Although with a increasing number of pet-friendly resorts, hotels, restaurants, pool parties, customized getaways, and modes of travel, the options for pet parents are developing but some difficulties are still there.
Trek your dog to the hills or riverside at Rishikesh or Mussoorie. Or just have a fun-filled Sunday brunch with a pool party at a retreat. Vacations are finally becoming more pet-friendly but hiccups abound — like spending a bomb and still not being able to travel with your pet!
Nevertheless, pet-friendly hotels, cafes, and travel options facilities are gradually shaping up getaways.
Meet 33-year-old Divya Dugar, a Delhi-based freelance journalist and a mother of two dogs Tigress and Marcopolo. She, her husband and pets went on their first trip to Goa by train on a 32-hour journey.
“After the death of my dog Pondi two years ago, we decided to travel with Marcopolo and Tigress and spread awareness about adopting dogs from the streets. When I started planning a six-week vacation in Goa and the Western Ghats with my pets, there was hardly any information on the Internet. Renting a car was expensive. But the Indian Railways came to our rescue. Since then we have done 25 trips by rail to Goa and Western Ghats, Jaipur, Dehra Dun, Mussoorie, Lansdowne, Nag Tibba, Alipura and Orchha in Madhya Pradesh, Churu in Rajasthan besides others,” Dugar says.
She did a lot of research and came to know that many Army and police officials travel with their dogs on train. As per Railway policy, pets can be carried only in AC1 coupe booked by the pet parents. Or, they can be booked in the luggage car. Owners have to make their own arrangements for water and food during the journey. The cost of pet travel depends on the type of train and the size and age of the dog.
Dogs, when carried in the break-van (Dog-Box) and/or AC1 are charged at Scale ‘L’ (luggage rates) on the basis of weight, subject to a minimum charge of Rs 10 per dog. There is an option for the passengers to carry the dog in the Dog-Box which is 30 kg and is charged on the prepaid basis.
“We went to the Nizamuddin Railway Station from where the Delhi-Madgaon Rajdhani departs. We booked an AC1 coupe. We met the chief commissioner at Baroda House and asked for a two-berth coupe so that there would be no co-passengers objecting to the presence of our dogs,” Dugar recalls.
Dogs don’t need a ticket. They just need to be booked at the parcel office at the railway station which takes Rs 800 per dog, depending on the distance. “When I travelled to Rajasthan, I had to pay only Rs 200 for my dogs. You need to go with a copy of your ticket and ID and tell the parcel office that you want to book a dog. It turns out much cheaper than road or air,” she adds.
Getting on the train was a big victory but it came with new challenges. “We prepared all the necessary meals, medicines and also made a list of stops for toilet breaks. We didn’t know how they will pee and poop and walked them outside the train whenever there was a halt which was risky. But now we have got a hang of it and most of our trips happen by train and then we hire a taxi or an auto. When we were at Orchha, we were allowed with the dogs at the ASI site which was a big surprise. Marcopolo and Tigress visited Jahangirmahal, Rajamahal and even went to the Laxmi temple which we thought the priest might not allow,” Dugar says.
Some other pet-friendly resorts Dugar has been to includes Bundelkhand Riverside Resort in Orchha, Alipura Palace in Madhya Pradesh, The Goat’s Village at Nag Tibba, The White Peak Homestay in Kumaon, The Tree Of Life Resort in Jaipur and other branches, Narayan Niwas Castle at Mahansar in Rajasthan, The Dune Eco Village & Spa resort in Pondicherry and some Air BnB homestays that make long term stay feasible.
“Before you make a booking at a hotel, one must call them and inform that you have a pet who will be travelling with you and there will be special needs. We have a lot of discussion with the staff about food preferences for the dogs. I have only been charged for the dog food but never for the stay,” Dugar says, adding that if someone wants a luxurious stay, Taj Vivanta is a good option as they are pet friendly but charge for the pets too.
Dugar is now planning to write a guidebook for pet parents on travelling with their pet. She will be heading to Kumaon, Madhya Pradesh for her next vocation & also plan to go on a backpacking trip to South East Asia with the pets by road from Manipur to Thailand.
Dugar’s dog adjusted to the train movement in just 30-45 minutes. They enjoyed Rajdhani hospitality and savoured the soup sticks, plain rice and vanilla ice cream,” Dugar recalls.
Pet behaviourist Swati Tandon, a pet parent of a Shih Tzu and two Lhasa Apsos named Giggle, Tickle and Feather, feels it is important to assess if the dog is travel ready.
