How To Cope With Leaving Pets Behind When You Travel


One of the hardest things about extended travel is leaving pets behind. Kim Dinan captures this topic in her post, which is no doubt a lovely read, but I can’t tell you for sure because I couldn’t go any further than the title without choking on my own snotty howls.

When I left Melbourne for Thailand, I had to say bye to my maladjusted gorgeous dog, Frida. This is her sweet face.

And this is her biting my partners head:

(He was giving her belly raspberries, so he kinda deserved it. I usually bite him when he does this to me too.)

Little Frida Kahlo DeRoche Alexis now lives with my parents. I miss her.

But in Thailand, we’ve managed to adopt a range of new pals. Travel advice warns that dogs in Thailand may carry rabies, so touching them is not a good idea. But with hundreds of happy, clean, healthy faces running around on the beach, it’s easy to ignore this overcautious advice and let a dog or two share your towel. (Plus, we paid $550 for rabies shots—we may as well get our money’s worth.)

Ivan has never been one for listening to good advice, so he picks up every passing Thai dog—small or large—and cradles them in his arms like he used to do with our child our dog, Frida. I have to keep a watchful eye to make sure he doesn’t go in for a belly raspberry.

I won’t dare tell you about the time that he accidentally dropped a tiny chihuahua on the pavement when he was cradling it and it started biting him, triggering an angry outburst from the Thai owner. No, we won’t go there because that was just plain awkward. Especially the part after the lady finally calmed down, and Ivan said to her, “Don’t worry, I have a small dog at home and I accidentally drop her too sometimes.”

See? A-w-k-w-a-r-d.

Anyway, here are some of our new friends:

A beagle knocked on my door the other day—Bam! Bam! Bam! I opened the door and in comes—

He heads straight for the bin.

He eats.

He leaves.

He doesn’t even shut the door behind him.

(We must be related.)

And here’s the fattest dog in the Kingdom of Thailand:

Her name is Buddha (according to me).

Every evening, Buddha does the ‘beach buffet,’ which means traveling from restaurant to restaurant, accepting pity food from tourists. “Oh, look! She’s pregnant! We’d better feed her so she doesn’t die!”

I’m telling you—this dog has junk in her trunk. She. Is. Massivo.

When she’s not eating, she just sits in the sand panting from the great effort it takes her not to go into cardiac arrest.

Fat dog –> Normal dog.

I haven’t seen Buddha for a while … 🙁

Some more pals from around the island:


So to anyone who is sad to leave pets behind, don’t worry—you’ll get your furry fix. There are friends all over the world: big ones, small ones, cheeky ones, fat ones, bitey ones, and ones that eat coconut and then marinate themselves in mango. Delicious!

Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.

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  • Ayngelina April 27, 2012, 8:18 am

    It must be so hard. My mother is traveling with me in Maui and my sister sent a photo of her dog looking out the window waiting for her to come home. I know it was hard for her to see.

    • Torre DeRoche April 27, 2012, 9:51 am

      Noooo! That’s the worst: when they sit there waiting.

  • Cristina Garcia April 27, 2012, 12:54 pm

    It is really hard. I went away for 6 weeks and I missed my three cats terribly.
    I want to go traveling again, but I can’t bear to leave them. It is driving my husband insane because I first think about the cats being alone.
    We should stop rescuing animals.

    • Torre DeRoche April 27, 2012, 12:57 pm

      You guys need a menagerie. With painted dogs.

      • Cristina Garcia April 27, 2012, 1:04 pm

        hmmm no more captive guys for us.
        I want to get a piece of the Kalahari and restore it. Let the wild guys live with us.
        Now that is HEAVEN!

  • Sally April 27, 2012, 1:56 pm

    I had to leave my cat behind when I moved to Japan and it was so hard. I was totally racked with guilt. Luckily, one of my best friends adopted her. He has spoiled her totally rotten & the poor thing is like 15 pounds heavier than when I had her. Even though I know she’s in good (if fattening) hands, I still really miss her. And it’s all I can do not to steal the various stray kittens I’ve seen in China. Seriously, I have come so close to shoving them into my bike basket & taking them home with me. I’m really surprised it hasn’t happened yet.

