Traveling With A Dog (Not A Guide)

Immigrant dog

Traveling with a dog on a plane can be easy – if you have the funds to do so. Just look up for a pet transportation service, contact them, employ their services and fork out the money. Easy. However, if you’re looking to save some money by not going through a third-party service (trust me, they aren’t cheap – I inquired at least five different companies before deciding to do it on my own) – be prepared to spend a lot of time looking up information, making calls and sending emails.

Note – this isn’t a guide, but a description of the process I had to go through to bring Snuggles to America. It may not be the most efficient or best way to do things but it’s what I did. It worked, which is what matters, right?

My plan was to bring a dog (schnauzer-poodle), from Malaysia to the United States. If you have other pets you’re thinking about traveling with, this post may or may not be useful.


Your pet needs to be healthy, so make sure he/she has been vaccinated, vaccinated for rabies, dewormed, and all the other necessary stuff.

Your dog also can’t have a snub-nose if not it won’t be allowed on the plane (it’s not because they don’t like them – it’s for the safety of the pet). Apparently snub-nosed dogs have trouble breathing up in the air.

Get your dog measured (height, length, width) and weighed – you’ll need the details to make sure you can purchase a suitable cage, and for booking purposes. Speaking of cages – you have to make sure that they are flight-safe (they are stronger, have proper ventilation, locks, etc). If you have a tiny pet, you can save a bit of money for flying the pet since some flights allow you to bring the cages as carry-on, which should be cheaper than taking up baggage/cargo space.

Your dog will also need to be micro-chipped to get into the US – I believe it is a requirement for most countries (you’ll have to check).

You’ll also need to get the documents for your pet prepared. There’s no manual for this – the documents will vary from country to country, but essentially they want documents certifying the health of the pet. This step will require you to get in touch with the countries and/or airlines that your pet will be flying on. Fortunately, most airlines have all the answers you need on their websites. If they don’t, you’ll need to call or email them for the specifics. I know a lot of them just say – proper documents, as though we know what that means. My best tip here is to get in touch with a vet who has had experience doing this before. Your vet should help you sort out the necessary documents for your pet’s health. My vet was a great help here as he had done it in the past, so he was familiar with the procedures that I had to go through.

Snuggles in America


Once you’ve got all the above settled, the next step is the hardest part (IMO) – figuring out which damn airline to fly. This step could have been easier if I had an unlimited budget, but since I didn’t, I was making most of my decisions based on costs and the number of stops. Every airline has different rules about pets. Some allow pets as carry on, some as cargo only – I was looking for airlines that allowed pets to be brought on as excess baggage (cheaper than shipping as cargo). This is important because if you don’t have a direct flight to your destination, you have to take into account the rules of the airlines/countries you’ll be transiting to. Just because your initial flight can take your pet, it doesn’t mean that the connecting flights will.

For example, I found a reasonably cost flight from KL to AUS via KLM and Delta. KLM would have no issues bringing my pet, but Delta has a rule of pets as carry-on only. Since my dog’s cage was too big to fit under the seat, I couldn’t bring her as carry-on which meant I had to look for an alternative flight. The more airlines you have travel with, the more rules you’ll have to look up – which is why I tried to get a flight with as little changes as possible.

Layovers in a country also might require documents even though that city/country isn’t your final destination. You’ll need to be prepared for all these things. Another thing you’ll have to worry about is that while an airline might take pets, not all of their planes and not all airports do. So there’s an extra thing to worry about.

So in short, you’ll need to keep in mind:

Does the airline allow flying with pets, if yes – as carry on, checked baggage or cargo?
Does the airplane allow it? (you’ll need to provide size and weight of your cage + pet here)
Does the airport allow pet transfers?
If yes, what documents or procedures are required to be completed?

I flew Snuggles from KL to Austin via the following route/airlines:
KUL to NRT via JAL
NRT to LAX via JAL
LAX to AUS via AA

Flight-ready cage


For costs, there are no guidelines to how much extra this will cost – it varies from airline to airline, but based on what I know they will charge you according to the weight of the cage + dog, and some extra charge for them being animals (because they can). If you have extended layovers, some airports will charge you extra for taking care of you pet at their pet area/hotel (as far as I know they are compulsory since the pets can’t be released at the airport). This doesn’t include the fees you’ll have to pay for all the jabs, documents and cage that your dog will need. And let’s not forget the air ticket.

Doing all this by yourself can save you a few thousand ringgit (which is a big deal for me). However, if you have the money to spare, trust me – it’s much easier and stress-free to pass the task along to more capable hands.

