Friday, August 10, 2007

Fuzzy Friday: Boarding for Full Timers

Every Friday I write about our pets

Into every full-timer’s life comes a time when you will need to leave your rig behind to travel by train, plane or boat. For instance, in the last two years, I had to fly to California several times for family medical emergencies. We have also taken several cruises. You may want to fly to Hawaii for a week or take Amtrak’s Coast Starlight for a fun adventure.

If you live with pets, how do you find a place to board them while you are away? Here are the steps I take to find someone to care for Opal, George, Angel and the fishes.

Ideally, we leave the animals with trusted friends or relatives. Since we started full-timing three years ago, this has only worked out once, but it was great. We left from our old hometown, San Jose, for a long cruise. Good friends watched Opal and the fishes. Our cats were boarded with an acquaintance who has a stray cat rescue operation in her garage, and they were well tended.

Most of our trips, however, have started from some other part of the country. I have to find a kennel or animal hospital that does boarding. Animal hospitals are good choices. Their boarding areas are often just as nice as a kennel’s, their prices are reasonable, and they have the added advantage of being able to take care of any medical problems directly. Opal is elderly enough now that we like to know she’s covered for any emergency.

The best way to find a kennel is to get a name from a friend. If we have a flight out of Phoenix and know someone in that city, one of us emails them in advance and asks for recommendations. If they don’t use kennels, we ask them to ask their friends.

The next best thing to a recommendation from a friend is a recommendation from a complete stranger on the Internet. I start by posting a request on the pet-specific forum of Okay, these are not complete strangers. I know they at least share my love of animals and the Rving lifestyle. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Once I got the name of a great kennel, and once I only got the name of a kennel to avoid. That’s good information, though.

My next strategy is to Google “kennel reviews Phoenix” and see what comes up. Many cities have on-line discussion groups where people can rate local businesses. In general, these reviews are either “loved it” or “hated it.” People are generally too lazy to post something in-between; they have to feel pretty strongly to bother with a review.

Finally, no matter who recommends a kennel, I check with the Better Business Bureau on-line to make sure the kennel doesn’t have any outstanding problems. Again, people are usually too lazy to pursue a BBB complaint unless they had a really bad experience. If a kennel has any bad history with the BBB, I don’t use it. Hopefully at the end of this process I have the names of a couple of boarding facilities and at least one of them can accommodate our schedule.

We’ve boarded our pets about 5 times in 3 years and so far all of our experiences have been positive.

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