Preston is no stranger to traveling with his two mutts Zeus and Hades. 9-year-old Zeus and 10.5-year-old Hades were adopted from shelters in San Antonio, Texas. Since they’ve been with Preston, they’ve lived in Texas, Maryland, Nebraska and the United Kingdom. Although they’ve traveled by plane and car, their most adventurous journeys have been by motorcycle, secured in a pillion seat on the back of the bike.
So far, Zeus and Hades have taken motorcycle trips through England, Scotland, France, Spain and Portugal. Their latest ride was a three week tour through France and around the coast of Spain and Portugal. They camp in tents at a new location every night. Their upcoming trip will have them traveling through England to Denmark, then down to Italy before heading back home to England. They’ll be going through France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Switzerland.
Here’s how Preston prepares the dogs for their motorcycle rides, and how they’ve experienced life on the road.
What inspired you to travel with your dogs?
After getting out of the army in 2016, I took a job in England, and left Zeus and Hades with my parents while I figured things out there. In 2017, I had them flown to England, where we live now. It was then that I thought to myself, “I have to find a way to put them on my motorcycle.” Since I’ll be living in England for a few years, I figured what better time to travel and see Europe.
How did you prepare your dogs for the journey from the US to the UK?
Preparing to fly can present its own problems and adding pets into the mix doesn’t make it any easier. Flying with pets internationally can be even more daunting. Thankfully, we live in the age of the internet, which provides loads of resources. After a bit of research I found a group called Silver Birth Pet Jets that provides services to people flying pets between the US and UK. They were great in checking paperwork for errors, brokering pets through customs, pickup from the airport, pet boarding, and delivery of you and your pet from the airport to your desired address.
Our first step was to find an airline-approved crate for Zeus and Hades. We flew with United and were able to find the crate requirements on their web site. Then I contacted my local vet to set up appointments ahead of the flight. There were two forms that I needed from the vet. The first was for the airline stating that my pets were healthy enough to fly.
The second form is for UK customs, and ensures that my pets are microchipped, up to date on rabies vaccinations, and that they have received a tapeworm treatment in the proper time window (more than 24 hours but less than five days of arrival). The paperwork must then be stamped by the USDA.
I drove my dogs from Nebraska to Chicago for a direct flight from Chicago to London. All animals flying into the UK must be flown as cargo. The only animals allowed in cabin are certified Service Animals (sorry, but most Emotional Support Animals are not allowed in cabin).
Once in Chicago, I brought Zeus and Hades to the United PetSafe office, where they review your paperwork and make sure that your kennel meets regulations. You’re typically not allowed to put any kind of pad or cushion in the kennel, since they may become a choking hazard for pets that decide to chew on it during the flight. In the event that your pet needs to use the bathroom during the flight, they recommend using shredded newspaper because it is soft and absorbent.
You will also need two separate bowls attached to the crate, one for food and one for water. They should be empty when you deliver your pet. I was given ice chips while we checked the paperwork at check-in. You should also tape a lead and a zip-lock bag of food to the top of the kennel.
Once your pet arrives to the UK, a broker moves your pet through customs. Upon arrival, your pet should be given access to a private area for food and to use the restroom. The customs process can take 6 to 8 hours to complete, so it is important that you schedule a flight that arrives in the morning so your pet doesn’t have to stay overnight. Once your pet is through customs you’re home free. As mentioned earlier, Silver Birch Pet Jets also picks you and your pets from the airport and provides transportation to your home or hotel.
How did you prepare for riding your motorcycle with both dogs?
Since traveling by motorcycle was going to take me weeks at a time, I didn’t feel right about leaving the boys with friends, and kennels are so expensive. Plus I miss them when they aren’t around. I started looking for videos of other dogs on bikes, then started looking for products already made for dogs on bikes. I checked out trailers and sidecars, but found them to be expensive and was worried about their impact on my ride. I finally decided on a handmade carrier from Beastriders. It sits on the pillion seat, behind me, and they both strap in securely. They sit in what is basically a sturdy-sided dog bed, lined with plush shearling, which is then anchored to each side of the bike. They wear goggles and helmets to protect their eyes and little skulls.
