Travel nursing is first, and foremost, an adventure. You pack up, leave your home and everything behind, and head towards your assignment not knowing exactly what you’re getting yourself into. No matter if it’s your first assignment or your twenty-first, there’s always a twinge of anxiety and excitement. To balance out the feelings of homesickness, many nurses choose to travel with their pets, whether its their dog, cat, iguana, or guinea pig.
I travel with my thirty- pound rescue dog, Mila. She is a beagle and dachshund mix breed dog and has traveled with me for all four of my assignments and will continue to travel with me for as long as I embrace this career. I know that I couldn’t live this life without her, however traveling with a dog (or any pet) poses its unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to housing.
1) Traveling with a pet almost always causes an increase in rent, whether it be through an additional deposit (which may or may not be refundable), an additional monthly pet rent fee, or fees for damages caused by your pet upon move out. I’ve seen fees from $50 up to $500 depending on the location. If the perfect place has a pet fee that is a little too high for you, it’s acceptable to have a conversation with the owner, and see if there’s any way they could lower the price.
2) Bringing your furry friend can also limit the number of places you can stay. Furnished Finder has a helpful feature for pet owners on their website. You check the box that says Pet Friendly Only and you will be shown the listings that are willing to cater to your animals. However, in Seattle, for example, filtering by “pet friendly only” takes the 221 options down to 56. You can always choose to contact listings that are not marked pet friendly and see if they are up for a negotiation in regard to your pet, especially if it’s a small animal such as a hamster or lizard. I personally have had some success with this.
3) Once you filter by Pet Friendly Only, it is important to contact the landlord and find out if you think their space would be a good fit for you and your pet. Some listings are for an entire place, which is what I prefer when traveling with Mila, and some places will welcome you and your pet into just a room in their home. It is important in this scenario, that your pet be friendly with other humans and the other animals that you may be residing with. If you will be staying in a room in their home, it’s also important to discuss how you will co-habitat. You should get specifics on what rules need to be followed by pets in the home and if the other tenants are comfortable helping you out by feeding your animal or walking your dog, or if they prefer a more hands-off interaction.
4) Lastly, many apartment complexes will have breed restrictions, weight restrictions, and a maximum on the number of animals you can have, which can limit your options even further. The commonly restricted breeds for dogs include American Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Mastiffs, Cane Corsos, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Huskies, and Boxers to name a few. Weight restrictions that some landlords have put in place often require that your pet be fifty pounds or lighter. Some nurses that I know who have big restricted dog breeds, choose to travel in an RV. Many campgrounds do not have as many pet restrictions so this may be a good alternative for some nurses out there! Most landlords will only allow a maximum of two animals in their rentals, especially if it is a smaller unit.
While all of this may sound disheartening and discouraging, I have never been unable to find housing for me and my dog. It takes a little more digging and some persistence, but pet friendly housing is out there! Searching multiple platforms such as Furnished Finder, Travel Nurse Housing, Airbnb, VRBO, and the many Facebook groups out there will help get you more options. Many cities that have a large number of travel nurses will have their own Facebook page and housing options are frequently posted there. Whenever I am trying to secure housing in a new city, I always send a friendly photo of my dog, so the owner of the property knows her general size and look, which has always helped me in the past. I also make sure upon departure from a rental that I ask the landlord if I can use them as a reference for when I am searching for new housing for my next assignments. Landlords often feel more at ease if another landlord can vouch for you and your pet.
Once I secure the perfect pet-friendly housing, there are many resources that help Mila and I during our stay in any city. Bringfido.com is a website that tells you pet-friendly locations in the city of your choice. It lists restaurants, events, breweries, beaches, dog parks, and hotels that welcome your pooch with open arms! I use this site often while I am driving across the country and looking for a place we can rest our heads at night because you can book the hotel directly from their website. Another good resource to use is Rover. This app lets you schedule a qualified person to come walk your dog while you are working those long twelve-hour shifts, or even staying over on call like I often do working in the operating room. You can also search for dog grooming, boarding, and house-sitting services through their website as well. Finally, many cities have several doggy daycare facilities to choose from. I am lucky enough to be on assignment in Seattle, a city with more dogs than children, and found a great doggy daycare that I take my pup to at least once a week. Prices for a day at doggy day care can vary but here in Seattle I pay twenty dollars per day and Mila comes home tuckered out after a long day of playing.
Many other people are amazed that I bring my dog along with me for all my adventures. However, I wouldn’t be able to do it any other way. Having my dog with me on my travel assignments makes me feel much more at home and it helps battle the sense of loneliness that some travelers feel, especially when they take assignments thousands of miles away from their home base. I often get asked if Mila suffers because of the constant change and the long car rides, and my answer is definitely not! She loves the adventure as much as I do and is always happy and smiling. If you are thinking about taking up traveling and are worried about bringing your pet along with you, I wholeheartedly believe that it is worth the extra bit of effort. I have no regrets bringing my dog on the road with me and will continue to travel with her for as long as I am a traveling nurse.