Planning and Prepping to Bring Our Precious Pooch

How’s that for a little alliteration

First, some stats on Sweet Pea. She’s an 11 year old wire haired fox terrier. We got her when she was 3.5 months old. Wire haired fox terriers typically live to be 15 years old, sometimes a little less, sometimes a bit longer. She weighs 17.5 pounds. And, she makes us laugh every single day.

Sweet Pea

When we knew we were going to move to Portugal our very next thought was how we would get Sweet Pea there. We literally agonized over this. She had never flown before and we know she’s just a little too big to fit under the seat in front of us. We vehemently agreed that we would never put her in the cargo hold and, if that was the only way, we would delay our move until after she passed.

For awhile we seriously considered taking the Queen Mary 2. It sails between Southampton in the UK and NYC and provides an on-board kennel where you can see your dog every day. Unfortunately, Won is subject to violent motion sickness which he was willing to deal with if it meant getting Sweet Pea across the ocean. However, due to a host of challenges (which involved getting from Southampton to Lisbon once there) we ultimately abandoned the idea. With that option off the table, we even considered chartering a private jet…yeah, that was my husband’s idea.

I don’t know what lead us to think about it or perhaps it was a recommendation from a friend or family member, but we began to consider the possibility of getting Sweet Pea certified as an emotional support animal (ESA) for Won. He suffers from severe anxiety when flying compounded by the aforementioned violent motion sickness and is prescribed several medications to deal with those problems, which unfortunately don’t always work. He’s a real trooper though and never complains when we fly, but suffers terribly. He researched the requirements, applied, and received the certification in August of 2019. It is valid for one year.

Problem solved!! She can fly with us. Yay!!

While working on the above, we also needed to find out how to bring a dog into Portugal. It is critical to research the requirements for each country as they often differ. Fortunately, Portugal does not require quarantine. However, they do require all dogs have an ISO microchip, which Sweet Pea got when she was a puppy, and have also received a rabies vaccination at least 21 days before flying. Sweet Pea had hers in October of 2019 and the vaccination is good for 3 years. In addition, the dog must have a health evaluation done by a USDA-approved veterinarian no more than 10 days prior to travel. Once you have the evaluation and paperwork completed, it must be sent to a USDA APHIS office which certifies the information and issues an “EU passport” for the dog. The only accessible location that could approve our paperwork was in Albany NY a 3-hour drive from our home. This meant we would need to over night the documents to APHIS and they would need to overnight them back to us. The timing is tight to say the least.

Sweet Pea’s regular vet happens to be a USDA-approved veterinarian and conducted her evaluation on Monday, January 6th, the earliest we could schedule an appointment and just days before our departure on Sunday the 12th. We sent the documents over night to APHIS. If anything goes wrong, it will be a disaster. Nothing like a bit of nail-biting stress to make things more exciting!

The last few steps include notifying the Lisbon airport at least 48 hours prior to our planned arrival. This can be done via email and must include a scanned copy of the microchip implantation date, rabies vaccination record, and health certificate from APHIS. The Lisbon airport will have a local vet meet us to review the paperwork, physically evaluate Sweet Pea, and collect a fee for these services. We cannot leave the airport until this is done. And, finally, we will register Sweet Pea with local authorities once we are settled.

Next up was booking our flight with United. We discussed at length what we wanted to do for the flight. Now that we knew that she’d be with us, and to ensure the most comfortable experience for all, we thought we would try to purchase 3 seats. We started with the United website, but we got stuck in the purchase process when filling in the “3rd person” information. In the end, we called United and they were great! They guided us through the online reservation process and provided special characters for that 3rd seat. Then they transferred us to another team who helped us ensure Sweet Pea could be in the cabin now that she was an ESA. This involved uploading 3 documents to their website: 1) a copy of a document provided by the medical professional who certified Won as needing an ESA, 2) a United Airlines form requiring confirmation of owner’s liability (stating the dog is not dangerous), and 3) a United Airlines health evaluation form completed by her veterinarian. All of these documents are attached to our reservation record. During this process we also learned that it is best to book early to guarantee your animal can be in the cabin (regardless of ESA status). They restrict the number of animals who are on any given flight.

Flight booked! She will have her own seat! Yay!!

Lastly, we needed to think about what we would bring on the plane so that she would be as relaxed, comfortable, and well-cared for as possible. We conducted a dry run last week and packed a small duffel bag with the following items: a small round “igloo” style bed to give her that den-like feeling, a collapsible water dish, a few of her favorite treats, pee pads (in case she needs them during the flight), baby wipes (in case WE need them for her during the flight – ewww), a favorite toy (all the others are in our car and headed to Portugal), matching collar, harness and leash (a girl has to look good when she travels!!), a sweater in case she gets cold, and some Rescue Remedy.

Sweet Pea is packed and ready to go!!

The last thing we are bringing is her K-9 Sport Sack. If the airport environment is too much for her and she doesn’t want to be in the crate on the ground, we can pop her in and give her an elevated view of everything. Here she is in her Sport Sack with Won at a local drug store. She really likes it!

Sweet Pea in her K-9 Sport Sack at a local drug store with Won.


