Teresa Burks' tips for traveling with dogs read like an expert's to-do list. "Proper ID, carrying vaccination/health records, and making sure to pack all the goodies is essential," says Burks, a local veterinarian who travels frequently with her Chinese crested and Borzoi dogs.
The "goodies" include a crate for each dog; a 5-gallon jug of water, "in case we get stuck by the roadside on a hot day"; and chewies, toys and treats, "a must for easily bored puppies."
According to the Travel Industry Association of America, more than 29 million Americans have traveled with a pet in the past three years.
The Eagle and Wichita Paws asked readers who take their pets along for tips on how to make the journey easier.
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Burks prepares for a trip by giving her dogs a checkup, "to make sure they are healthy and ready for the road."
The dogs are microchipped and wear reflective collars with Burks' cell phone number, and in her purse is a card that lists the dogs by name and description, with any health concerns, "as well as emergency contact numbers in case something should happen to me."
She said she tries to contact hotels in advance to make sure they allow pets.
"It is important to have a hotel room (with a crate inside) to keep your pet safe while you shop, visit museums, go on amusement rides, etc.," she said.
"Traveling with the dogs means extra stops to let them stretch their legs and have a bathroom break," Burks said, "but sometimes that is a nice excuse to stop by and visit a park along the way and enjoy the trip even more."
Gayle Ast had never enjoyed traveling with her dogs because they would "whine without stop" when crated in the car.
A couple of weeks ago, she decided to take Annie, one of her Chihuahuas, to visit a friend in Hutchinson. She stopped at a pet store and found a car seat for dogs on sale, and decided to give it a try.
The car seat, which slips over the headrest of the passenger seat, "made a world of difference" for Annie, who now rides quietly while gazing out the window, Ast said.
Ast can hook Annie's harness to the shoulder belt through the car seat, so it also helps keep the dog safe in case of an accident.
The trip to Hutchinson worked out so well, Ast took Annie to Oklahoma City over the Fourth of July.
The seat is big enough that "she could curl up and take a nap," Ast said, "but most of the time she was too busy looking out."
Aidan and Mr. Big
Many dogs like to ride in the car, but with cats, it's usually a different sort of trip.
While "most cats are dug in under the seat, clawing themselves into the carpet," Minde Baumgartner says her Devon rexes, Aidan and Mr. Big, love a car ride.
"They ride in the car like dogs," Baumgartner said. "Mr. Big sits on the console between the seats and just hangs out there with no problem, while the other looks out the window the whole time like a dog would."
Baumgartner said she drove to Iowa to adopt the kittens about six years ago, and had no problems bringing them back to Wichita, uncrated, in the car.
"Once I saw how easily they came home with me, I thought I might as well just take them with me," said Baumgartner, who used to travel for her job.
She said she found hotels that would take cats, but she had to remember to put the "Do not disturb" sign on the door.
"The maids would come in to change the bed and it would freak them out" to find the cats snoozing under the covers, she said.
Baumgartner says she gets strange looks from other drivers when she takes her cats for rides to Sonic, or to the park to see the ducks.
"People just aren't used to seeing cats riding in a car like that," she said.
Sue Dodd doesn't need to find pet-friendly hotels when she travels with Hudson, her 3-year-old shih tzu, because they have a 40-foot motor home.
"Hudson has full run of the entire area," and RV parks are usually very pet-friendly, Dodd said.
Hudson has been traveling with his family since he was 6 weeks old and has been to about 20 states, Dodd said.
If a dog is used to traveling, "you can go anywhere," she said.
On road trips, she brings along plenty of toys, and leaves food and water out, although Hudson "seldom eats until we stop for the day." He also gets the occasional treat and a rest stop every couple of hours.
"I cannot imagine traveling without him," Dodd said of Hudson. "I have decided if there are places my dog can't go, I don't need to go there either."