Originally Published: September 10, 2008 7:46 p.m.
Here's how I envisioned moving to Prescott would be: me and the dogs in my truck towing a trailer filled with our stuff, heading to meet my wife Angela, who was already in Prescott securing our new home (at least our temporary home). I'd drive down the interstate, a big smile on my face while the dogs lolled their heads out the window, enjoying the fresh air. I'd just be a man and his dogs, crossing the beautiful southwest to start work as the new executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.
Except it wasn't like that. In fact, after more than two decades in animal welfare, I began to understand why the number one reason people give for surrendering their pets is "moving."
Me and my three traveling pals, Jake the Labrador, Dexter the boxer, and my six-pound best friend, Squirt the chihuahua, found out that even if it isn't easy getting there, figuring out what to do next can be even tougher.
The hardest part about moving with pets is finding a place to live. Every landlord has had one of those tenants - the one whose bored, 80-pound mutt ate most of the living room carpet and the patio set (certainly not the dog's fault, but a black mark on pet owners' report cards just the same.) So when we pulled into Prescott with three furry heads peering out from behind the windshield, we heard the slam of rental office doors throughout town. My wife and I found out just how difficult it can be to rent a house if you have a four-legged companion (let alone three or more.)
A few things can grease the leasing wheel, however. First, if you have a current landlord who knows what an incredible pet owner you are, ask them to write you a letter of reference. Since I owned my home where I came from, I had Squirt forge one, but it just didn't look convincing. (He still can't spell, although his penmanship is much improved.) Have your vet records, doggie diplomas and maybe even a note from your mom handy. Avoid large commercial complexes with "no pets" policies - even if you can show how great you are, they may not be able to budge. Offer to let potential landlords meet your perfect pets. And expect to pay a little extra. A supplemental pet deposit can often allay landlord fears. (A note to landlords here: lots of pet people are great renters. Meet us and see!)
There are lots of little steps that can help you pave the way to an easy move with your pets. Plan and pack ahead. Pack a little at a time, keep pets' routines steady, and try not to let yourself get too anxious.
As soon as we had a place to live, everyone got new tags and I updated their microchips. A friend of mine who moved with cats recently told me that her veterinarian gave her sedatives for her anxious traveling felines. If your pet isn't quite a jet-setter, talk to your vet about medical and behavioral options.
When we walked in the door of our new place, I had water bowls ready to deploy and fill. Dog beds were unpacked first so they could smell familiar scents in the new home, and we went outside. Squirt was the first to accept the place with a single raised leg in the yard, and the three of them were soon snoozing away. We smiled until I realized they had no intention of helping us unpack.
As I brought the last box in, sweaty and exhausted, they woke up, had a long stretch and lined up in front of their food bowls. Jake yawned, Dexter shook himself awake and Squirt put one paw on his bowl as if to remind me that for him, home was wherever dinner was served.