Darien Gap Crossing (The Dogs)

Trip Start Jul 01, 2011
Trip End Jul 21, 2012

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Where I stayed
Casa Del Mango

Flag of Colombia  ,
Thursday, February 2, 2012

Now that the car is in a sealed container in the port of Colón, ready to be shipped to Cartagena, we still need to fly ourselves and our dogs there. It's 3pm. I just came back from the port and we have 2 hours before we need to jump in our taxi to the Tocumen airport.

Earlier this week we got all the papers done. We found a local vet recommended by some expats, managed to drive there (it took 2 attempts - the first time we were not able to find the clinic). The experience was quite horrible: the vet didn't care about the dogs, only about filling papers and giving the mandatory anti-parasite injections. Her assistants behaved like they could have been executioners in a past life, tying the dogs' jaws shut with their hands (for Biela) or a rope (Manly). These two men were obviously afraid to be bitten... and given the way they treat dogs in my opinion they deserve to be bitten. Anyway, we got the papers and a few pills of mild sedative to give the pooches before the flight.

We also got the mandatory crates - we bought them almost a week ago and trained the dogs to sleep in them (using treats as rewards) so that they wouldn't freak out too much when the time of the flight comes.

But now that the time approaches I'm beginning to freak out. Really. Although the flight only lasts one hour, we need to check-in about 3 hours before the flight and then clear customs and vet inspections at arrival so in total our canine friends will be crated for about 6 hours. Gulp. And then there is Biela's situation. The incompetent vet didn't see anything but the poor dog is not doing good. She stopped eating 2 days ago and yesterday Mai found two huge ticks stuck on her. Since then Biela has been lying in her crate, sleeping all day.

We decide not to give her any sedatives for the flight because she may be too weak for them. We get on the taxi and make our way to the airport. Biela stays in her crate and Manly travels with us in the back of the car.

Check-in takes a while but is pretty easy. Then we have to take the dogs out of their crates so they can be run through X-rays. Biela doesn't want to get out of her crate and Manly doesn't want to get back in his, but ultimately we manage to get everything done. There's a big pinch in our hearts as the conveyor belt carries our beloved friends in their individual-size plastic and metal prisons. The airline's pet policy flashes in my mind: "in case of cabin pressure drop, oxygen will not be administered to the cargo area where pets are traveling".

The flight is short and easy. Immigration is a breeze. I like to visit countries who seem genuinely happy to welcome visitors. By the time we reach the luggage pick-up area our 2 suitcases and 2 crates are the only pieces left. A quick look inside reveals that both pooches seem to be doing fine. Finally, I can breathe normally.

The vet formalities take about 20 minutes, mostly the time for the vet on duty to take the health certificates and vaccination records, type the information on a computer, collect $30 in permit fees, and print a pet import authorization. Marcus, the owner of a B&B who booked us a room (in another place) is picking us up with a tiny pick-up truck so we can put the dogs in the back. He explains that taxis in Cartagena are tiny cars and the trunk space is greatly reduced by the propane tank (these vehicles are modified to run on natural gas).
As we drive from the airport to the hotel Mai and I look at each other and at the waves of the Caribbean Sea.

We are in South America!
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Felipe on

O my god those dogs will pass out if you do not give them continusly water in cartagena, the heat can be really xtreme so try to give them water every time.

The white one would i think will need more attention for having so much hair.
Be careful and enjoy Cartagena.

cedric.brehaut on

For those who may worry about Biela's health: she is fine now. It turns out the Costa Rican ticks gave her a nasty parasite. The vet in Cartagena diagnosed it with a blood analysis and he is giving her a series of injections to get rid of the bug. Ticks in Costa Rica are strong mofos that seem to be resistent to the expensive 'Advantix' treatment we give the dogs every month. Anyway, all is well and recovery is underway :)

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