“There are dogs who are fearful of car rides because they relate it to visiting their vet. So at least once a month, one must take his pet on car rides to other places and eat out at pet-friendly cafes. Dogs may feel sick in a moving car. Give your pet a prescribed medicine half-an-hour before the ride starts,” Tandon suggests.
There are many dos and don’ts to follow when it comes to travelling with your pet. Feed your pet an hour before the journey and keep the portion size small. Before boarding, take him or her for a walk so that your pet is tired and can sleep in the car. Too much energy results in restlessness. Make a travel bag of the first aid kit, water, treats, bowl, wet and dry tissues, potty scooper, lint roller and a seat protector. Drive slow, especially over speed breakers. If travelling long distance, give your dog a toilet break every half hour,” Tandon advises.
Two years ago, Akshay Gupta, founder and managing director of Pet Fed, came up with the idea of a weekend getaway with group pets and parents to Rishikesh and Mussoorie. In collaboration with Make My Trip, Gupta organised a Bring Your Own Dog trip for 12 dogs and 25 people in a customised bus at a pet-friendly resort.
“We curated this unique trip in 2016 as a three-day getaway. Since there is no provision to carry pets in a bus, we booked two luxury buses and customised them by putting comfortable beds for the pets and seat belt so that they didn’t feel the jerks. A behaviourist was there to take care of the dogs,” Gupta says. The trip costed around Rs 15000 per person.
Travelling with your pet is still a dodgy issue. State Roadways buses and Volvos have no provision for pets on-board. They have strict rules against carrying pets. The few who do agree informally to take the pet, charge a bomb. Sanjay Kumar, a bus driver with Haryana Roadways, says: “We are not allowed to take the pets in AC or non-AC buses but a few who agree to this request demand double ticket money and allow to keep the pet near the footrest area and not on the seat.”
Air travel is not just super expensive but unpleasant for the pet as they are put in the cargo area. Only Air India allows pets in the cabin, but only up to a limit and with a final approval from the pilot. Some airlines allow pets that are eight weeks old, whereas, for others, the minimum age limit is 12 weeks.
Kartika Tomar, Airhostess at Air India Express, says: “We have had passengers who have travelled with their pet in the cabin. But these pets need valid health and rabies vaccination certificates. Air India carries pets at an additional charge and not in the free baggage allowance, even if the passenger has no other baggage. A maximum of two pets or service dogs are permitted per aircraft, with the concurrence of the commander.”
If you want to go on a backpacking trip, consult Collar Folk, a Gurugram-based travel agency that provides accommodation and transportation services for pet owners. Rukmini Vaish, founder of Collar Folk, says: “I’ve grown up with pets and I felt sad about leaving them behind when on holidays. It used to be difficult to take them along and we often requested friends to take care of them. So, I came up with this travel site that can help pet owners decide where to go on a pet friendly vacation,” Vaish tells you.
The packages starts from Rs 1500 per night to Rs 25,000 per night, depending on the luxuries and services required. The site also offers a loyalty discount programme. Activities include an hour-long nature walk, treks and water sports.
Viren Sharma, founder of Mad Over Dogs, a pet-friendly resort provides lodging facilities for dogs with interesting activities. We provide special sugar-free ice-creams, sugar-free yogurt and special juices for dogs,” Viren, himself a parent to 17 dogs of which two are Indie dogs (Roody Sharma and Buddhu Sharma), and 22 cats.
He charges Rs 600 per day which includes diet, care, accommodation and free access to the pool. The USP of this dog hostel is that it is open to all kinds of pets be it cats, birds or dogs.
Up-and-coming Rakkh Resort at Palampur, Himachal Pradesh has a strict policy for pet owners. Before bringing pets to the property, the pet parent has to register their pets and sign this written Pet Policy upon arrival. It charges Rs 1,000 per night for the pet stay and not more than two pets are allowed per room. The owners are required to bring the feeding bowls, a proof of vaccinations and dog food.
Meanwhile, Crazy K9 Campers in Mumbai provides trekking, boating, treasure hunts, river swimming, kayaking, facilities for pet parents and their pets. Dog trainer Pooja Sathe who founded Crazy K9 Campers, says: “We’ve a set venue for each camp that opens over the weekend. We do a camp in every two months. There is one Monsoon Special Camp on July 14 and 15. These camps host 15 to 20 dogs and 40 to 50 people at a time. The package ranges from Rs 3500 to Rs 5000 a person, including accommodation, meals and activities.
