With Thanksgiving right around the corner, soon to be followed by Christmas and New Yearís, our roadways and skies will soon be filled with people traveling all around our big country visiting family and friends during this holiday season.

Soon, we will start baking every casserole and desert in our favorite cookbook to take to various family events, after digging out our pants with the elastic waistband to make room for all those extra holiday calories we will take in. We catch up on family gossip, watch a lot of football and try to find time to visit all of those people who are most important to us.

Many of you, like me, have pets at home and itís often a struggle deciding whether or not you should take them along for these visits. When I try and decide whether or not to bring a pet to a family gathering, I start off by looking into the details of the trip.

First, how long am I going for and how far away Iím traveling. If Iím flying, I would always leave my pets at home, as I feel the stress of flying would be something I donít want to put my pets through. I also consider who Iím visiting. I love animals and I love my family, but that doesnít mean my family all love animals. Even if they do, they may already have pets that might not be excited about sharing their dog bed with my dogs, especially at a stressful time when the house will be full of people.

If you arenít going to bring your pets, you have four typical options for their care while you are gone. The first option is to put them in a boarding facility. In our area, there are stand-alone facilities that only operate as a boarding facility and others that also do other things, like many veterinarian clinics that also board animals. Soon, we will also provide boarding at the Wag-Inn on Wire, utilizing half of our Wire Road facility for this purpose.

If you chose a boarding facility, some even provide pick up and drop off service if needed. Others can bathe or groom your dogs or cats while you are gone. For your dogs, you will need to be up to date on your kennel cough vaccine and you can choose dog runs, suites, or cages for your tiny dogs to sleep in.

If you donít want to take your pets to a facility, your second choice is to keep them at home. Maybe you can talk a family member, neighbor, friend or co-worker into stopping by each day to check on your pets or if needed, maybe even have them house-sit and stay over while you are gone. They can check your mail, water your plants and watch over your house while you are out of town and your pets wonít experience the stress of sleeping in a strange place.

A third option, if you canít talk someone into coming over, is to hire someone to watch them. In our community there are reputable people who will follow a schedule they negotiate with you to watch over your pets while you are gone. Many are bonded and can offer references from previous satisfied clients.

Finally, especially if your pet family is a small one, you may be able to send your dog or cat to stay over at a friend or neighborís house. In some cases, it might be easier for your neighbor to just bring your dog over to their house while you are gone, instead of them driving over 4 or 5 times a day to let him out to answer natureís call.

The holiday season can be a fun, yet stressful time for all of us, trying to find time to balance work and family obligations. Mixing in how to care for your pets during these times can add to the stress if you donít have a plan. Please take time now to consider your options and find the best fit for you and your pets while you visit your loved ones.

Reminder! Santa claus will be at Cold Creek Nursery to have pictures with your pets on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Please, come and kick off the holiday season and benefit the shelter.

Gary Willoughby is president and CEO of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare.