To find out how I got to this point, read the first part: Green Card Red Tape Part One
This part focuses on the process of bringing my dogs to Florida with me.
I was very indecisive about this. There were various factors that influenced my indecision: money, stress, visions of Cookie and Leon in the dark luggage section of the plane, the temperature of the plane, the noise of the plane engines hurting their eardrums, worrying about whether they would get along with Mark’s dog Zeus when we arrived, and many other passing thoughts that haunted me during this time.
Eventually I decided that yes, I would bring my dogs with me, because they’re my babies. I’ve had Cookie and Leon since they were puppies. I didn’t want to give them away to random strangers, I didn’t want to bring them to a shelter, and the people I would feel okay about giving them to were not in the position to take them.
I considered the advice of loved ones, which, like all useful advice, is often contradictory, examines a multitude of angles, and always overwhelms brain circuitry.
I researched how much it would cost, the cage specifications, the veterinary requirements, and even how to train your dog to sleep in a cage.
As with most things, the more I learned the more I worried: ignorance is bliss. My thorough research resulted in my mistaken assumption that I had to hire a freighter company to fulfil the requirements of the airline I was travelling on (Aer Lingus). I shopped around and the best quote I could get was sixteen-hundred euros for both dogs. This was actually a very low estimate compared to what I thought it would be. This included bringing the dogs to the airport from my house, dog cages with the correct specifications (I had to send detailed measurements of their height, length and weight), and all of the required paperwork (special stickers on the cages and appropriate forms for temperature control, breed details, and so on).
Note: The visa process cost somewhere between four and five thousand euros before taking the dog dilemma into account. The money piles up over time so it’s difficult to keep track. My parents and Mark all chipped in towards the cost of my visa requirements, including taking the dogs with me. I am eternally grateful to them all for this, because without them I would still be stuck back in Ireland. I love Ireland but I love my husband much more!
So that was that. I couldn’t book anything until I got confirmation that I would even be allowed to go to America, so I kept the freighter company details and focused on the other things I had to do.
Ireland is a wonderfully disease-free place when it comes to dogs. As a result, getting the required vaccinations for going to America is easy. You don’t even need a rabies vaccination, because Ireland doesn’t have rabies. However, America does, so I got Cookie and Leon their rabies shots in Ireland, simply to avoid the hassle of having to get them in Florida when I arrived. Rabies vaccinations aren’t expensive. I can’t remember the exact cost, but it was something like twenty or thirty euro per dog. I also got them the medication to prevent heartworm because Florida has mosquitoes. If a mosquito bites a dog and it has heartworm, it can be fatal. Again, I didn’t want to be making a vet’s appointment when I first arrived. Neither of these were essential to the dogs boarding the plane, I just didn’t want to leave anything to chance.
All in all, the vet stuff needed for the dogs to legally fly and arrive in Florida amounted to just a little over a hundred euro for both dogs. Plus, there is no need for quarantine when they arrive. The appropriate people at the airport check the documentation you’ve put together (including signed vet reports) and that’s it really. It means that when you land and drive to your final destination, your dogs are right there with you and that’s all there is to it.
Lo and behold I got the confirmation I needed, and it was time to book the freighter company. I was very concerned that I did everything just right, so I re-read all of the sites I had bookmarked and noticed an exception I had missed.
Well I nearly jumped out of my seat. Due to the exception, I didn’t need a freighter company after all. All I needed to pay for was their cages and their ‘seat’ on the flight. The cages were 220 euro each. It was coming close to the time I would be leaving Ireland so I was left with few options regarding the cage or I might’ve been able to find cheaper ones. I bought them online and missed the post-man the day they arrived so had to pick them up from the post office. The cages were flat-packed but still very bulky, and I remember struggling to get them home. They had all the special stickers included.
Next, in order to book the dogs on the plane all I had to do was ring Aer Lingus Reservations and book them as excess baggage. It’s funny how a cat or dog can be reserved in much the same way as a set of golf clubs. It was such an easy-breezy phone call, it almost felt too simple. A 160 euro charge per dog was required on the day of departure.
Then I booked a random man-with-a-van to bring the dogs in their cages to Dublin airport on the day of the flight. He charged 120 euro. I had to do this because no one had a big enough car for the cages to fit in, mostly because of the height.
All in all, I saved some money by making the arrangements myself instead of hiring professionals. Instead of having to pay 1600, the total cost was 880 euro. Not bad for a day’s work.
The day of the flight arrived. Mum and Sue were invaluable to the entire process of the potentially stressful day. They accompanied me to the airport and stayed until the dogs were processed and sent through a conveyor belt, not to be seen again until arriving in Orlando. Dublin to Orlando (direct) is a nine hour flight, and it felt even longer sitting there wondering if Cookie and Leon were okay. The air hostesses were amazing. They even checked on the dogs during the flight and gave me feedback. They also hung my wedding dress in a special place so it wouldn’t get squished. Excellent staff, truly.
Well I tell you, the relief I felt when I met my dogs on the other side…I can’t even express it. Absolutely wonderful. The icing on the cake was Mark arriving and seeing how easily the dog cages slid into his monster truck. The minute we drove away from Orlando airport I breathed a huge sigh of relief. We made our way home, talking excitedly about the future and the beginning of our life together.