This week we’re kicking off a new feature here at the EzyDog blog: interviews with some of our favorite dog bloggers. Every month, we’ll pick one or two smart, helpful dog bloggers from around the web and bring you—our readers—a useful, information-packed interview.
Let’s kick things off with an interview from Montecristo, the savvy traveling Chihuahua from Montecristo Travels.
Q: So, tell us a little about you and your blog.
My name is Montecristo (named after the character in the novel by Alexandre Dumas, a family ancestor of my Dad’s). I am what some would call an unlikely adventurer. As a long hair Chihuahua weighing in at 3.6 pounds, most would be surprised to know that I am rarely carried and can happily keep up with my bipeds for hours of hiking in the woods, walking on the cobblestone streets of Europe, guarding the sailboat, or sleeping through a cross-Atlantic flight.
Living eight inches off the ground is not a handicap!
Montecristo Travels is my blog—designed to help demystify traveling with a small dog. I provide city, hotel, airline, and park reviews in a “travel guide” format based on firsthand experience. We post every Saturday. The posts include the anecdotal account of our adventure, written from my perspective: what worked and sometimes what did not. We always include photographs to illustrate.
We also have YouTube videos that sum up all our trips to assist in illustrating the fun that can be had when traveling with a canine. We are slowly developing a resource page where hard-to-find forms for crossing borders will be available for free. At this time there is no membership fee and all assistance we provide is done as quickly as we can respond to emails. You can also find me on Facebook.
Q: How long have you been traveling?
My first flight was at the tender age of three months. I was a very fragile puppy so the adoption process to my forever home with my bipeds was delayed an extra month just to be sure I was 100% healthy. At 3 months, I flew from High Point in North Carolina via Chicago to Ottawa, Ontario. My first US/Canada border crossing! I fell in love with the adventure of travel and have been traveling ever since.
I’ve experienced it all! Taken the car, the sailboat, the train, the plane, the ferry…I’ve even traveled on an Airboat on the Florida Everglades! This year I am hoping to take a Red Baron-style bi-plane and a hot air balloon ride!
Q: How many countries have you been to?
I am now 2.5 years old and have travelled within Canada, the USA, France, and Italy, with trips to Greece, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine coming up in June 2013. Of course each one of those countries has much to offer, with diverse cities, regions, and different levels of dog friendliness within their own borders. As an example, I find that Florida is a more dog friendly state than any others we’ve visited so far. It is important to note this so you don’t exclude an entire country based on the experiences of a single city.
Q: In your opinion, what are the most dog-friendly places out there?
Europe in general is far more canine friendly than anywhere else. Even the paperwork to enter the country is easier. I have less difficulty getting into Paris in France than I do coming back to Ottawa, Canada…my homeland.
I do want to note that, hands down, the most dog friendly place we’ve had the pleasure of visiting is Tuscany in Italy. This particular region is a paradise for anyone traveling with a dog. Not only can you eat at almost any restaurant with your dog, you can do so indoors as well as on a patio.
Tuscany has established a difference between large dogs and toy breeds. As such, some places will allow a small dog in the arms, on your lap or in a sling/bag rather than making a blanket “no dogs” rule. I saw a lot of common sense in Tuscany regarding canine bylaws. The government has made it the business owner’s decision whether to be dog friendly or not. As a result we even found we could go grocery shopping or pop into a pharmacy and shop at the local farmers market as a with-dog family. Dogs may take public transportation—anything from buses to trains to planes—for free as long as the small dogs are in carriers and large dogs muzzled. In the three weeks I spent traveling across Tuscany the only places I was not allowed inside were major museums like the Uffizi and an occasional cathedral.
Q: Are there any places you wouldn’t recommend to dog travelers?
Based on our own experience to-date, I can’t say that there is any one country that comes to mind. I believe it’s more a question of comfort and safety. It is important that the human guardian to understand his or her canine charge’s needs. I wouldn’t recommend taking a cold climate dog like a Husky to the Amazonian Jungle for example.
