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.
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.
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!
**** BREAKING NEWS ****
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.