After two years travelling with our fawn Labrador, Abroozi, we’ve come to the conclusion that as much as you might love to explore this beautiful country, other travellers and locals might not be so keen on your furry companion in tow. How can people ignore stray dogs but a dog on a lead petrifies them? Maybe they think stray dogs, as disease ridden as they can be are less unpredictable than a dog on a lead? Your thoughts welcome. Anyway, my husband and I love to travel, with a particular penchant for road trips and camping in the Indian wilderness. We got our Abroozi four months after we got married. I’ll be the first to admit that he’s our surrogate child – no, strike that, he is our child. And we wouldn’t dream of leaving him to go on holiday. Dogs unlike cats are in need of a lot of love and cannot stand the loneliness, they are far more insecure than cats. I know many people who beg family, servants and friends to look after their dog while they go on a holiday and I have looked after many such untravelled dogs. I don’t blame them – there are very few good kennels to leave your dog, unless you live in a big city like Bangalore or Mumbai and more importantly very few hotels and resorts that will let you holiday with your dog. Unlike countries such as France, Australia, Britain and the U.S, India is way behind in the dog appreciation business.
We are determined not to let the travel bug lay dormant just because we have a dog and do not want to leave him in the care of others. So we take him everywhere. We are refining a system. But first a caveat to dog owners here are some things to think about when travelling with your dog. Non dog owners/lovers who are already hating the idea of dogs on vacations I’ll come to you later.
Plane, Train, Road
Many people do not know how to transport their dog when going on vacation. Flying is an expensive option and filled with trepidation – I panic if my luggage gets lost, imagine if your dog does. Worse still are the horror stories of over heated cargo bays of planes sitting on a runway for sometimes 30 minutes with your pet over heating, dogs and cats getting free of their cage and clunking around with all that luggage. I would not want to be trapped down there. But if you relocating for instance, these guys might be able to help www.furryflyers.com . Train and road are the best options for transporting your dog on an Indian holiday. Indian Railways allows you to take your dog in First A/C as long as you book out the whole coupe. You have to let the station master know in advance that you are bringing your dog, you have to get him weighed at the parcel office and then board the train. A crate is not necessary. I can only imagine that putting your dog in the brake van, for which you do need a crate, must be very frightening for the dog. You might even find that you are sharing First A/c with other dogs making one feel like a travelling circus…with the chai wala doing the juggling. If your dog has to relieve himself you must take him to the end of the station platform and it’s best to let everyone know that neither you nor your dog are to be left behind. But I’ve found that most dogs won’t do their “jobs”in a strange place and are more likely to hold it until he/she knows that the travelling part is over.
I have found that with the fantastic four lane national highways that make up the Golden Quadrilateral, driving through India is a highly unexplored way to experience the country intimately and a great way to travel with your dog. You can stop when you like for toilet breaks, a short stroll or lunch under a tree. However, picnic spots are becoming rare because of the lack of trees or lack of open space off the highway that isn’t a field doubling up as the village toilet. And NEVER let your dog off the leash.
For the Indian climate you must have air-conditioning in your car and even in cooler climes try not to drive with the windows open with your dog’s head hanging out. While he might be enjoying the wind whistling through his ears, the flying dust can cause serious damage to your dog’s eyes. So close your windows on long car journeys.
Sit boy, Sit!
For dog lovers I would recommend that you put emotion aside for a second and consider whether your dog is friendly with strangers and other dogs, quiet, well trained, and has passed the chewing on anything stage. As much as I love dogs I would not want to have slogged all year to go on holiday and be woken up by a howling dog in the middle of the night. Although, packs of stray dogs in this country do the same – anyone vacationing on Goa’s beaches will know what I mean. So consider this before you take your dog with you. Also, when you get your puppy I would start taking him on long car journeys so he gets used to the idea and any car sickness or need to wee in the car is an urge very quickly erased. Dogs are creatures of habit so the more you take them on car journeys the more they will associate the right type of behaviour in a car or train.
We made a very conscious decision from when our Abroozi was a puppy to ensure that he got used to long journeys. At 6 months old we took him on his first holiday from Wellington in the Nilgiris to Alleppey in Kerala on a houseboat, a 400 km car journey.
Run Boy Run!