We were just informed that our car has made it through US customs and will be loaded onto a container ship departing for Lisbon on Saturday, January 11 – the day before we leave. It took one month for this part of the process. The estimated arrival time in Lisbon is February 3… (!!!???!!!). What happened to that “7-10 days to cross the ocean” estimate!? I guess the ship will be making a few stops before it gets there or it is a really slow boat. C’est la vie.

This time next week we’ll be in Lisbon. I won’t lie. It is a bittersweet feeling. Won and I are super excited about our adventure and we know family and friends will be coming to visit, but saying good bye, even for a short time, is hard. We’ve made such great friends here in New Jersey – lifelong friends – and the reality that we won’t just be able to send a quick text suggesting we get together on the spur of the moment is tough. And, even though we’ve been away from our families and friends in California for 8 years, it doesn’t dull the heartache knowing the distance will double. And my son, Matthew. My amazing, BIG-hearted, sweet son, Matthew and his beautiful wife, Heather, who moved to New Jersey 6 years ago and have been a part of our lives nearly every day will be staying in New Jersey to finish their education and get a foothold on their futures. I’ll miss them like mad. All I can say is, how did people survive separation before technology? It is a small comfort to know I can see your faces, easily stay in touch, and hold your collective feet to the fire when you say you are going to visit.

With tears in my eyes, I’ll sign off for now. My next post will finally be, from Portugal, with love.

Published by Beth Thomas-Kim

After working in corporate America for companies like Mattel, Nestlé, and Johnson & Johnson, I retired and moved to Portugal in January of 2020 with my husband Won and our 12-year old wire fox terrier, Sweet Pea. We now live in Monte Estoril, a lovely seaside town just outside Lisbon. We spend our days happily exploring this beautiful country and learning about its fascinating history, engaging culture, warm and welcoming people, delicious food and wine, and stunning architecture. This blog was started primarily as a way to keep family and friends updated on our transition from the US to Portugal. Now, my subscribers include people from all over the world. Enjoy!

22 thoughts on “Planning and Prepping to Bring Our Precious Pooch

  1. Keep the posts coming, Beth. I am enjoying learning about the process of relocating abroad as I have wanderlust in my veins (as demonstrated with my near double digit cross country domestic moves). I would have made all of these same efforts for my own dog – good on you! Wishing you nothing but a smooth transition and feelings of validation upon your arrival. Safe travels!


    1. The really scary part is that I am keeping the details at a high level. You have no idea how truly complex and challenging this entire process has been. That fact that we are really committed to this adventure is what carries us forward. Thanks for the positive feedback though! Since I’m really new to blogging, it is very encouraging.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. WHEW! There isn’t type big enough to convey my feeling behind that word! Amazing, wonderful, enduring, persistent…you are all those things!!


  3. Another entertaining and informative post that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and feeling connected with you. Safe travels to your new “temporary” home. This flight will be like no other … leaving a familiar life behind and jetting to a whole new world. ❤️✈️


  4. Beth – first of all, congrats on such an amazing move! I hope to visit Portugal for vacation this Spring so you’ll have to give me some reco’s. Secondly, I love how much thought and care you put into getting your sweet pup to Portugal. I’ve read countless stories about dogs (many senior ones) surrendered to animal shelters because their owners moved and “couldn’t” take them along. Your story is proof that anything is possible with hard work and effort. I applaud you for ensuring that Sweet Pea was part of the consideration and the process. Can’t wait to hear more about your adventure and I wish you the best of luck with your move.


  5. Wow – so much to coordinate! Best of luck on the actual voyage and looking forward to your next post from Portugal!


  6. Safe travels to all 3 of you. So glad to know Sweet Pea will be as comfortable and safe as you can make her. I will miss you guys like crazy. At least once in awhile I was able to see you when I traveled back East. Thank goodness for technology is right. Love the Blog. Keep it coming.
    Hugs and love to all,


  7. Wow you will need some relaxation when you get to Portugal 🇵🇹 you deserve it. Can’t wait to read the next chapter in a very exciting story. My best to you all! p.s. you had many who would have helped you with all the beautiful furnishings that wouldn’t fit in your storage 😉


  8. No doubt all your incredible planning and preparation will payoff!! I can totally relate to the red tape associated with animal travel, but it is so worth it when they are with you! We have found that Rescue Remedy along with a few drops of lavender on the collar works like a charm. Wishing you safe travels and I can’t wait to hear about all your upcoming adventures! P.S. The picture of Won and Sweet Pea is absolutely precious…. I will be Amazon shopping tomorrow for the K-9 Sport Sack.😁


    1. Thanks, Mindy! Really happy to hear you’ve had success with Rescue Remedy. It’s new to us. Unfortunately I, with how sensitive Won is when traveling, we might have to skip the lavender. So happy we can stay in touch this way. Sending you hugs!


  9. Beth,
    I love reading travel blogs and yours is so interesting and well written! I subscribed so I can keep following your adventure. Wishing you all the best.


    1. The SportSack is a great resource and has come in handy many times, especially when Sweet Pea decides she doesn’t want to walk on the cobblestone streets and sidewalks here (I think the edges bother he delicate paws). To avoid them she’ll walk on the curb, which makes us nervous because it’s so close to the street. Mini Schnauzers are adorable! People often ask us if Sweet Pea is a Schnauzer. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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