    • Torre DeRoche April 28, 2012, 1:10 am

      Why is it that second-hand animals are always overweight? The last time I left my dog with my parents, I came back to discover she’d turned into a bean bag with legs and a head.

  • Kim April 27, 2012, 3:27 pm

    So sweet! Does seeing these little guys make leaving your own pup even harder? I love the fat one!

    • Torre DeRoche April 28, 2012, 1:11 am

      Meh. I just drown out my sorrows with mojitos.

  • Kelly April 27, 2012, 3:55 pm

    Aww this is a lovely post! When I moved to New Zealand a few years back, I left my kitties with a friend; it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! You’re so right though, in that there are friendly furry faces everywhere to play with. My favourites were the very young puppies that lived at my resort on Koh Tao — they would come and curl up on my lap while I sat on the beach. Delightful!

    • Torre DeRoche April 28, 2012, 1:12 am

      Ohh. I wish we had some puppies here. We’re in Koh Tao too.

  • Patricia Sands April 27, 2012, 5:38 pm

    Been there. I want to rescue that pup from the puddle! It made me feel sad.
    Tell us more of your adventures. Are you writing? I’m thinking about your dad and hope he’s surrounded by good karma.

    • Torre DeRoche April 28, 2012, 1:13 am

      Oh, don’t feel sad for puddle-dog. She’s just cooling down in the shallow part of the water by the dock (a particularly dirty spot), but she lives at a restaurant and she’s highly indulged. They all are.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Patricia. I’ll send you an email.

  • Sarah Somewhere April 27, 2012, 5:39 pm

    Yes, the dogs in Thailand are amazing, I think those on the islands have a pretty good deal with doting tourists on tap. I fell in love with one of those wrinkle dogs on Koh Chang, even though I haven’t been a pet person since I was a kid and my adopted stray cat got hit by a car and died because we couldn’t afford the vet bills… Scarred for life.

    • Torre DeRoche April 28, 2012, 1:15 am

      Noooooo! That’s too sad. Perhaps you need post-traumatic-stress-disorder therapy for that one.

      I was scarred too when my beloved cat when missing mysteriously when I was about 10. I had emotion-packed dreams of her coming home until I was about 21.

      Goddamn animals. They OWN us.

  • Hannah April 27, 2012, 6:57 pm

    We don’t have any pets to leave behind when we begin our RTW adventure in a few months, but I am already worried about how hard I will find it leaving all the temporary pet-friends we will make around the world. My partner seems to think he is fluent in ‘dog’ and is incapable of passing a mutt on the streets without offering up a gruff sounding “Hewro!” and stopping for like, half an hour, to rub its belly and exchange niceties! Maybe we’ll settle down one day and open a rescue centre 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche April 28, 2012, 1:21 am

      Your partner and my partner are one of a kind. Dogmen. My partner says, “Hello” to every passing dog, but he doesn’t even say, “Hewro!” he says, “Hey” like you’d say to a good friend. “Hey. What’s goin’ on?”

  • Kelley April 28, 2012, 3:06 am

    Thank you for this post! I really needed this as I am getting ready to rehome my dog and cat while I leave to travel for a year or more. This really cheered me up, thanks again 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche May 1, 2012, 4:20 am

      Aw … I’m glad. Best of luck to you and your furry pals. x

  • Denise April 28, 2012, 6:35 am EVER!

  • Nicholas Marks April 28, 2012, 11:34 pm

    That fat dog is hilarious. Do none of these animals have owners? That’s really very sad. I love German Sheppards, it’s pretty sad to think of one being left hungry.

  • Vacay Girl April 30, 2012, 2:11 am

    It is definitely one of the hardest things that I have to do when I’m about to travel. I normally board my pet at a boarding kennel. This past time I was fortunate to have a co-worker offer to watch her, who a couple of days before I left for my vacation lost her precious Shih-Tzu. Before he died I had already propositioned her to watch my Pepper. So when her dog passed away I thought maybe it wouldn’t be the best thing for her to do but she still didn’t hesitate to watch my little one. And I was so grateful for it. My friend gave me a peace of mind that a kennel can only slightly offer. And that peace of mind when you’re away from them is worth a lot.

