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Cruising with Pets! Oliver’s Experience in the Islands

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Including our rescue poodle, Oliver, on our adventurous two-year sail was a no brainer for us. He joined our family long before the sailboat did, so he gets priority over our little sailing “vacation.” And as such, we always knew we would do whatever it took to include Oliver as we island hopped around the Bahamas and Caribbean.

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So, this leads me to one of the most commonly asked questions from some of our blog readers…

Although we’ve posted a few times before (>>here<<) about the process of cruising with a dog (or pet), it seems like several folks really want an update on how the pet import process has actually unfolded for us along the way. You know, they want the lowdown on how crazy difficult or easy peasy the actual check-in process has been with a dog on board.

So here’s a little update on Oliver’s experience thus far…

So far, so good.

The end.

Just kidding you guys.

I realize the pet importation process seems extremely daunting for those newbie pet owner cruisers. Seriously, I felt the same exact way before we left Florida. Honestly though, I’ll tell you we haven’t really had any major issues checking Oliver into any of the countries that asked whether or not we had any pets on board (i.e. Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands).

Before you read any further, make sure you read my first post >>here<< that explains most of the requirements…and then you can find lots of other great boat dog resources over >>here.<<

Bahamas

In the Bahamas, we applied for our pet permit about three months in advance of our arrival in Bimini. We had all of the necessary requirements before applying for the permit, and fedex’d all of the required documentation and our $15 money order over to Nassau in December. Surprisingly, we received our approved permit by efax only a week later. The original was mailed back to us about two weeks after that. Honestly, I probably got a little overzealous in securing our permit and totally could have waited a month or two longer to apply. #overachieverprobs

When we made the crossing from Florida to Bimini, we were in fact asked on the customs and immigration paperwork to indicate whether we were traveling with any pets. So we did. Jereme was also required to present our Bahamian pet permit at checkin. And that was that. There were no extra fees charged at check-in and no additional red tape. In other words, not terribly difficult if you get all your ducks in a row at your local vet back home and square away the necessary paperwork/permitting in advance.

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Turks + Caicos

Ahhhh, the Turks and Caicos…our first experience with the don’t ask, don’t tell pet policy. When we rolled into South Side Marina on the main island of Caicos, we were quickly informed by the owner that we should leave Oliver on the boat while Customs and Immigration came to check us in. We sat in the gazebo of the marina and handled all the paperwork, while Oliver chilled in the boat. Literally. It was the first time we had hooked into AC since leaving Florida. What a lucky duck. ;))

Turns out, none of the paperwork we completed technically asked about pets on board, so we didn’t offer up that tidbit of info for the customs guys. This was a bit surprising to me after having studied the legit requirements for importing a dog into the Turks and Caicos. I’m quite certain we had everything we needed (most importantly the Titer certificate), but since they didn’t ask…oh well! And I really don’t feel terribly bad since both times they kinda duped us into overtime charges anyhow. Don’t even ask. I’m still annoyed about that.

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Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic was hands down our worst check in experience yet (you can read about all the fees for just Jer and I >>here<<). But only for ourselves, they too did not ask nor obviously care about Oliver coming along for the ride. I’m not even kidding, no more than 15 minutes after Jereme had checked us in, we marched Oliver by the assortment of “official” customs, immigration, navy, you name it, trailers (with all the officials lounging out front of in lawn chairs no less) and no one gave a rat’s you know what that we were bringing a dog into Luperon. It’s shocking really. They wanted a hand out or random “fee” for just about everything else, yet didn’t care about pets. Go figure.

Puerto Rico

Once again, no questions asked. This is technically the United States so I can’t imagine we would have had an issue. Although, I kinda wish they would’ve told us we had to keep Oliver secured on the boat while we were on the island, and then maybe he wouldn’t have contracted the super serious >>Ehrlichiosis<< blood disease. No bueno.

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U.S. Virgin Islands

Once again, no “pet on board” questions asked. No problems here.

British Virgin Islands

We screwed up here. Kinda sorta. But let me start at the beginning.

