Homeward Bound: Moving with a ‘Family Pet’

Sean Faulk is a Realtor® and co-owner of MovingToOrlando.com. You can reach Sean at sean@movingtoorlando.com

I have had a total of 6 dogs in my lifetime – three as a child and 3 as an adult. As a kid, my parents bought me a Golden Retriever named Angel. She was a puppy and I was so excited to have her. She was a great pet, she was well behaved, she didn’t cause any problems, but she was ultimately ‘just the dog.’ Angel spent 90% of her life living under our trailer and popping out to be pet as we walked from inside the house to the car or if it was time for her to be fed. The same went for the next two dogs my family got and I never really gave them a second thought. As much as I claimed to love dogs, I spent no time with them and they were just a fixture of the land and not really part of the family. No fault to my parents because that’s just how they were raised as well and they believed animals belonged outside.

As a family, we watched Trading Spaces, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, House Hunters, Love it or List it and any other type of home remodel or HGTV show we could find. Our eye-rolling moments always came when someone would say, ‘this house is perfect…..but it’s not going to work out for Fluffy.’ We would yell at the screen, ‘Oh my God! I can’t believe they would make a decision this important based around a dog, its insane!’

Zelda and Roy

Now, I am an adult, and there is only so long that we agree with our parent’s views before making our own choices, and my views changed in January of 2018. On a whim, I went on Craigslist and saw that a family was rehoming a husky, and I just knew I had to have her. She was my first dog as an adult! I met her and was instantly in love and had determined that she would always have a place inside. I bought an insert for my sliding door so she could go in and out as she pleased. I put up a new fence for her, and essentially my life began to revolve around her. I would change plans to make sure I didn’t leave her home too long, and I made sure to spend a lot of quality time with her. She escaped a lot because she just had a very adventurous spirit and she would roam the neighborhood as I frantically would try to find her and bring her home. I even got a second husky named Roy so that he could calm her down a little, but she just got him to start escaping with her. She was kind of a lousy influence honestly.

My family came down for a few Christmas’s, and I always worried that my parents (particularly my dad) would be upset about having a dog in the house. Still, he was very respectful that I could make my own rules in my own home, but he didn’t pay much attention to my huskies. His final Christmas was in 2019, and he was so sick with cancer that he couldn’t walk very well, so he had to just lay in bed most of the time. My girl, Zelda, finally snuck her way into my bedroom and jumped on the bed and just curled up next to him and laid by him and fell asleep. As hard as we tried to show him attention over that Christmas, we all had a lot going on as well, but Zelda stayed by him. Even when we moved him into the living room to open gifts on Christmas, she laid right under his feet. He let me know later that it was a great comfort to him to have had her company over Christmas, and while he was feeling so sick and that he understood why I viewed an animal as part of my family.

I didn’t know it at the time, but he would pass away in May, and Zelda passed away a month before when she was struck by a car. As sad as I was when my dad died, I expected it, but Zelda was my baby. I was her caretaker, and I felt like I let her down, and to say I was utterly devastated would be an understatement. I viewed her as my child, and she was family, not just a pet.

Since then, I did get another husky – I’m back up to 2 again, and I couldn’t possibly imagine choosing my next home without considering my dogs. Is there a place for them to run? Could it feel like home for them as well? It’s wild how a family pet can change your view on something like this.

Ike knows how to take a picture!
Roy loves the dog park!

If you read this long, I appreciate it. I just wanted to showcase my understanding of how crucial and emotional this decision is when your pets get involved. They aren’t fixtures, they are family. Here are some helpful things to ask yourself when selecting a new home to move into with your family pet.