    • Torre DeRoche May 1, 2012, 4:22 am

      It really is worth a lot. I’m not sure how I would’ve coped if I didn’t have a mother with broken wing syndrome who’s willing to take in lost animals. My poor parents must’ve taken in about 12 orphaned pets over the years.

  • Meg | One Love Meg May 1, 2012, 9:14 am

    This brings tears to my eyes as I just left my little one behind for a year!! 🙁

    It was the hardest and still the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I wish traveling could be more dog friendly because there are so many places I would love to take her and she really is the worlds best dog. I may have to do a post on her now.

  • Jeremy Branham May 2, 2012, 5:01 pm

    I’ve had a dog almost my entire life. It’s tough traveling and leaving them at home. My dog really helped me get through some tough times. They are great companions and can be missed just like a family member when you are away from home.

  • Lisa McKay May 7, 2012, 12:53 am

    Mike: “What are you laughing at?”
    Me: “Torre wrote this post on dogs in Thailand.”
    Mike: “What’s so funny about it?”
    Me: “I’m not quite sure. It’s just …. funny.”

  • karina May 8, 2012, 6:05 pm

    I recently got a puppy and that was the first thing I thought about. I have been wanting to travel again in my adulthood. I am absolutely terrified of having to leave him and my cats behind. Maybe its just another excuse not to take the leap and just go travel. :/

  • Tawny- Captain and Clark May 24, 2012, 12:14 am

    Oh, you are just like us! When traveling we somehow manage to find (and adopt) all the strays in the area. We are extremely attached to our kitty and miss him so much when we’re gone. He stays with “Nana and Papa” (read: my parents) while we’re away and gets spoiled rotten. They know not to expect any human grandchildren for a while.

    The only good part about leaving him is the reaction we get from him when we return. He acts like a dog and runs up to us as fast as he can. It doesn’t matter how long we’re away, we’re always greeted with a warm welcome.

  • Lola June 6, 2012, 7:21 am

    Aw, dang. This post makes me miss my pooch so much! We left him with my mother-in-law 4 months ago to co and cross the Pacific in our sailboat. I really, REALLY miss my dawg. I really need another copy of Swept but it seems no longer available on amazon – neither by paperback nor kindle. I’ve given mine away. 🙁 . I was just in Toau wishing I had the book for your descriptions. We did make it to Fati though, for some ink. 🙂 Please tell me how to get book on Kindle. PLEASE!!! Thanks, Lola

  • Katherine - Kapcha The World June 21, 2012, 3:12 am

    Wow the tabby cat looks EXACTLY like our tabby Sammy – – really not looking forward to the goodbyes with him – he’s like my child too! 🙁

  • bethany July 18, 2012, 2:12 pm

    Oh it is the HARDEST thing about traveling. They don’t understand, they just know that you aren’t there. It ruins everywhere we go because I am always sad at the start leaving Chachy. Plus he sleeps with us every night and it just feels like there is something missing when we are traveling. We’re hoping to move to Thailand next year and we really want to bring him with us – any advice?

  • Melissa August 15, 2012, 6:52 am

    This is very touching. I also have a dog. There was a time I need to go to my grandmother’s house and stay there for a month. I could not leave my dog at home but I could not also bring him. Good thing my sister was there to take care of him. However, it just doesn’t feel right. But when I arrived at my grandmother’s house, there were friendly dogs (without rabies 🙂 ) there. So it was okay.

  • Sacha & Jmayel October 9, 2012, 7:13 am

    We couldn’t bare to leave our dog behind, so we brought her with us!

  • Koren December 26, 2012, 12:22 am

    Would you have left the dog if you didn’t know the person (aka parents)?

    • Torre DeRoche December 29, 2012, 7:52 am

      I would want to at least meet the new owners first to make sure she was going to a good, loving home.

  • Diane May 26, 2014, 2:58 am

    My mother of 14 children always told me we aren’t interchangeable.

    I can’t leave mine for more than a few days without suffering. Never for more than a month. They love us. My Luke is not a furry fix. He’s my friend. My child even. We are interwoven.

  • Lucy May 29, 2014, 10:25 pm

    I have to leave my PUPPY for a little less than a month! I don’t want to leave him. Help!