I spent all day Monday packing up the car, driving, and unpacking — dogs included. For the next nine days we’d be in the Florida Keys. It’s close to home base in South Miami, but far enough away for comfort. Comfortable, that is, if you discount the traveling-with-dogs fear factor.

For my cats I’d decided on the at-home option. It’s only nine days, after all. So, too, for my chickens and goats. These latter species are not known for their great long-distance skills. But my dogs? They can handle a few days here and there with no major stress. Still … more than a week? Not so much.

Which is why I decided it was high time my dogs started traveling with me. After all, I’m only going 70 miles or so. No flight. No major travel time. No hotel. A well-appointed rental awaiting on the other end, to boot. So why not?

Why not? Because there are so many safety issues associated with taking a pet out of any given locale, is why not. There are so many what-ifs and should-wes associated with novel surroundings that it makes sense for pet owners to think more than twice about taking pets — dogs or cats — along for longer rides.

Yet I find that pet owners who invest in the concept of taking their pets away with them tend to be rewarded well enough in buddy time to make up for the kind of stress inevitably occasioned by travel related safety issues. Especially when they can be so easily mitigated by the new fangled technology designed to make both pet-keeping and pet ID-ing a more-effective-than-ever venture.

Because not only are even the most basic of collars safer and more reliable than ever before, and positive ID-tagging an indisputably essential tool, microchipping is now a routine option, too.

Yet, as we all know, even these features aren’t always enough for the wayward pet. Which is why it’s sometimes best for pet owners to have more control when it comes to keeping tabs on their pets, and which is why the Garmin GTU 10 tracking device (sold at AT&T), and other GPS-tracking devices like it, are increasingly implemented in travel scenarios like mine.

It’s about three inches long, so it’s not for all dogs, and probably not for cats, but it does work if what you’re worried about is your dog slipping through a weak spot along the chain link when you’re staying at a new property.

Clipped snugly to a reliable collar, it works by sending you a text or e-mail when your pets have left their boundaries. Whether you’re using an iPhone or Android smartphone app, you can create up to ten virtual limits for pets depending on your current location.

Here’s what AT&T has to say on the subject:

  • The battery is recharged through a USB cable, and tracking data is delivered across AT&T’s wireless network with a yearly subscription plan.
  • Price: $199.99 includes first year of standard tracking. After that, it’s $49.99 a year for the service; a more detailed seven-day track history costs an extra $4.99 a month.

(Read more about it in this tech review at The Miami Herald.)

Too bad this product’s review in The Miami Herald hit my e-mail inbox only after I’d already arrived at my destination. It’s expensive, to be sure, but if you like to travel with your pets to places like this cute little house in the Keys, you might start to think the peace of mind might be worth it. Heck, even if you don’t travel, but your pet is a big roamer-slash-escapee, you ought to start thinking along these lines anyway.

So if the GPS isn’t on our safety menu this summer, what are we doing to keep safe, you ask? Stay tuned to tomorrow’s annual post on water safety for a run-down of what’s new on the market and what’s tried and true.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: How to keep your dog from running away...Italian Style! by Jason Yanowitz

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