Sunday, June 16, 2013

Adopting Another Stateside Shelter Dog!

(guest blog by Shannon)

After our dog Bristol died this past February (RIP 2/7/13), we adopted our new one-yr old Lab "Chukar" from a rescue group in North Carolina. Ken already posted about that experience. At the time we chose Chukar, he was at the rescue ranch with his yellow Lab brother (Rex), they had been brought in together from a shelter where they were dropped off as strays.
We had sentimental reasons for choosing the black brother (Duke), mostly because he reminded us of our previous dog Chuck (RIP 10/14/11), which is why we re-named him Chukar.  We kept tabs on the yellow brother and were happy when he went to a home a couple weeks later, and stayed in touch via Facebook with his adoptive family who re-named him Ike.  We were always a bit sad about separating the brothers.

Chukar was a handful.  Crazy like a crazy cat, pouncing and playing and jumping on the counters and generally using our house (and us) as a jungle gym.  We love the little guy though, what he lacked in manners, he more than made up for in personality, enthusiasm and eagerness to learn.  Our older dog Bo Peep loved him too, having another dog to cuddle with, but sometimes didn't like being his jungle gym accessory and so wouldn't play back with him and he has energy to burn.

After six weeks or so, we got a call from the rescue group (Joy at Ruf Creek Ranch!) that the yellow brother had been returned by the family that adopted him.  They had a hard time keeping him in their partially-fenced yard, he chased squirrels, darted out their door and didn't get along with their older dog.  Hmmm.  Did we know anyone that might want him?....  Immediately, we knew the answer... Chukar wants him. We needed to re-unite the brothers.  The decision was easy, we were on board.  The logistics....?  Not so easy.

It is never easy getting a large dog on or off the island, especially in the summer months.

This came up during the first weekend of May.  We were facing some challenges with the weather, as we had to transport him by plane to the islands.  Delta Airlines shuts down all pet travel in the baggage compartment on May 15th. American Airlines allows pets, but only if the temperature at all airports along the way is forecasted to be less than 85 degrees.  St Thomas? Miami?  85 degrees was getting to be pretty normal.  We were limited to early morning or late evening flights. American won't fly the large size kennels on the smaller plane they use out of Raleigh-Durham, and we looked at every logistical solution and concluded that we had to get him from North Carolina to Miami, and then fly out of Miami on the night flight.

After the dust settled, here is how it worked, my "Memorial Day Road Trip with Blake" (we re-named him Blake, sounds like Ike, but liked it better).  Ken stayed home with the other dogs, I needed a trip off the rock, to drive on the right side of the road, go to big box stores, and eat Taco Bell!

- Friday night, I flew from St. Thomas to Charlotte, NC on American (was supposed to be Charleston, SC on US Airways, but US Air cancelled or delayed all my flights and I had to rebook at the airport, etc, was typical nightmare flying experience). Spent the night at airport La Quinta in Charlotte. got three hours of sleep, grabbed my complimentary banana and headed back to the airport for another cancelled flight.

- So the rescue group and I connected and changed all plans.  I rented a car in Charlotte, NC, went to PetSmart to get some basic supplies.

- The rescue group found a volunteer pilot from Paws and Pilots ( to fly the dog from Raleigh to Charlotte on a little Cessna.  At the last minute, they were re-routed to Monroe, NC, another 45 min drive.

- I met Blake for the first time, he was so sweet! Confused, anxious, but incredibly focused on me and so affectionate.  I knew this would all be worth it.

- We drove six hours to Jacksonville, FL, I exchanged the rental car for a mini-van, bought an airline approved travel crate, spent the night at the pet-friendly Red Roof Inn by airport rental lots

- I drove down the coast of Florida with many fun stops at dog parks and dog beaches, bonding with Blake! Took scenic routes, spent 6 hrs on the road. Spent Sunday night at pet friendly La Quinta in West Palm Beach.

 - Monday morning, we leisurely made our way down to Miami, about 2.5 hrs plus a stop at another beach, with a final potty stop at a dog park right near the airport

- Returned the mini-van rental at the Marriott airport hotel Hertz counter, awesome! Thank you Ken for that part, would have been nearly impossible logistically any other way as one person to drop the car off at airport rental lot

- Met up with Francisco, a tour mini-van operator who Ken found online, that agreed to meet me at the Marriott and drive me and Blake and the crate to the check in counter.   It went so smoothly that we were early.  Check in went smoothly too and we had an extra 40 minutes to chill out on a bench in the A/C with a chew toy and get Blake calmed down for the flight.

- Boarded the flight, got confirmation from the pilot that Blake was on board!  We were an hour delayed taking off due to mechanical issues, but it was cloudy and drizzly and 81 degrees, so he was okay waiting down in the cargo hold for our departure.

- Landed in St. Thomas, they unloaded him promptly (which doesn't always happen!), he was scared to death coming around the baggage carousel.  He and Ken met for the first time, and home we went!

We reunited the brothers that night, it was late and dark and raining outside, Blake was amped up from his crazy trip, Chukar was surprised, and it didn't go great.  They had a little sparring match, but then settled in together for the night. We know that with some patience, they will be best of friends again.

Blake has been a great addition to the pack. Our senior Bo Peep loves him, such entertainment to watch now.  Our pack of three Labs is our family.  And brothers will be brothers with the bickering, but Chukar loves him too!  They play chase, share bones, and are both learning more manners.

What an adventure for me and Blake!  We are so happy we went through the effort to go get him.  He's in his forever home now.  It is not easy to bring large dogs to the US Virgin Islands, but we have done it now (four times), and it gets less stressful every time.

Blake's an island dog now, enjoying his Life on a Rock!

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