At this point in our travels, you are all probably wondering where our rambunctious, playful and loving pup, Brady, is. Here is the DL.
When we decided to go home for the summer and leave our truck in Costa Rica in a long term parking area, we flew Brady home with us. We did everything we had to do. We got his international health certificate, bought a large and very expensive crate and set up his flight with United Airlines’ PetSafe program. Although his one way ticket home was double the cost of one of our roundtrip tickets, we wanted him to have the safest and most comfortable flight. PetSafe guaranteed that Brady would be transported in an airconditioned van from the cargo area to the airplane and then, during our layover, would be let out to use the bathroom and given a small amount of water before hanging out in the airconditioned designated ‘pet area’ in New Jersey. Although still nervous about the whole process, we committed to go going home and this was the only way to have our best friend with us.
The morning came when we had to drop Brady off at United’s cargo area in San Jose, Costa Rica. We got dropped off by the taxi and made our way inside a warehouse. After the man checked over Brady’s documents, we put him in his crate and the PetSafe employee ziptied the door shut. He told us we were all set and free to go. Confused, we frantically looked for the van but it was nowhere to be seen. We had to get to our flight as it was departing in less than two hours, so we gave Brady a few words of encouragement and a bunch of kisses through the gate. We had envisioned a van waiting for his arrival upon which he would be carefully loaded and brought to the airplane at the time of departure. We did not envision leaving him on a dirty warehouse floor with forklifts loudly whizzing by.
While waiting to load our plane, we caught a glimpse of Brady’s crate being loaded into the belly of the plane. Feeling relieved that he had made it to the correct plane, we snapped some pictures and watched as the men on the loading dock talked to Brady periodically through his crate. He sat on the loading belt for about twenty minutes before actually being loaded into the belly of the plane. Once we found our seats, we double checked with the flight attendant that Brady was still in fact underneath us, just to ease our minds.
We arrived at our layover in Newark, New Jersey and were told that we didn’t have to do anything for Brady there, it would be taken care of. We had a two hour layover so grabbed a snack and then waited at our terminal. The last leg of the trip was an easy hour and a half flight and then we could be reunited with our furry baby!
We arrived in Boston around 4:30pm and went directly to baggage claim where both of our mothers were eagerly waiting for us. After lots of hugs, kisses and a quick photo, we made our way to United’s cargo area. We walked up to the counter and placed Brady’s packet of information in front of the employee. She said she hadn’t had any animals come in yet but to give it a little bit longer for him to make his way over, as this was a separate building.
We waited almost an hour with no sign of Brady. We went back up to the desk and asked her if she could find out where he was. She looked up his “tracking number” and told us that she didn’t know where he was but he was not in Boston as far as she could tell. Infuriated, we told her she needed to figure out where our dog was. He is a living animal and we needed to make sure he was alright. After about 45 minutes, and a few phone calls, PetSafe finally found out that Brady was still in New Jersey. We asked them when they expected him to arrive to which they told us 9:30pm. There were no earlier flights and no way to change it at this point. That means Brady was sitting in the Newark airport for five hours, when we were told that it would be an hour and a half. We later found out that, when flying a pet internationally, they have to be kept at the layover for three hours. Still, five hours was too much time when he had already been in his crate since 4:00am.
9:30pm rolled around and we had been anxiously waiting outside of the PetSafe office for almost five hours at this point. Around 10pm, they still had not come to get us to let us know Brady had arrived. We went back into the office and, angrily, asked where our dog was. He had arrived about a half hour earlier and no one came to tell us! As soon as they rolled Brady out in his crate, I ran over and started pulling at all the zip ties. Nate grabbed his knife and cut the ties and out popped a shooken up but excited mutt! Brady was okay and boy was he happy to see us!
We figured that when we returned to Costa Rica, we would leave Brady under the wonderful care of Nate’s parents while we completed the shipping process across the Darien Gap. Long waits in a hot truck, hotel rooms for two weeks and a boat ride, or possibly another flight, just didn’t sound good for Brady’s future. We thought it would be easier to have Nate’s parents bring him to the airport and send him to us once we were in South America. This way, it would only be one flight and no waiting around while we did paperwork and waited for the truck to arrive in hotter-than-hell Cartagena.
As soon as the shipping process was over with, I couldn’t be more eager to start looking at flights to book Brady on. The more research I did about sending him to us, the more it looked like it would be an even worse option for him. The only way to get him sent to us in any country in South America was to drive him two hours to the Boston airport, load him into his crate at 6:00am, fly from Boston to Texas from 9:00am-12:30pm, have a five hour layover, then fly from Texas to here from 5:30pm-approximately midnight, depending on where we had him sent. Then, when he arrived, he would be brought to a warehouse where he would wait for us to pick him up when the office re-opened at 8:30am the next morning, with no supervision. No one to let him out to the bathroom, give him water/food or stretch his legs. He would be in his crate for over 26 hours. “PetSafe” my ass. There is nothing safe about that.It makes no sense to put him through something that will likely traumatize him or possibly be a life-threatening situation.
We are finding that it is a bit easier but a bit more lonely to travel without a dog, although it’s not what we wanted at all. We don’t have to worry about leaving him in the truck while we go grocery shopping or go somewhere he isn’t allowed, it is one less thing to do at each border crossing, and we can treat ourselves to a room every now and then without being turned away because we have a dog. Brady brings us so much joy and laughter. It would have never cross our minds to travel without him. However, it is not worth the risk that comes with sending him to us just to fulfill our happiness, and his. I am sure that he would love to be by our side on our long walks on the beach, meeting new friends each day and protecting us while we sleep at night.
Absolutely the hardest thing we have had to endure at this point on our trip, we made the final decision to leave our best friend in the loving and caring hands of Nate’s parents until we return. We spent hours discussing options, sometimes into the wee hours of the night. Gallons of tears were shed and fights were had, but we knew that this was the only safe option. We receive updates on Brady periodically. Each morning, Nate’s step-dad brings him on a walk through the state park near their house. He gets to spend his days with his brother, our beloved cat Baer, pestering him and being a typical little brother. Each night, he gets special snuggle time on the couch while watching tv. Nate’s parents have even snow blowed a “race track” in the yard so that Brady can tear it up without galloping through the snow. We know he is in good hands and are very thankful to have such wonderful people taking care of him, but it breaks our hearts to know that he will not be joining us on the rest of our journey.
We meet furry friends in our travels and somewhat “adopt” them for the days we spend with them. It helps to fill the void. We have aptly named and given personalities to several dogs, cats, beetles and, the newest, turtles. We share our meals with them, talk to them and give them a good squeeze. For now, this will have to do. We just hope Brady understands and doesn’t hold a grudge when we return. We are coming back to be with you, buddy, we promise!