I bought virtually no souvenirs during my year in Costa Rica. There are few stores in the little pueblo I called home, and I was living out of a pull tote and an Eagle Creek duffel bag anyway. No matter what happened, I’d eventually get on a plane at the end of my time there with a year of my life stuffed into two reasonably sized suitcases. I had no extra room.
But when it came time to go, I found myself with a different sort of baggage. Their names? Jax and Chase.
I’d rescued two precious zaguates (mutts), and I was unexpectedly faced with bringing my scrappy Costa Rican street dogs home with me to the neon jungle of Las Vegas, where I’d found a job. They didn’t make it easy – for me, or the army of neighbors who helped me.
I was unable to fly with them, since I had no home to bring them to. So my saintly neighbors dog-sat, for what turned out to be weeks. This was no easy feat – everyone in Costa Rica already has at least two animals, so my 115 pounds of dog was a lot to take on.
Jax and Chase were used to living free, so the first order of business was making sure they were present to fly on the day of their trip. For awhile there, it didn’t look like it was going to happen. They’d often run off for the day and come back for dinner, but as I was gearing up to leave on a final vacation before moving, they ran away and didn’t come back. I was a mess, but I told myself they’d found another family, and they were meant to stay in their homeland. The evening before my six am flight, a friend dragged me out of the house for dinner. When I came home, guess who was sitting on my front porch, tails wagging? Jax was naked, and Chase had a piece of rope attached to his collar. They’d been tied up! And they’d helped each other escape before coming home as a pair. Those dogs were coming home with me, and that was final. But the night before I left for good, they again ran away. They could tell something wasn’t right, and they didn’t want to deal. So I didn’t get to say good-bye, and I was so sad picturing them coming home to find it empty, without their dog bowls outside.
Once I’d found a Las Vegas rental that had a fenced-in backyard and allowed dogs, it was time to plan their journey to the States. I’d purchased their cajas (kennels) before I left, but Chase contacted mange. (He’d been the sickest one when I rescued them, suffering from a kidney infection that made him walk hunched over, and he was so weak he often couldn’t stand up.) So Kelsey had to take care of all of that. My heart went out to both dog and dog-sitter!
I ended up flying them on Delta, whose Pet First program I couldn’t recommend more.
The first obstacle: payment. Cargo, even very special cargo, has to be paid in cash – at the point of take-off. So Kelsey had to take out the rather large sum and make an additional trip to the airport to pay. Now, that’s a good friend.
A lot of people ask me about quarantine; there is none in the continental United States, which basically has every disease already. It is VERY easy to bring pets home to the U.S.! (Ask my friend @joanna_haugen — she and her husband brought their dog home from Kenya!)
The morning of the flight, Kelsey was a nervous wreck. But Delta put my babies in an air-conditioned room until right before take-off, when they were put, in their kennels, into cargo. My boys were on their way!
We were all worried sick, so I tried to stay busy during their layover. (They don’t rush them right from flight to flight, instead giving them overnight in Atlanta to sleep and re-adjust.) Then that night, my phone rang, and I saw Atlanta’s area code. I jumped! It was the vet who was taking care of them, making sure they could sleep together, under one blanket. (Was I hearing this right?) “I wanted to make sure they don’t fight, that it was ok,” he told me. I was elated and talked his ear off about how I couldn’t believe what good care they gave!
And yes, they’re best friends. Of course it’s fine.
The next morning, I went to pick them up at the Las Vegas airport. We’d been separated so long, I was nervous they wouldn’t recognize me. I put on my bright yellow safety vest and went running into the cargo garage. They began jumping up and down and wiggling and barking, and oh, boy! Yay! I ran to immigration, got their papers stamped (Chase/Chaez, same thing), and loaded them into two cars for the ride to their new home.
For them, the adventure was just beginning! Stay tuned for more on our adjustment to Las Vegas.