In 2010, Pepper and Nikki Moustaki embarked on a European adventure that did not involve one plane ride. The pair sailed from New York to Southampton, England, on the Queen Mary 2 and bounced around Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands in cars and trains.
Pepper, by the way, is a schnauzer, and Nikki is his person.
"Personally, I'm not a fan of flying. Just the stress of thinking about what could go wrong in the air ruins the beginning of what could be a great trip," said Moustaki, a dog trainer and author. "But I love taking my dog with me wherever I go."
For pet owners, flying with their four-legged family members is the opposite of a relaxing belly rub. According to the Transportation Department, the major U.S. airlines flew more than a half-million animals last year; of those, two dozen died. More recently, a French bulldog puppy perished in the overhead bin on a United flight in March. Adding insult to tragedy, the airline accidentally sent a family's German shepherd to Japan instead of Kansas City and placed a dog named Dudley on the wrong connection from Newark, N.J.
United responded to the events by suspending all cargo transport of animals and initiating a review of its PetSafe policy.
Animal rights organizations and advocates are not against the idea of pets on planes, but they urge owners to consider all forms of travel.
"In general, air travel is safe for your pets, but it's better to travel by train or car," said Amy Nichols, vice president of companion animals at the Humane Society of the United States.
There are several options, on land and sea, that allow you to bypass that big bird in the sky.
Not all pets travel well. Seniors, puppies and ailing dogs are better left at home, as are brachycephalic breeds, which often suffer from breathing difficulties.
Weather is also critical. You don't want to expose your animal to extreme temperatures at any point along the trip. Just as many airlines won't fly pets in the belly of the plane if the temperatures are above 85 degrees or below 45 degrees, travelers avoid leaving pets in sweltering or freezing cars or kennels.
For international trips, know the country's entry requirements for live animals. Some countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, quarantine incoming pets; others, such as Germany and Britain, ban certain breeds.
For all destinations, pack a copy of your pet's most current health report. In Europe, you will need an E.U. health certificate issued by a U.S. Agriculture Department-accredited veterinarian and endorsed by your state USDA office. The document must contain vaccination and rabies records, plus proof of a tapeworm test, depending on the country. You must also microchip your pet.
Since Amtrak introduced its pet travel program in 2013, roughly 66,000 dogs and cats have hopped along by rail. The $25 service is available on 35 routes in the East, West, Midwest and Northeast quadrants of the country. Trains on 10 itineraries feature a pet-friendly coach car. Amtrak allows only five to eight animals weighing no more than 20 pounds per trip, so book early. The voyage can't exceed seven hours.
Most trains in Europe are generous to pets. Some countries let the furry passengers ride free and even on their owners' laps. Mark Smith, a British cat owner who founded travel website the Man in Seat Sixty-One, created an informative page about pets on trains and ferries.
"There are little problems and quirks," he said about the various rules governing each country's rail service. For instance, Britain's National Rail allows two animals per passenger for no charge. On the Caledonian Sleeper, which fans out across England and Scotland, passengers and pets can bunk together in a cabin for about $43, plus the people ticket fare. However, if you want to cross the English Channel on the Eurostar, you can't — the high-speed train that links London to destinations on the mainland does not permit animals. Smith recommends the Dutchflyer Rail & Sail combo, linking train and ferry service that ends at Hook of Holland, a town in the southwest corner of the Netherlands.
Only one cruise line invites pets onboard, Cunard's Queen Mary 2. The liner, which sails between New York and Southampton, England, offers 24 kennels for $800 to $1,000 a pop. A full-time "kennel master" oversees the feeding, walking and housecleaning of the four-legged cruisers, which receive a gift bag including a QM2-monogrammed coat and Frisbee.
For shorter sea sojourns, many ferries in Europe and the United States lower the gangway for pets. Depending on your style of land travel (car or train) and the company's rules, you can walk or drive onto the boat with your pet. Some companies require the animal to stay in the vehicle or a kennel; others invite them on deck, as long as they are leashed.
Moustaki's dogs are her co-pilots. She and her pups have traveled many thousands of miles.
"I have become an expert in road-tripping efficiently and safely with dogs," she said.
Her advice: Restrain your dog in the back seat with a harness in case Dash decides to dart out of the car during a pit stop. Pack such essentials as a non-spill water dish for the back seat, potty pads, plastic bags, a blanket and a towel, paper towels, treats and your dog's regular food. She also recommends a hands-free leash that wraps around your waist, so that you can carry your luggage without losing your grip on your pet.
Drivers will need to stop every few hours for a bathroom and water break. In addition, though dogs love to stick their heads out and waggle their tongues, keep the windows shut. Debris could fly into their faces and eyes.