the Dog Age Newsletter:
"A study reviewing research on the health benefits of having a pet concluded that, compared to people without pets, dog owners have lower cholesterol and blood pressure, suffer fewer heath problems, and recover more quickly from serious illness. Researchers say that stroking any animal buffers stress, but dog owners also walk their pets and often socialize along the way, activities that are well-known health promoters."There is the added benefit of walking on a regular basis both to our waistlines and our metabolism, which adds to a feeling of well-being. This in turn can make us more alert and thus safer drivers.
To set yourself up for having a driving companion, if at all possible start with adult, trained, and neutered animals. They should be up-to-date on all their shots, and current records of those shots need to travel with you, as well as their rabies tag. If your pet has a medical condition, have records of that also, and copies and a supply of the prescriptions too. If your pet is on a special diet, carry a supply of food and the 1-800 number of the supplier so you can find a source wherever you are. While we are on the subject of food, feed your pet the best food you can afford, one of the professional brands from Pet Smart or Petco would be easy to find just about anywhere. A good food reduces pet odor and improves the health of your animal, reducing how much the dog needs to poop. Also, your animal will be larger and healthier if you start feeding young (and live longer, if my experience as a rescue director is any indication). Of course, we all know we should always keep fresh water available-not out of the hose at the fuel pumps, bottled water or a personal supply would be best. If you shouldn't drink it, neither should your pet! A supply from home is fine if not impractical.
Always keep your pets on a leash or restrained in some other way. This is for your safety and theirs. There is just too big a risk your pet may panic or take off after something and get hurt or lost in a totally strange environment.
Let me make some suggestions to protect you both on the road and at home. I found a service called 1-800 Help-4-Pets (1-800-435-7473). It is 24-hour protection for your 24-hour friend. After you register your pet with them, you receive an alert tag with their phone number and an ID number. You will give whatever contact information you want, your dispatcher's number, truck number, in-laws, neighbors, etc. All information is changeable at a moment's notice. So, if you get separated from your friend in some strange city, call them and tell them where you are. If you need a vet in a strange city, or a pet-friendly hotel, they can help. If you want your animal treated if it is found injured before you are even located, give them your credit card information and authorization to treat your animal, and it is a done deal. This service provides needed help when time is of the essence. If your pet ends up in a shelter and you cannot be reached quickly, your pet may be euthanized. Also, if you are in an accident, your pet cannot go with you in an ambulance or to the hospital. An alert tag will allow someone to call the service number and boarding or vet care can be arranged.
1-800-Help-4-PETS is offering $5 off new registrations if you mention this article when you sign up. For more information go to www.1800help4pets.com.
A locator microchip or an identifying tattoo is an essential way of keeping your pet safe on the road. Many shelters and vets use scanners these days to identify animals. A lost animal will be less likely to be considered a stray if the shelter or vet has a way of connecting the animal to its owner. Keep their collars on at all times. A tattoo may prevent labs from buying them from shelters. A tattoo makes it obvious that the pet is lost. Where to get that done is dicey, but try a regular tattoo parlor if you have a well-mannered dog. Some vets offer the service as do some AKC shows. I bought my own machine for doing this.
GPS tracking for pets is now also available. I have looked at some of these and I believe they have their uses, but I am not sure they are for over-the-road trucking. First and foremost, the battery must not fail when your pet is lost, and most people don't change the batteries in their smoke detectors when their own lives depend on it! Some services depend on cell phone service, and there are too many dead areas where there is no service. You can also be out of range of your provider's service. There are many different kinds for pets: ones that tell if they are outside a fenced-in area, ones that use an antenna. Do your research carefully and if you decide to get one, please use it as a backup system, not a primary. Go to www.goodfind.com to find out everything you need to know about GPS tracking.
Please keep all dogs on heart worm preventative 12 months out of the year. Don't use one that kills everything, remember, it is poison. I get nervous about those, but some have used these and had no problems. I also recommend the monthly flea repellent-year-round also. Fleas cause a multitude of problems, for your pet and your truck. Look online for that too. I like www.petshed.com for great prices and a generic heartworm preventative and monthly flea treatments.
Keep a pack of wipes inside the door of your truck to wipe off your pet's feet before putting them back in the truck. (Be careful what is on them as your dog or cat will likely lick their feet.) This is a good time to brush them too, good for them and keeps some of the loose hair out of the truck. If they do need a bath, grooming is available at Petco and Pet Smart, but you must have your rabies certificate with you. Don't over-bathe, it is not good for their skin.
Please socialize your pets if they are to be out of the truck or have to go to the vet. It will make life a lot easier for everyone.
If I sound like I have some experience with lost pets it is because I ran both a rescue and a pet registry for a long time and I know what works and what doesn't. And I know what strangers will do to help your pet-and what they won't. Animal lovers will try hardest but even they can't do the impossible. Put everything in your favor. Most people will only help if it is easy and not time consuming. I was inspired to write the following poem to express my feelings and frustrations about pets separated from their loved ones.
Hard hearted Hannah
That's what they say
Not ??~cause I am. But
Because I am not that way.
Sometimes it must seem
I take in every stray.
But I find them homes
After they are neutered and spayed.
I have learned that life is too precious
to just throw away..
The hardest for all are pets
whose owners must have meant well,
So obviously well cared for,
but their owners names they can't tell.
Please register your pet,
tag and tattoo
And also microchip,
Nothing less will do.
Then anyone can return
loved pets to their homes.
Nothing could be easier,
you just pick up the phone.