Here’s how much it cost for me to bring Snuggles from KL to the US:
Vaccination, documents and cage – RM1000 (my vet helped me to get everything done, so it was a package deal)
Transportation costs from KL to Tokyo – USD400 (RM1600)
Transportation costs from LA to Austin – USD200 (RM800)
Total – RM3400

3rd party services I got quotes for started at around RM7000, so I saved quite a bit of money doing it by myself. Based on the trouble I had to go through, I can see why people would pay that much money for somebody else to handle the process.

Food, water, information


Other things I’ve learned during this process (accurate as of Jan 2019):
MAS, KLM, JAL, AA – accept pets as excess baggage
BA – only accepts pets as cargo (will also need to be arranged via a third party service and their shipping company – IAG Cargo)
Delta – only accepts pets as carry on

There are also risks involved when traveling with pets. I’ve heard some horror stories about pets being left out to die in the sun at the airport, or pets not surviving flights. On the other hand, I’ve also heard many success stories. As usual, it will all depend on the staff that day (how they perform, whether or not they’re having a good or bad day, the weather, the flight, etc) and your pet itself. There’s no guarantee your pet will make the journey – just like there’s no guarantee you will make the journey. Don’t travel with a sick pet.

I don’t know if it really helped my dog, but I read somewhere that putting a shirt with your scent in your dog’s cage can help them feel more comfortable when they’re alone. I did it anyway.

Put your dog’s photo, name, flight details and your contact details on the cage. In the event it goes missing, at least there’s information to help locate you or the cage. If you’re going to be on the same flight, make sure it is stated there (“owner is traveling on the same flight”).
Make sure you have your pet’s documents with you at all times (I had at 4 copies just in case). Don’t put them in your luggage, keep them with you in your backpack. You’ll need to show it to the authorities when asked.

Make sure you have extra cable ties and a way to easily remove them (i.e. nail clipper or pen knife) taped to the side of the cage – this way you can easily extract the pet if the cage needs to be checked at an airport, and you can secure the cage again after inspection.

Tape a bag of food and feeding instructions to the cage, this way the airport/airline staff can feed your pet if they run out of food during any layovers.

Snuggles ended up not eating much (she did drink all the water though, which I refilled at the LAX stop).

Whenever possible, bring your dog out for a walk and toilet break. During my transit in LAX, I could bring Snuggles to the restroom at the airport where she made a mess on the floor (I cleaned up, of course) and she could run around for a bit.

The mission was a success. I managed to bring Snuggles to America. For those of you looking to do the same thing, I hope this post has information to help you out. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions about the process and I’ll do my best to help!

Happy in the USA
Farewell <3

Austin 2019: Epilogue

And so, my week in Austin has come to an end. It was a nice getaway from the country – I really enjoyed my time there. I accomplished what I had set out to do: bring Snuggles to the US, and attend my sister’s wedding. I also ate great food, made new friends, experienced new weather (honestly, I don’t see myself making it through a month of cold weather – I don’t know how you guys do it! I’m definitely taking weather into consideration if I ever decide to migrate to anywhere in the future).

My flight back was uneventful – going as planned with no additional delays. I did have to take a shit on the plane though. I kept farting for most of the journey. I’m not sure why. Might have been some beans I had for one of the meals. No idea if it stank (I couldn’t smell anything), sorry to whoever smelt it.

I watched a few movies on the way back – The Big Lebowski (great comedy) and Office Space (started off pretty good but became kinda meh midway) – I also noticed that both films made prominent use of the phrase ‘Fuckin’ A/ay/eh’, something that I had only heard before in Clerks. I also watched parts of Say Anything, Bad Night at the El Royale, Oceans 13, Mission Impossible: Fallout (while drifting in and out of sleep). They were alright films.

Felt strange coming home to no barking even though I was expecting it.

Josh, Liz and Paul: thank you for being extremely gracious hosts. You guys made sure I always had a place to stay and that my tummy was never hungry. This trip wouldn’t have happened without you. Dad – I didn’t get to spend much time with you but you’ll be back in KL soon and I’ll see you again the next time I visit! Dave, Chance, Tyler – it was great meeting you guys. Looking forward to hanging out again next time!