Consider vacationing in places where your dog will have as much fun as you, such as a beach resort or mountain retreat. There’s no point staying in a small hotel room in a city where your dog will have to be cooped up in a hotel room by himself. Resorts are the best place to holiday with dogs. There’s usually greenery and space to take him for walks. If travelling by car you may have to break journey before you reach your final destination. For this you’ll probably have to stay in a hotel and if it’s just for the night, then you and your dog can put up with the small quarters. I do not recommend showing up at a hotel and hoping they will take your dog in. They are under no obligation to do so and you could find yourself sleeping in your car. And under no circumstances can you leave your dog in the car to spend the night in a strange place by himself. There is bound to be much barking and a traumatic experience for him.
There are two ways to find out if a resort accepts dogs. If travelling by car, carefully plan your route and via the Internet find hotels along the way, ring them up and explain your situation. When planning your holiday you could use the website: www.petvacations.co.in They have a catalogue of hotels you can search for by state and type of property – bungalow, resort, hotel. Alternatively, pick a destination and personally ring up all the resorts in the area and sound each one out. You might just get lucky but I have found that it depends on how convincing you can be. Always ask to speak to the hotel manager or even owner. If you are really lucky you’ll find that the hotel owner is a dog lover and will make an exception in your case.
If you know that your dog likes to jump in to bed and snuggle with you then bring your own bed linen. This will prevent any dog hair from getting on to the bed. Dog owners in India are not accustomed to scooping their dogs’ poop. You definitely should when in a resort. Carry plastic bags with you on your walk. Good pet stores in the big cities will sell pooper scoopers.
We have not explored the North of the Vindhiyas with our dog as most of our travels have been in the Southern states. We hope to do this soon though. Here’s some of the places we’ve stayed in:
We went on Mr.Johnson’s houseboat, The Pride. I recommend this boat compared to The Nest which is a less clean and spacious boat. The food is excellent. Mr. Johnson’s got some other great properties and we have taken our Abroozi to the Secret Beach in Alleppey. He loves dogs and has quite a few himself and rescues dogs as well.
This is a fabulous little resort with a green lawn, hammocks and rooms facing the vast Vembanad Lake. Plenty of open space, although we did keep our Abroozi on the leash the whole time. The people who run the resort were very kind and made sure we had everything we needed for our dog. They have a small jetty so if you have your own dinghy like we do, this place is very convenient. And you can hail down the passing fisherman for a ride in their canoes. You must order the duck roast. They have ducks roaming around on the property who totally freaked out our Abroozi but if you order the duck roast, well what can I say, there’ll be one less duck to trouble your dog…
A secluded place on top of a hill, with a great view of a lake, Cardamom House is owned by a dynamic retired British physician who commanders his staff of 6 local men. And they all love dogs. Abroozi was never far from the kitchen and we had the most stress free holiday because of how well he was looked after and how much freedom we had. Dogs run free – no leashes here. Perhaps they made an exception in our case, but they didn’t charge us for Abroozi’s food of chicken, rice, bread and milk. Their menus are fixed each day and we had the most fantastic home made bread and jams, roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings, a mutton roast, pasta and thai boiled eggs. A peaceful place to watch the hundreds of birds and go swimming in the tranquil lake. I highly recommend. Best time to visit is in the cooler months of October to March.
This is a pricey but very classy and very friendly resort. You can find out more about their individually designed cottages by the resident artists, the beach, the pool, the ayurveda and their dogs. This resort loves dogs and have their own motley crew as well – a Dalmation, couple of Labradors and other breeds. The property is on such a huge expanse they give each cottage a couple of bicycles just to get around – the perfect place for your dog to have a good run around. And there’s also the private beach. You and your dog need nothing else.
Or you can do what we do which is to pack up a tent, water, firewood and a rug, all other camping essentials and hit the open road looking for the perfect camping spot before sun down.
To the non-dog lover
Some people have a fear of dogs and others just don’t like dogs. That’s OK. I can deal with that. I don’t understand it but I’ll accept that there are things I don’t understand but can put up with, like low fat mayonnaise or mini kit-kats. If it’s hygiene you’re worried about then all I can say is that there are a lot more clean dogs than clean people who stay in resorts. You may ask a dog owner why forego those holidays just to have a dog. Well, here’s the thing – no weekend getaway or week long vacation can be as fulfilling as a dog’s unconditional, untiring love day in, day out.
UPDATE 2012: Expedia.co.in now has a search criteria for their hotels including the category ‘Pets Allowed.’ Expand the “other features options” for it. You’ll be surprised how many will now accept dogs in the big cities.
Taj Vivanta properties across India now allows you to bring your dog and have him/her in the room with you for an extra Rs.3000 a night.
A reader has told us that Taj Hessergatta near Bangalore has also been very accommodating of her pug.
Do write in with places you’ve stayed at with your dog so we can share the love.