Traveling with Remy, a tiny papillon whose passport is quite up-to-date.
AMSTERDAM — Have dog, will travel.
Planning a recent visit to see my daughter in Germany, we decided Amsterdam would check off all the boxes of a great side trip. History? Sightseeing? Great food, drink? All there.
But what would it be like if we brought along Remy, her tiny 2-year-old papillon? Would we be hindered in our choice of restaurants? Could he enter shops? What about museums, or the Anne Frank House?
Happily, “yes” to just about any restaurant or store. Reasonably, “no” to museums and historic sites. But that was all right; Remy was a well-behaved little fellow who was fine staying behind in the hotel for an hour or two. We even took him on a Sunday brunch cruise along the canals.
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Let’s pause for a moment to make a very important distinction.
Dogs in Europe are not like yours or mine. They are, for the most part, very small and portable. Almost always, they also have been well socialized. It’s not unusual to see them lying at their masters’ feet in bars and cafes, or heeling closely on busy sidewalks with cyclists whizzing by.
There are dogs in the U.S. that no doubt could pass muster under similar circumstances, but even the most well-behaved are unaccustomed to negotiating escalators or sitting quietly in a train compartment because that just isn’t in their realm of experience.
I’ve probably shared a hotel room 20 times in the past three years with one of our whippets, because that’s what you do when you hit the U.S./Canadian dog show circuit. But with the very welcome exception of an Erie hotel bar that encouraged owners to bring along the pups, our 37-pound sighthound is rarely welcome in public areas.
But in Remy’s European home base, his presence in restaurants, or clothing stores, or on a train, is no big deal. We took him to numerous dinners in Amsterdam, where he zonked out under the table. The only oohing and aahing came from fellow travelers who missed their own pups. At the Cafe George, a well-dressed couple from the United Kingdom immediately told us how much they missed their dog, then proceeded to show us iPhone photos of their daughter’s pet, posing with the London Eye in the background.
Once, I phoned ahead to a restaurant to ask if we could bring Remy. There was a pause, and the man on the other line said, puzzled, ”Of course … is there something wrong with the dog?”
The roughly 6-hour train ride from Berlin to Amsterdam had been easy. The train had those kind of cars rarely seen in the U.S., the sort with a small hallway outside of the glass-enclosed compartments. Think James Bond or Harry Potter movies.
For different parts of the trip, we shared the compartment with a mom and two little girls, then an expat businessman from Wisconsin. We offered to pop Remy back into his carrier if his presence was unwanted. But everyone declined. They seemed charmed by Remy, whose Instagram account — remyornot — describes him as ”Tiny International Dog of Mystery.”
Once in Amsterdam, we caught a tram from the city’s central rail station to our hotel in the Jordaan.
Recently, Amtrak began allowing small dogs and cats on board on some of its Midwest routes. Until Feb. 15, passengers can pay an extra $25 to do this on some eastern corridor trains as well. But unlike Remy’s ”I’m going to look out of this window for the next hour” experience in The Netherlands, Fido or Fluffy must stay in their carriers.
“The pilot has been very successful and well received,” said Vernae Graham, Amtrak spokeswoman. ”There are (a maximum) five pets per train. Not selling out, but some trains have more pets on them than others.”
Graham said passengers have been abiding by the rules and that the most frequent comments are requests to add pet options on more routes.
For Remy, the big travel test came 2 months later, when he and Ellen flew stateside for the holidays. Dogs in the European Union countries are eligible for their own passports. To land in New York City, however, he had to have an international health certificate, filled out in English, from his vet in Berlin.
There had been some concern that he needed to get yet another health certificate from the U.S. side for his return to Germany, but that turned out to be unfounded. Little dog EU passport did the trick. Once on the plane, each time, he had to stay in his airline-approved carrier. For dogs flying in-cabin — and every airline has its own restrictions on how many that can be — their humans must pay additional ticketing fees of about $100.
It was great having Remy in Pittsburgh for the holidays. He happily mingled at a small Post-Gazette office party, got a nice new haircut, and convinced our two much-bigger dogs that he was boss. Given the ease with which he adapted to playing tourist in Amsterdam and, later, New York City and Chicago, we were hardly surprised.