One of the most difficult decisions we had to make before moving to Costa Rica was what to do with our dogs. We had two wonderful dogs who had been part of our family for many years. Kuma, a mixed breed I found on the streets of Galveston as a puppy, is 13 years old. He suffers from arthritis, allergies, and we recently had him on steroids for a mast cell tumor. He is great with kids but as the years have taken a toll, his patience has been noticeably thinner and thinner. Mary, a beautiful black lab mix, is an 8 year-old gem. She is sweet, patient, and totally submissive. She is also energetic and playful. She has problems with seizures and ear infections though.
Having Sally take them was a great solution. She is a dog lover and has been taking in strays since we were kids, much to our parents chagrin. Her kids also love my dogs. Also, we can take them back after we get back to the USA, if we do go back. We will also get to see them when we visit her next summer and we Skype with them too. After taking a good, honest look at my dogs and their “issues”, I thought we were going to have a very difficult time finding homes for them. We did consider bringing them to Costa Rica with us, especially since the quarantine laws are practically non-existent. All we had to do was have a vet examine them at the airport and provide a certificate that their shots were up to date and they were healthy (as in non-infectious!). The biggest problem that prevented us from bringing Kuma and Mary to Costa Rica was our housing situation. We had not heard about any available housing about 1-2 months before we had to go because none of the available places allowed pets. When it became painfully clear that we were not going to find housing until after we arrived to Costa Rica, I realized we had to leave the dogs behind. There was no way we could bring them with us unless we had a firm housing option that allowed pets. I asked my sisters, sister-in-law, and parents if they could take the dogs. My sister Sally was kind enough to accept the offer to take them. It was a sad day for me when we put them on a Delta plane the day before we left to be shipped off from San Antonio to Cincinnati. This was a painstaking and expensive process because of the weather and size requirements for live “cargo”. Luckily, I found a flight that could deliver them to CVG, the closest airport to my sister’s house.
Had Sally not been able to take them, we would have given them up to a non-euthanizing rescue organization such as Animal Defense League or Kim Acres Animal Shelter. I know that this would have been an even more painful option, because we never would have seen them again.
So what are your options for your pets?
1) Keep them. Make sure you have appropriate housing secured before you move and that you are familiar with the quarantine rules of your destination country and live cargo shipping regulations for your airline.
2) Loan/adopt them out to them to a family member or good friend. This worked for us. Sally and I share costs related to the dogs’ maintenance such as medications.
3) Adopt them out to an non-euthanizing animal shelter. My concern with doing this for my dogs is that they were geriatric and had so many health problems. I am very grateful to Sally for taking them, because I have no idea how easily they would have found a new home otherwise.
Believe me when I tell you that figuring out what to do with your pets will be the most agonizing decision you make. You must familiarize yourself with quarantine laws, live cargo shipment rules, animal shelter options, and the house rental rules in your destination country to make the best decision for you and your pet.