  1. How will the weather affect my pet? Florida is hot! The change in weather may effect how long your pet can safely be outdoors.
  2. Is there space? How much space does your pet need? There are homes that have a ‘dog run’ or one can be installed. This is just a small area for your pet to have a bit of outside space. It would be too little for my large dogs but might be perfect for someone just letting their small dogs out for a few minutes to use the bathroom.
  3. Should you get a pool? For my next home, I desperately want a pool. However, I know the limitations of yard space in Florida and I may not have space for a pool with a screen and a yard with a fence for my dogs to get enough exercise.
  4. Should I rent or buy? A lot of homes here do not allow pets if you are renting. We get asked a lot from people about moving here for a year and renting and then buying a house. Renting with a pet is going to limit your search drastically.
  5. How would life be different with my dog in Florida? I can actually answer this one for you. Its great in a lot of ways….I have taken my dogs kayaking in Wekiva Springs, theres a dog friendly beach about an hour away from the Disney area and tons of dog friendly meet ups around Lake Eola on weekends. Some negatives are the heat, Florida is also the lightning capital of the world and with lighting – there’s thunder……my boys do NOT like thunder, to say the least. Also, the fireworks. There are a lot of fireworks in the Orlando area on a nightly basis and some dogs don’t respond very well to the sound.

What are some concerns you have about moving with a family pet to the Orlando area?

As always, if you are looking for a real estate agent and you are moving with a pet, please reach out to me at sean@movingtoorlando.com

Pete Werner

I'm an Orlando local and owner of The DIS (wdwinfo.com), DVCfan.com, DCLfan.com, and host of the DIS Unplugged podcast.

2 thoughts on “Homeward Bound: Moving with a ‘Family Pet’

  • We moved to Florida from “the North”. Drove down with 2 German Shepherds, 3 Maine Coons, us parents, and a newly graduated high schooler. The SUV was packed to the gills. A drive that is normally 19 hours took 3 days, numerous stops, 2 carefully planned out hotels that were tough to find that would allow all our animals, and more grey on everyone’s head. It wasn’t easy, but what great memories we made!

    Our Shepherds are plush coated, and they definitely preferred the northern climate. We had a pool up north which they enjoyed a few weeks out of the year, and thus put in a large pool for them down here. Ok, the humans like the pool too, but we knew the dogs really needed it. The dogs also have their own large dog bone style pool, for when they are outside and can’t get into the human’s pool. It’s a battle keeping the dogs’ pool free of algae. Never had that issue up north, but down here, algae seems to grow overnight in standing water. Something to keep in mind.

    We have learned to trim our dogs’ coats ourselves. We tried taking them to groomers down here, but no one could deal well with thick, plush German Shepherd coats. So, for the price of a grooming session, we invested in shears and now cut down the coats in May so they dogs have some comfort through the summer (and it also helps with preventing sand spurs embedding in their long tail fur).

    Our home has many acres that are fenced, and this is a great joy for our dogs, though the attacks by ants and a cow killer wasp have also happened. My poor dogs still haven’t learned to identify the ant nests to avoid them when laying down in the yard. However, they have great joy chasing each other around the yard from October to April, so I think the dogs are happy here, despite the ants.

    While I do love living here in FL, and have no regrets, I do worry more about the well-being of my dogs than I did up north. Here, there are more things in nature that could hurt them, which has us much more focused on the dangers in our yard than we ever did previously. There are snakes that could be dangerous, alligators, many more insects that cause harm, and of course the year round fleas and ticks. No snow to kill them down here!

    One will spend much more on protecting one’s dog from insects here in the south than one would up north.

    Since moving here, we have also acquired a Golden Retriever that was born here during a hot Florida summer. She LOVES the heat. She will leave the air conditioned house and lay in the sun, while our Shepherd is panting in the house under the a/c vent. Something I never expected to see!

    All in all, moving to Florida with a pet is more work, more planning, more expense, but when we put on our swimsuits and open the door to the pool, our happy dogs jumping into that water with great exuberance lets us know there are aspects of living in Florida that every being in this house fully enjoys! I am glad we did this.

  • We will be moving down within a year, and have thought a lot about the impact on our little Maltese. He too is deathly afraid of any firework. He does love to lay in the warm sun though, so we’re covered there.


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