While I waited for the seat to be made and delivered, I ordered the goggles and got the boys used to them by bribing them with treats. I was a little worried at first, since they would only tolerate the goggles for about 30 seconds without a treat. Once the seat arrived and was fitted to the bike, we started with short rides around town. I found that once we were on the bike, they were so distracted by the wind and smells that they weren’t bothered by the goggles or helmets anymore. We quickly moved on to trips around the countryside that lasted up to an hour.
The boys were handling the riding so well that it was time to take our first camping trip. It was a two hour ride into the Yorkshire Dales Park, for a Triumph motorcycle owner’s weekend meet-up. Hades managed to work his goggles off halfway to Dent and they have been lost ever since. As a result, I have since added a tether to attach the goggles to their harnesses, just in case they work the goggles off again. The weekend was great and the boys were a hit. We saw some great roads and met some really friendly people. Zeus and Hades handled all of the riding very well and had no problem with staying in the tent over the weekend. With that, I felt we were ready for longer trips into continental European.
Traveling between countries in Europe is pretty easy once you get your pet passport. Your European vet will be able to provide this for you. It’s basically booklet used to track and show vaccinations and treatments required for travel between countries. Mostly just rabies vaccinations and tapeworm treatments.
What was the hardest part about traveling with your dogs?
The hardest part about traveling with Zeus and Hades on the bike is that they don’t like being left alone. Any time I need to do something like wash up or pay for fuel, they make quite the racket. It makes me feel a little bad and a little embarrassed that they aren’t better behaved. It also limits the places that I can visit. Most indoor tourist sites only allow service animals, and we can only eat at restaurants that have patio dining. Of course, none of this is enough to make me want to travel without them.
What was the best part about traveling with your dogs?
The best parts of traveling with Zeus and Hades is that I never travel alone. I don’t have to worry about how they are being treated and they never complain about where we are going or the accommodations. They are an excellent ice breakers, which is great because I am terrible at starting conversations and because of my appearance(I’m 6’4” and 270 lbs with a beard and a bald head), I can come off as a bit intimidating.
How did you find accommodation on your journey?
Finding accommodation on my journeys has been pretty easy, so far. Since we stay in a tent, the dogs are always welcome on campsites, usually with the condition that they remain leashed. Many of the campsites that I stayed at had cafes with patio dining, and some even had outdoor entertainment like live music and dancing. Finding the sites was as simple as doing a search on Google maps for “campsite” and picking where I wanted to end up. There’s great variety when it comes to campsite amenities, so the choice is yours.
What were some essential items that you packed for your dogs?
Essential items for traveling by bike with Zeus and Hades include food and water (obviously), travel dishes (that don’t take up a lot of space), a waterproof bag to keep their food dry, rain coats, harnesses, goggles, helmets, leashes and poo bags. Some other items I take for the boys include a doggy bed so they don’t have to lie in the dirt, unless they want to. I bring a few chew toys with me so they have something to keep themselves entertained and comforted. I also pack a towel, in case they get into something and make a mess. That way I can wash them up and dry them off. There is also a tie down stake with a long cable lead so they have a bit more room than their usual leash provides.
What surprised you the most about traveling with dogs?
What has surprised me most about traveling with Zeus and Hades has been people’s reactions. When I was first brainstorming the idea online, I was met with a lot of criticism. Some people are of the opinion that putting a dog on a motorcycle is abusive or cruel. I became a little concerned that I would meet people with the same opinion while traveling. This has not been the case. Everyone we have met has greeted us with big smiles, curiosity and enthusiasm about our travels.
What advice do you have for people who want to travel with their dog, but are nervous to do so?
In the end, I am really happy that I am able to travel with Zeus and Hades, in the way that we do. I hope that our style of travel inspires others to bring their pets with them on more journeys and adventures. If I were to provide any advice to someone interested in traveling with their pets, it would be to just do it. As your pet’s greatest companion, you probably know what is best for them. If you are unsure, do your research early, and ask your vet for advice. Always be safe and mindful of others. Happy trails.
Thank you Preston, Zeus and Hades! You can follow their adventures on Youtube here.
You can read more interviews with people traveling with their dogs here.