Bipeds also need to know what the local beliefs are regarding canines. Unfortunately, many countries have a wild dog problem or religious beliefs that have created a dislike or fear of our species. Countries that are completely rabies free also have possible quarantine laws in place; this is true for many Caribbean islands for example. This can make bringing your canine friend a risky proposition. Know what you are getting into and be absolutely 100% certain you are willing to deal with what may come. We find embassies, although often slow to respond, are the best source of information on these issues. Book an appointment in person if you can to speed up the process.
Q: What is the best thing about traveling with your mom and dad?
Canines are wolves at heart. No matter how far removed the current appearance may try and say otherwise. We are, thus, pack animals. The pack means everything to us. Not being left behind is the best thing.
I also really enjoy the adventure of new scents and the experiences of travel. Every single town, city, ocean, river… has its own unique smell and taste. I’ve dipped my paws in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific and soon will add the Black Sea to my list and I can assure you they are all salty…but different.
I’m a calmer dog. I am used to many different noises, odd sounds, and unfamiliar rooms. Home is where my bipeds are. I really believe that this flexibility to adapt I now possess was honed by travel.
Q: I hear your next big adventure is going to be a sailing expedition in the Mediterranean. How exciting! What are you doing to prepare?
The bipeds are doing most of the work for this. I am an observer at this stage. Our sailing expedition will start May 1st, 2015. The first six-month jaunt will cover the northern half of the Mediterranean countries: going counter-clockwise, we will leave from Split in Croatia and end our first Big Trip in Morocco, stopping in 12 countries along the way. Once in Morocco, we will place the sailboat in dry dock and return to it in 2017 to continue our way and close the loop.
Preparation for this is mind-boggling. The skills, licenses, and knowledge required never seem to stop pilling up. I am glad we’ve got over 2 years left to prepare. You can follow my observations on the process in a special section of the blog under the Sailing the Mediterranean heading. It’s a about funding, plotting, planning…it’s a very emotional process. Our readers have embraced this new section of the blog with a healthy appetite. At their request, we now post twice a month on things that make planning for the trip a big part of the adventure.
Personally, I plan on attempting to get over my dislike of water. I really do need to be a much stronger swimmer in order to survive a potential “dog overboard” scenario. We plan on doing a few trial runs of this unpleasantness when in Greece and I want to be fit and ready for that. As such, I have signed up with a water therapist that specializes in rehabilitation work. She has kindly accepted to take on my water phobia.
Q: And what advice would you give to someone who wants to travel with a dog?
First, don’t let fear of the unknown stop you! There are a lot of people who honestly believe that traveling with a dog is a horribly complicated mess. They end up stressing over some perceived insurmountable process and giving up before starting. Most people we have helped end up surprised at how un-complicated it really can be depending on where you are from and where you are going. Canada, the US, and Europe, for example, are relatively painless processes.
Second, reach out to those who have blazed the trail and piggyback onto someone else’s hands-on experience. Don’t trust a resource unless they actually have personally done what they write about. I can’t tell you how often we will read an article in a dog magazine or online and wonder if the person who wrote the article has ever done more than go to the family cottage with their dog. Applying knowledge can show a biped how flawed a theory can be. It is important to test that theory, if that makes you nervous than find someone that has actually done so physically. Follow those that have gone that extra mile.
Lastly, start small and short term and work your way up to more long term and multi-destination travel.
Montecristo Travels is a blog run by Montecristo, Sonja Lishchynski, and Stefan Dumas. Their love for adventure and travel in particular can only be eclipsed by the love they have for each other and the passion they share for encouraging activities and lifestyle choices that include the canine companion. Feeling skeptical about traveling with your dog? Check out their blog—and you might just find yourself a believer.
For more interesting blogs and information on innovative dog safety and travel products, please visit EzyDog.com!