Did you hear the one about the cat, the dog, the horse, and the travel nurse…? If you’ve ever considered travel nursing with pets, travel companions Amanda Reid and Zeke Pierce are proof positive that travel nursing can work for almost every lifestyle and as one’s family grows — even when it’s by four legs.
Launching a travel nursing career
Amanda, an operating room nurse, was introduced to travel nursing by a fellow nurse while practicing full-time in her home state of Maine.
“Like most people, I didn’t even know travel nursing was really a thing. But I got to a point where I knew I wanted to try someplace new. Maine is a very beautiful place, but it’s very rural, and for a lot of younger people it’s sometimes not enough to be in that rural environment all the time, wanting more,” says Amanda. “I worked with a nurse who had traveled for 10-12 years and she said, ‘you’re young, you’re single and you should travel!’” So Amanda did.
She accepted her first travel assignment — bound for New Mexico — with her cat, Genevieve.
“I’ve had Genevieve since she was a kitten, so it wasn’t even a second thought that she was coming with me,” says Amanda. “Especially when traveling alone, having a pet can be a real help with loneliness.”
Three years ago, Amanda began traveling with Zeke Pierce, a surgical technologist. The pair seeks assignments in the same hospital, where possible, and they enjoy the support and companionship of traveling together.
“Traveling with Zeke is amazing! It’s just like night and day,” says Amanda. “When I was by myself, obviously you’re more independent, which is awesome. But having the experience to share with someone else, it’s just so rewarding.”
Adding to the traveling family
While on assignment at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, Amanda became connected with an animal rescue shelter in Vermont. The shelter received a horse that had been neglected for more than a decade. They worked to rehabilitate the horse, getting her back up to weight and able to be ridden again, and that’s how Amanda added Sadie to the traveling family.
“She’s my rescue horse,” says Amanda. “I just totally fell in love with her. I ride her on the weekends and all my days off, as well as in the evenings.”
Xena, a rescue Beagle mix, joined the family earlier this year. Amanda and Zeke were hiking in Lynchburg, Virginia, when they spotted a stray dog on the side of the Blue Ridge Parkway. They pulled over to check on the hungry, scared dog and discovered she didn’t have a collar or tag. They were just a few minutes from meeting friends to hike, so they decided to take the dog with them.
“She was so scared, but she was so friendly. We didn’t have a leash, but she was so good and stayed right by us during the whole hike. I had her scanned that day to be sure she didn’t have a microchip. We got her shots and everything taken care of. Now, she’s our happy little sidekick,” says Amanda. “I call her my unplanned pregnancy because all of a sudden, I have a dog. And she is the sweetest thing.”
Party of five
Now, the party travels together to every assignment. Amanda works with a professional horse transport service to ship Sadie to each location, and makes arrangements for dog walkers and stables to meet the animals’ needs.
“The cat is pretty easy — you feed them, you give them water and they’re happy. You don’t have to have someone checking in on them. But I’m pretty adamant that if you have a dog, then you have a dog walker because we work long days and it’s not okay for dogs to be by themselves that long,” says Amanda. “It’s not too hard to make these arrangements when you’re in a city, but it took a little more work to find someone here in Hillsborough, where it’s a little more rural.”
Travel nursing with pets has also connected Amanda and Zeke to a community of animal owners and enthusiasts as they travel from assignment to assignment.
“Everywhere I go, I always kind of have a barn family. There are people I used to ride with three or four days a week in New Hampshire and Massachusetts that I miss terribly now,” says Amanda. “You always end up establishing these relationships.”
Advice for animal lovers
For individuals considering travel nursing with pets, Amanda recommends giving it a shot.
“You should just do it; you can always find a way to make it work,” says Amanda. “It’s so important and helpful to have some sort of companion, especially when you’re traveling by yourself. That said, I don’t think you should travel by yourself with a dog, a cat, and a horse. It would be so much to manage by yourself. But you can always make it work. If you want to make it happen, then you can make it happen.”
Are you a travel nurse who takes your pets along on assignment? Share your story and tips in the comments below!