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Off to Africa

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I know it sounds strange to some, but my dog needed to come with me to Ethiopia. That was never a question. It wouldn't be Coco's first international trip — he was born in Germany about 3 years before I adopted him in Washington State.

So I did some research, found other successful doggy expats to the country, and decided I was going to make it work.

On January 13th 2014, Coco, my cocker spaniel/dachshund mix, travelled from Boise to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Frankfurt, and Frankfurt to Addis Ababa, arriving on the 15th.

I never planned to move a dog like this, so I can't say everything about the trip was perfect. But now it's over, and as I write this Coco is lounging in the sun on my front porch in Hawassa, Ethiopia — not a worry in the world.

Here are the essential supplies I think anyone taking such a huge trip with their dog should consider having.

  1. An IATA Approved Pet Carrier
    The International Air Transport Association has requirements on what kind of crate your dog can travel in. So if you want your dog to make it onto the plane, do your research and buy the right crate.

  2. Puppy Pads
    International flights can be long and even the best-trained dogs can get a little nervous and have an accident in their crate (Coco didn't — I'm amazed). This is not only a good idea but is a requirement on some flights, remember to check with your airline.

  3. A cozy blanket Even if your dog's final destination is the desert, there's still a pretty good chance they'll be spending some time in a chilly cargo hold. I know the blanket kind of contradicts the pee pads, but ask yourself one question: Would your dog care more about keeping warm or peeing on a blanket?

  4. Attachable water and food cups Your crate may or may not come with these. Just be sure you have them, otherwise your dog won't be able to eat or drink in his crate.

  5. Options for leashes, collars, and harnesses On Coco's trip, he had to spend the night in a doggy hotel in LA, which my pet courier service arranged for me, with someone he's never met. I knew Coco was difficult on the leash, so I thought it would be helpful to give his babysitter some options to work with. I'm pretty sure they just snuggled though.

  6. Travel Anxiety Relief I honestly have no idea if this stuff works, but it's absolutely worth getting if you have a high-anxiety dog. I didn't know about them for Coco's trip, but he definitely could have benefited in retrospect.

  7. Treats! The airline only allowed us to tape one bag of dog food to the top of Coco's crate — nothing else. At the time, it didn't cross my mind to sneak some treats in there with it. Coco's one of those guys who doesn't like to eat when he feels out of place, but treats are always a different story.

Note: I asked them if I could tape Coco's medications to the top of the crate as well, and they said no. So be sure you have your dog's meds waiting for him at his final destination.

Those are the essential items that Coco either had, or I wish he had. But you know your dog best, and I wouldn't be surprised if you think of something else that they can't live without on the trip.

It's important for your own peace of mind to know that they have everything they might possibly need, because in a lot of cases, like Coco's, you won't be able to check up on how he's doing, beyond online updates that your precious cargo has made it onto the flight.

Also when making your plans, just keep in mind that every airline, every airport, and every country has different requirements for how animals travel, what they can travel with, the required documentation and vaccinations. So do your homework!

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