Traveling with a Dog Across Europe
When I told family and friends that I planned to move from New Orleans, Louisiana to Budapest, Hungary to teach English, they were excited and enthusiastic. When I told them I would be taking my 65-pound black Labrador Deuce along for the trip, they were not as supportive. Everyone thought I had lost my mind! Imagine their shock when I told them that not only did I plan to fly Deuce abroad but that my plan included traveling to Rome, Florence, Pisa, Bologna, Innsbruck, Vienna, Istria, and Zagreb by train with Deuce before the school year started. I think a few friends tried to call the insane asylum and convince them to admit me.
Fortunately, the lack of encouragement didn’t stop me from contacting a pet shipping service to coordinate the move of my dog from Houston, Texas to Rome, Italy. I was determined to share my adventure with my best friend.
People tend to assume you are from the local area if you are with your dog and will speak to you much more easily than if they think you are a tourist.
After some challenges and delays, Deuce arrived in Rome after a 24-hour layover in Frankfurt, where incoming dogs are suspended for a check up. This short quarantine is much less strict than the one enforced by the UK, but long enough to make me lose sleep, worrying about the safe arrival of my dog. When the pet moving truck pulled up to my apartment, I started crying because I was so happy and relieved that Deuce had made it safely.
It took Deuce about a week to adjust to the new time zone, new food, and new routine. We were staying in a small studio apartment, quite the contrast to our 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom home in Louisiana. There were so many new people and new sounds all around for Deuce to adjust to. At first, he would bark every time he heard the door buzzers from other apartments in the hallway. He did not like having to wear his muzzle every time we used public transportation.
Gradually, he adjusted to life in the city and enjoyed going for walks and runs in many of Rome’s public parks. He joined me for morning cappuccinos at a cafe in my neighborhood and made friends at our local dog park.
After staying in Rome for two months, Deuce joined my boyfriend and me on our trip to the Tuscan countryside. We stayed in Pontedera, home of the Vespa museum and very central to all locations in Tuscany. With temperatures soaring over 100 degrees during the day, Deuce stayed inside the cool apartment, and then joined us at wine bars for sips of Chianti in the evening.
Traveling with a dog is an amazing way to meet locals wherever you are. In Pontedera, we made friends with an elderly lady who was amazed that we brought our dog all the way from America. We also made friends with the owners of Dog and Dog Pet Salon when we took Deuce to get a bath and a haircut in order to help him cope with the Italian summer heat.
People tend to assume you are from the local area if you are with your dog and will speak to you much more easily than if they think you are a tourist. Because of this, I was able to practice my Italian regularly.
At our next stop, Bologna, Deuce enjoyed walking underneath the miles of porticoes when it drizzled in the evenings. Bologna is famous not only for its delicious cuisine but also for the stunning porticoes that run for more than 26 miles throughout the city, protecting pedestrians from sun, rain, and snow. From the porticoes of Bologna, we traveled to the gardens and mountain paths of Innsbruck, Austria. Deuce loved the trails in the Hofgarten which were dotted with colorful flowers and a variety of alpine tree varieties. I posed for a picture with Deuce in the old town under the famous Golden Roof.
Either Innsbruck or Zagreb was Deuce’s favorite city on our summer tour. Both cities have several fabulous public parks with miles of trails. Both cities offer hiking nearby and are extremely welcoming to dogs in cafes and restaurants.
The most surprising thing about traveling with my dog in Europe was how easy it was! I found most accommodations and public spaces to be more welcoming to canine companions than in the States. The only city we visited that was not very dog friendly was Vienna. Far fewer hotels allowed pets and there are very strict leash laws and signs everywhere warning you to pick up your dog’s poop to avoid a fine. I noticed fewer locals on the streets with their pets, probably because there are not enough parks and green spaces where dogs are allowed in the city center. Overall, the most difficult part of the entire summer’s travels was the initial journey by plane from Houston to Rome.
Now that I am working as an English teacher in Hungary, Deuce’s doggie routine is returning to normal. He knows what to expect on most days. However, in three weeks he will be joining us for an autumn break trip to several cities in the Czech Republic. We will take him on the train with his European Union issued doggie passport, his muzzle, and lots of treats. I am sure he will enrich our 10-day trip in many ways as he did throughout this past summer.
The only city we visited that was not very dog friendly was Vienna. Far fewer hotels allowed pets and there are very strict leash laws and signs everywhere warning you to pick up your dog’s poop to avoid a fine.
If you are thinking about traveling with a dog in Europe, don’t be afraid to do so. First, understand the financial and time commitment you are making. If you really want your best friend to join you for the adventure of a lifetime, enlist the support of an International Pet and Animal Transportation Association licensed member to help the transition go smoothly for you and your pet.
Finally, enjoy seeing international cities in a new way with your furry friend by your side! You will meet people and see places that you may never have experienced if not for your pet. I am thankful everyday that I decided to bring Deuce to Europe with me because he has brought his silly antics, uncontained joy, and curious nature, which have made my travel experiences so much more enjoyable.
Top photo credit: Hugh Derr