Column: A Season with Sammy


A dog named "Buddy" waits in its carrier with its family at Ronald Reagan National Airport for its flight to St. Louis on the day before Thanksgiving in Washington November 23, 2005. REUTERS/Larry Downing

drop cap dog lovers may like this column, but if you plan air travel with a dog, especially out of the country, you must continue reading.

Sammy is my daughter’s rescue dog, a Shih Tzu, and Sammy is the closest thing I have come to know as a “therapy dog.” Notice I didn’t say service dog. Anyway, Sammy and my daughter’s family, up until recently, were living in Texas. Three months ago we went to visit them in Texas -before they moved to Ireland. Yes, I said Ireland! I mean if you don’t want us to visit, just tell us, but you don’t have to move to Europe.

Anyway, we went to help them move, wish them the best, and love on them until the next visit, which is God knows when.

Well, there was a problem with transporting the dog to Ireland on one of the airlines and guess what happened? Right, we got Sammy for three months until my daughter came back for school and family business last October.

Did I mention we already have four dogs? And we also babysit Piper, another rescue dog, during the day while our adult children work. Anyway, welcome to a dog’s world with Jimbo. Actually, I like all the mutts and if I had the financial backing, I would open a low cost doggie daycare somewhere else. It would be a fun retirement job and good for working dog owners.

So we have never traveled with a pooch. We were to fly out of Dallas Fort Worth at 9:00 a.m. Well, our flight got delayed and then cancelled. So we moved to another departure gate, and delayed again. Meanwhile, we have a dog. In airports they now have places for dogs to do their business (poop and pee!) called animal relief areas. We were stuck in the terminal 10 hours, so Jimbo was taking the dog for relief several times.

The bad news was the day was a hassle. The good news was that everybody in the terminal loved Sammy. Many people flying are unhappy. For many, Sammy made their day. Sammy never copped an attitude or met anyone she didn’t like. She brought a lot of joy to the jet setters throughout the day.


Fast-forward three months and it is time for Sammy to return home. Here is the advice. In the Bible it says seek wisdom from many sources. My daughter failed to do so. If you are going to travel, talk to a couple of veterinarians. Not all of them have the certification required to examine and evaluate dogs for travel. Also drop an email or a phone call to the United States Department of Agriculture. That is the bureaucracy that gives the green light for dogs to go to other countries. It is also wise to contact the government department of the country where you are planning to go. I would encourage you to document your conversations, save copies of emails and communications, and call them more them once, so they have a record of your inquiries and you have a record of what they have told you. My daughter had a nightmare and had to delay flights several times and barely got Sammy back with the family.

Although my daughter, with a master’s degree in biology, did much of the above, it was not enough. She spent over three hours in the office of a local vet, and still had to get back with them in a long distance call and fax struggle. The other thing is that some of the veterinary services required for travel are time sensitive, so your dog needs to wormed within five days of your flight. On the sixth day, the dog needs another visit for worm medicine. Did I mention the microchips? Sammy’s dog had a microchip, but it wasn’t the kind required by the tyrants of international travel. She now has two, and during the chaos, there was discussion of getting her a third microchip. It was a big mess about a little dog.

For the three months she was with us, Sammy brought us a lot of joy. I wasn’t happy to see her go, but four dogs really is enough barking and animal relief for one house. It was harder on my wife to say goodbye to Sammy, but going in, I knew it was only for a season. She brought a lot of joy for such a little dog and was good therapy for a couple of old dog lovers!