Austin 2019: Turn up the radio, give them what they want

Have you ever been so cold that your nipples hurt when warm water touches them? Yeah, that’s right. I never knew my body was capable of experiencing such sensations. Apparently, the night I landed in Austin was the last normal day I’d be having in the city. Since then every other day has been getting colder and colder. I definitely take Malaysia’s weather for granted. Today the weather dropped to 0 degrees C. While my arms and legs were doing alright, it was the cold winds blowing in my face that made it unbearable. Also, every time I took my hands out of my pockets. You know it’s real bad when I only smoked two sticks today because I didn’t want to stand out in the cold. I guess if I ever wanted to quit smoking, I know I’ll be able to do it in a cold country.

Yesterday was the ring ceremony and dinner for my sister’s wedding. It was an enjoyable night. Not much to say there I guess, everything went according to plan. Except for the weather, but that was a given. Fortunately there was no rain. Today I went for a day trip to San Antonio where I learned about the Alamo and its significance, traveled around the river walk, drank beers and ate some snacks. One thing I realized here is that people really enjoy their beers. It’s not uncommon to see people ordering beers with every meal. Or just as a casual drink. In Malaysia, beers are reserved for certain occasions or nights out. Then again if beer was this good in Malaysia, I’d probably have it all the time too. I didn’t drink much today because I still have last night’s alcohol in my system.

Tonight is the last night I spend here in Austin and also the last night I get to spend with Snuggles. Don’t know if she knows that she won’t be seeing me again anytime soon but I know I’m going to miss her a lot. Going back home after a long day at work isn’t going to be the same again: no more loud barking, curious sniffing and licking, and her jumping onto my lap or bed whenver she wanted my attention. Ah well. Until next time, farewell Snuggles. <3

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Austin 2019: Swing, Swing

What I learned today – finishing Mario Golf on the Gameboy multiple times, many years ago did nothing to improve my golfing skills. Not that I had any in the first place. The last time I held a real golf club was back in GIS when we had golf for our physical education classes. They’d file us into a van and drive us out to the golf club near our school. Then they’d put us on the driving range for us to try to hit the balls as far as possible. I can’t recall how good the rest of my class was but I know I was terrible at it. More missed swings than balls hit, more balls landing a few feet from the tee instead of way out in the range.

Fast foward to tonight, where I found myself putting (heh) all those years of golfing to the test. It was fun and chill night with my sister, her in-laws and friends at this trendy driving range called Topgolf. If you haven’t been to it before, think of it as a bowling alley, but with way more open space, and different skill requisites. Instead of throwing balls at pins, you were whacking balls into colored holes, and taking sips of alcohol in between. It was interesting to see the veteran golfers wipe the floor with everybody else, despite it being a non-competitive night.

No surprise, I didn’t do well. Not that it mattered, and I knew I wasn’t going to be impressing anybody. Then I started thinking about the fun activities I would have before my hypothetical dream wedding (yes, I’ve written about it before) – we’d be doing fun stuff like jamming, playing some Dota 2 local lobbies, and
assembling keyboards together. Sounds like it would be an awesome day. Fortunately for me, I don’t need to have a wedding to do those things with my friends. (LUL)

Less than 24 hours until the wedding ceremony and dinner. I get to wear my tailored suit for the second time (what a great investment!). It’s going to be a real good time.

Photo of the day: this bus with a drawing that reminded me of a shitty ninja drawing I did many years ago in college. Don’t think I can find it anymore but I’ll post a comparison if I do. Turns out, it’s a private bus for people to rent.

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Austin 2019: A new save point

Tonight, we finally moved into my sister’s new home. The place is beautiful, many rooms, high ceilings, wide open spaces, a nice back yard and front porch – pretty much everything you would want in a home. Apparently, they bought it for a steal too. On the downside, there’s no internet yet and cell coverage here is terrible, so I haven’t been doing many online activities. I guess this gives me a chance to be productive tonight – or to chill out playing videogames or watching shows. The weather has been much better today with no rain and wind that numbed my hands every time I went out for a smoke.

Snuggles has somewhat settled down, but she still barks a lot at my sister’s husband. Not sure why, hopefully she’ll become friendlier over time. She enjoys running all over the place though. Especially up and down the stairs. It’s something she never got to do when living in my apartment back in KL.

The more I hang out with my younger sister, the more I realize how much she’s like me. If you’re reading this Beth, it’s a good thing! (in my opinion) She talks in the same monotonous tone, has a chill outlook on life, and isn’t concerned with silly subjects like politics. Way to go. She and her husband have been wonderful hosts (I know it’s not just because I’ve been helping them to move boxes) and have made me feel at home in this foreign city. I’m definitely looking forward to coming back here in the future.

