Passengers Traveling with Pets DO NOT BOARD FIRST

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Charlee loves to travel via air. Here she is pictured underneath the seat in front of me on Southwest Airlines in her Sherpa pet carrier, which I highly recommend. Sherpa offers what the company calls “Guaranteed On-Board” for peace of mind. (See their website at http://www.sherpapet.com for details.)

Charlee was a bit skeptical about being wheeled around in a confined bag at first. I trained her by putting a salmon jerky treat inside; saying, “Let’s go on the airplane!”; and zipping her inside the Sherpa bag to eat her treat while wheeling her around our home. After a few days, she would get excited whenever she heard me get her Sherpa from the closet. (Pavlov was a genius.)

Despite “fitting” in the Sherpa bag, Charlee was 7 pounds overweight (and over the maximum airline-approved pet weight) when I made the purchase. We had dieted to no avail. By chance, a colleague mentioned her dog had lost a lot of weight eating green beans. That night for dinner, I introduced Charlee to unsalted green beans with 1/4 of what kibble she normally ate. Within 8 days, she had slimmed down to a healthier (and airline-approved) weight. (I later discovered how much more pleasant this made the ticketing/boarding process, as the airlines DO NOT APPRECIATE if you try to sneak an over-the-weight-limit dog or cat aboard.)

Charlee and I do attract a lot of attention when we travel together. Being a very social and loving dog, Charlee has soothed crying children, evoked dog stories from fellow pet lovers and even offered solace on several occasions to those who have lost pets. Despite all of the smiles she has brought, never once have we gotten to board first. But, after sitting on the tarmac a few times in sweltering cabin temperatures, I think not boarding first has been quite the blessing, too.

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