But not all dog owners travel. Such kinds make good of the holidays by going to Pupper Parties with their dogs that takes place every Sunday. Once every month, Pet Fed organises a BYOD Pool Party on a Sunday in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
“The BYOD Pool Party was introduced on the requests of the pet owners wanting to spend quality time with their dogs with picnics, playing games, pool splashes and more. It is a four-hour event which ends with a lavish brunch for the pet parent and their pet,” says Gupta who is also coming up with PetFed 2018 in Delhi on December 15, 2018 at NSIC Grounds, Okhla.
Tandon with Giggle, Tickle and Feather go for a swim at Jeffurry’s, or picnic and eat out at Puppichino Café or Off The Leash dog park and café in Gurugram,
Eshita, founder of Off The Leash, has converted her farm house into a dog park and café which gives preference to dogs and only then the humans. “The inspiration came from my dog Zara, a German Shepherd. The farmhouse has ample space for dogs to play. There are pool parties arranged over the weekends where the dogs and owners can enjoy a swim together. The entry fee is Rs 400 per dog and no fees charged for owners. Even at the time of ordering food, owners have to fill in their dog’s name in the register and then order food for themselves,” Eshita tells you.
Nayani Tandon, owner of Delhi’s first dog café Puppychino, says that they added a special ‘woozy boozy’ beer for dogs last year which is non-alcoholic. “It’s made of chicken broth and is healthy for dogs. If the owner is enjoying beer, why not give the pet a sip too? We have a special menu for dogs which include cup cakes, pizza, pasta, pan cakes and freshly baked dog biscuits. We have opened grooming centres so that parents can have food while the dogs can have a relaxing session,” Nayani says.
Another popular pet eatout Cafe Fur Ball Story in Gurugram has a curated dog food menu, both vegetarian and non- vegetarian. Animesh Katiyar and Srishti Sharma studied at a college which had got two labradors for student’s recreation. “Students started attending college only because of these dogs. Those who felt homesick, they started getting a feeling of belonging. We thought if pet therapy is working so well in such a small place, we should try to make it work elsewhere too,” says Sharma, a pet parent of a two-year-old pug Candy.
They started with dog therapy in December 2015 and have therapy trained dogs who visit residences, company, NGOs and hospitals for stress reduction. “We have therapy trained dogs at the cafe too, to meet and beat the stress of our guests at the cafe. There is a special staffer allotted to dogs who are ferocious or do not like to mix up with anyone,” Sharma adds.
The price for boarding facilities for smaller breeds is Rs 749 for a day and bigger breeds, Rs 899. They also provide day care facility for which the charges are Rs 500. The pool charge is Rs 300 per dog for half-an-hour, the pet parent can also accompany their pet to the pool, there are no separate charges for that.
The concept of boarding is very up and coming now, what with nuclear families adopting this concept for convenience. GoDogee boarding in Noida not only provides day care and boarding options but also gives grooming and treatment facilities. It can cost somewhere between Rs 400 to Rs 800 a day, depending on the duration and size of your pet.
However, if you are uncomfortable leaving your pet in a boarding facility or you’re travelling for a longer duration, homestays are a more suitable option. One such place is Jeffurry’s Pet Resort in Mundka, Delhi. The resort owner Achal Gupta is a pet lover who has a two-and-a-half-year-old Rottweiler Jeff and a three-month-old golden retriever Maaza.
“I was travelling with Jeff in June 2016 and couldn’t find a decent dog boarding or homestay option to leave him. That is when the idea of a pet resort with a 40 room luxury air-conditioned hotel came up. It has a swimming pool, café, dog park, spa and grooming centres. The facility is spread over 40,000 sq feet area and offers boarding facility for the dogs starts from Rs 999 and go up to Rs 1899 for 24 hours. We have already boarded 25 dogs and around 30 dogs have come here for swim sessions and play sessions,” Achal adds.
Cuddle Inn pet boarding in Mehrauli is a homestay providing a homely air-conditioned environment. The owners themselves look after the pets. To make sure they are taking proper care of all pets, they don’t take more than four pets at once, making sure the pet isn’t neglected during absence. They also have a tie-up with a vet.
Homely Dog Boarding in Indirapuram is a place where Anushka, an animal lover, sits pets in her home, be it a turtle or a dog. “We provide freshly cooked food and take the pet for a walk at the nearby park. You can video call anytime while you are away and see your pet. We also have an emergency vet,” says Anushka who charges a minimalistic Rs 500 to Rs 1000 per day, depending on the size of the pet.
Sangeeta Yadav, Musba Hashmi,Monika Thakur and Gurbani Singh contributed to the story
Writer: Sunday Pioneer
Courtesy: The Pioneer