Austin is full of mosquito hawks. These things look mean but they’re supposed to eat mosquitoes. Only issue is I haven’t seen any mosquitoes around. Maybe because they’ve been doing their job. Or they think I’m some big mosquito. Who knows?

Sitting on a couch in a driveway in the middle of the night just to get internet. Nothing suspicious right?

Austin 2019: So Cold I Could See My Breath

Last night, when I checked Google Assistant to find out what the weather was going to be today it told me that it was going to average 3-5 degrees Celsius. Initially, I thought it must be some kind of error, or maybe it was just a mistake. How wrong I was.

Fast forward to many hours later, this morning I took Snuggles out for some fresh air – it was cold as fuck. Google didn’t lie. The worst part? It was cold for the whole day. It felt like being in the UK during winter again. Except I spent a lot more time outdoors instead of hanging out in nice warm offices. The cold weather persisted all day long, and it’s still cold now even though it’s probably the warmest it’s been all day (7 degrees C).

Fortunately, the rest of the week will be back to normal – 13-15 degrees. I’m so looking forward to tomorrow. If I knew today would be this cold, I would have packed some gloves. I don’t miss having cold hands. Smoking was slightly more fun though – I’d exhale way more smoke than usual.

Snuggles seems to be slightly racist. She barks a lot more at people of a certain color than others. Dogs are supposed to be color blind right? Maybe something else is triggering her. She’s still super attached to me. It’s going to be difficult leaving her behind 🙁 those puppy eyes could melt the coldest heart. Sigh.

On a happier note, Austin has some pretty good ramen. Not as amazing as Tomita, but still very authentic and delicious. I highly recommend Tatsuya Ramen if you’re jonesing for a fix (of that Limp Bizkit mix).

Another day of activities ahead tomorrow, the wedding is only 3 days away now!

Austin 2019: Dog City

So one of the reasons why I chose to bring Snuggles to Austin was the fact that this was supposed to be a dog-friendly city. The truth is, it is. It’s amazing how well dogs are treated here in contrast to Malaysia. People bring their dogs everywhere, and some places even let you bring dogs indoors. At one restaurant, they even brought out a huge bowl of water for Snuggles to drink from. At another bar, the cashier even came over to play with her and feed her some treats.

In Malaysia, I get stares for bringing Snuggles to public open parks, even though dogs aren’t prohibited there. You need to bring them to places that specifically mention dogs allowed. I remember when I was a kid, we brought our dog to a public park, and a Malay kid started crying and screaming until he fell off a swing/slide (memory is a bit hazy for this one). One lady, who wasn’t even the mother of the child, came over to chide us. We didn’t even do anything to upset the kid, we were just walking past the park. It was hilarious. If I had been older/more eloquent back then, I would have yelled back at her.

Anyway, if you ever want to live in a city where dogs are treated like how they ought to be treated, Austin should be up on that list. The whole experience has been fantastic for Snuggles so far. Hopefully she’ll grow to love it once she gets over me leaving her behind.

Today was a lazy day – eat, shop for dog stuff, helped my sister to move some stuff into her new place, and drinks at East Cider. If you’re a fan of cider, they have some topnotch drinks. Definitely worth checking out again. Am back in bed, getting some rest so I don’t waste half the day sleeping it away. It’s been a great first day, am looking forward to the rest of the week! Here’s a picture of an exhausted Snuggles.

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sleeping doge

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Austin 2019: Early AM

My plane trip to the US has finally come to a conclusion. After a flight delay (I’m surprised it was the only delayed flight of my trip so far), I touched down at Austin-Bergstrom airport. One thing good about flying late is that there usually aren’t many people on it, and you have a higher chance of not having to sit next to a stranger. A big plus when you’re traveling alone, in my opinion. You don’t have to bother people when going to the toilet and vice versa, you don’t have to worry about your shit getting stolen when you’re sleeping (maybe I’m just paranoid). Also you won’t have to worry about intruding in each other’s personal spaces.

I slept during the whole flight – I guess the trick to not staying awake is to remove all entertainment (it was a small plane with no personal entertainment systems for each chair – there was a common display playing Bohemian Rhapsody (good movie btw). I put on a podcast and shut my eyes.

Most importantly, operation: migrate Snuggles has come to a conclusion. I have successfully brought her over to Austin where she will be spending the rest of her life. Like Jason said: she gets to be American before me. Heh.

She’s super attached to me right now, despite my sister being her favorite back when she was still in Malaysia. I guess she must have forgotten about her after all those years. Hopefully she warms up in the coming days – not like she has much of a choice. On the bright side, she’s going to have a nice backyard to run around and do dog stuff in. Not like back in KL where she’s cooped up in my tiny apartment.

I finally had my first shower. Also, my sister cooked me some instant ramen for supper. She also mentioned that there are some good ramen places here in Austin, so I think I’ll be having more tasty Japanese noodles in the coming week.

The weather is great, just right for me – not too cold or hot. What a great start to this trip.

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snuggles' new roommate

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Austin 2019: It Was A Plain Ride

(Bonus points for figuring out this title’s reference)

My flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles was uneventful. JAL food isn’t very good, in my opinion. I had three different meals and they were all meh desite them trying to be all fancy when it was unecessary. There was a flyer served with the dinner course, telling us about the airlines’ chef program and that the dishes we were eaten had been created by two rising stars.

I watched many films – not sure why I wasn’t sleepy, only slept about two hours out of the whole 10.5 hour journey. I watched – Tomb Raider (meh), Johnny English Strikes Again (aight), Thailand Only (pretty funny, though the last act with the ghost felt so out of place, Tag (was pretty bad, couldn’t bring myself to finish it), and The Shape of Water (meh, strange sex).

Landed in LAX this morning, I finally got to see Snuggles. She seemed alright, I let her run around the handicap toilet for a bit, where she took a leak (I cleaned up of course), and I fed her some snacks and water. Just one more flight and she’ll never have to get on a plane again (at least not anytime soon!). I checked her in early so I’m currently wasting time at the airport, waiting for the next flight. Not sure if I could have planned my flights better, but having two long-ass transits is a pretty big waste of time but I was constrained by my budget and travel-with-a-pet requirement. It would have meant an additional day not spent traveling. Oh well. I haven’t showered in over a day. Fortunately, I haven’t been sweating, thanks to the cold weather – if not I’d probably be reeking right now.

Nothing much to say, except that the lack of indoor smoking areas here is a bummer – it’s a real hassle to exit the airport for a smoke because you need to go pass security again to reenter. So I have been relying on Snus, which have been great. Getting a tobacco fix in the plane and airport without breaking the rules is a win in my book. Oh, I encountered my first all-gender toilet today. I was genuinely confused for a moment this afternoon heading to the toilet when I saw ‘all-gender’ signs on both sides. I had to walk further down one direction to find the male toilet. Was a first for me, I wonder if they are frequently used or as vacant as the handicap toilets in Malaysia.

One more flight til I reach my destination tonight, will write again if I haven’t passed out by then.

Austin 2019: Ramen Head

Landed in Japan safely! After being approached by the staff with a welcome sign – they wanted me to provide documentation for Snuggles. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to go see her. Sad. I wonder what’s going through her mind right now.

Think about it – imagine if you were thrown into a cage, carted around in a large building with unfamiliar, then taken away from the only people you know and then stored in a waiting room for an unspecified amount of time (dogs don’t have watches, neither do they know the time for the flights – how long they need to wait for the flight or how long the flight is going to take). You get on a plane surrounded by other crates and maybe some pets (unlikely since I didn’t see anybody else checking in a pet at the counter). You don’t know where you’re going, or what the sensation of going up into the air means. It must be harrowing.

You land, you think it’s over – but no, you’re still in your cage and brought out to another area. You don’t get to see your master just yet. You wait for an unspecified amount of time until it’s time to fly again. It’s like a neverending nightmare. I hope she’s not too stressd out. Snuggles, if you somehow find a way to access my blog, read and understand English, stay strong. We love you, and we’ll be together soon!

Besides my incessant worrying about my dog, I did manage to enjoy myself a bit. Since I have ten hours here in Narita, I had breakfast at the airport. Tomita Ramen – yes, the very same one that was featured in the documentary, Ramen Head. Now I have no idea if this holds a candle up to the original restaurant, but for what it’s worth, the ramen was fucking great. Hands down the best Tsukemen I’ve ever had. I wish the broth was hotter to counteract how cold the noodles were, but maybe it was meant to be served this way. The fact that I didn’t have to queue up at 5am to get a bowl of noodles was a plus. Regardless, I enjoyed my meal a lot and hope to eat it again in the future.

It has started drizzling (typing this post outdoors right now, the weather is chilly/great – 12 degrees celcius. Good thing I have a hoodie. And a beanie. It’s been a while since I’ve worn it. Until my next update.