Once again, I knew we had all the necessary requirements squared away for Oliver to enter the BVIs. Most importantly, he has the Titer/FAVN Blood Series certificate. Following the instructions provided on the BVI government website, I applied for Oliver’s pet permit in advance of our arrival. Specifically around Thanksgiving when we were still in Salinas, Puerto Rico and planning on arriving in BVI by December or January. The permit application process was simple. I completed this form linked online and emailed it to the address along with one PDF attachment of all of Oliver’s pertinent medical records as required (international health certificate – USDA endorsed, Titer/FAVN certificate, Rabies Certificate, and Vaccination History). Literally, within the hour I had the approved permit sitting in my inbox.

When we rolled into Soper’s Hole, Tortola in January to check-in, we weren’t sure whether or not we would be asked about pets on board. Our experience thus far had led us to believe that maybe they wouldn’t even ask and that we wouldn’t need to show our approved permit (which we only had electronically).

Wrong-a-roni!!!!!

They did ask, and better yet, we were supposed to have called the vet on the island approximately one hour before arriving. Whoopsie! I guess I missed that part on the instructions. The Customs folks phoned the vet for us and Jereme waited about an hour for him to come down to the Customs and Immigration office. Once he arrived, he informed Jereme that we were under duress (whatever that means) and thus required to pay an extra $100 fee. WTH?!?! The usual pet fee is $10. At that point though we really had no choice, and begrudgingly paid the $100. Ugh, lesson learned. The hard way. Make sure you call the vet before arriving!

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^^I would stick my tongue out at those jokers too!^^

The sad part about all these unaccounted for (and pretty much made up on the spot) charges is that the vet never even asked to see Oliver to check him in. And literally pocketed the cash. So sad.

Anyhoo, with all of our experiences thus far, I still recommend turning to your local veterinarian in advance of your departure to help guide you through the process. For us, it helped to search out a vet that had experience with international pet travel. We quickly learned we would need to microchip Oliver for identification, administer a rabies booster and additional vaccinations, and request an International Health Certificate. We also went ahead and took the steps to apply for a Titer Certificate (more extensive Rabies testing), as well as a USDA Endorsed International Health Certificate — both required in several of the “stricter” Caribbean countries.

Getting all the necessary vaccinations and documentation squared away in advance and having our ducks in a row prior to setting sail made the process a breeze!

Pretty much. ;)))

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

GUS CORTESFebruary 26, 2015 - 5:40 am

I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING YOUR BLOG, AND I’M A BIT JEALOUS OF ALL THE FAN I’M MISSING, BUT WE’LL BE FOLLOWING YOU IN JUST A LITTLE BIT, I’VE HAVE TO PUT SOME THINGS IN ORDER AND THEN MET YOU SOMEWHERE, THAT’S MY DREAM, JUST TO DO WHAT YOU’RE LIVING RIGHT NOW

Skelton CrewFebruary 26, 2015 - 2:09 pm

Thanks for the info, it’s nice to hear first hand (recent) experiences!! So far our vet is willing to work with us but is by no means well versed in cruising with pets. I’m guessing that the “this certificate is valid for 30 days after issuance” statement on the bottom of the health cert has not been a problem when outside the 30 day validity?? Thanks again, cheers! ~Jackie

SandyFebruary 27, 2015 - 11:25 pm

Re’ good books, have you read “The Art of Racing in the Rain”? As a dog lover u will love it. Also ” On the Wind and a Prayer ” by Paul Koestner (available only on Amazon). Hope to run into you one of these days.

LAHOWINDFebruary 28, 2015 - 6:21 pm

Hi Jackie! I got one that was not dated so I wouldn’t have to worry. Any chance you can get that from your vet? Otherwise, get it as close as humanly possible to when you leave the U.S.

Tuesday Tell-Tales.

Just your typical Tuesday.

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You know, where you feel like having a cannonball party? So why the heck not!

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It’s just so much more fun to get into the water by making a real splash! :)) Am I right or am I right?

And those jumps are seriously fun until you (read me) nearly lose a pair of sunglasses. Shhhh, but don’t tell anyone.

Unfortunately, the pair of shades I was wearing flew off my face immediately upon impact. But fortunately, I was able to recover them seconds after resurfacing as they were quickly sinking toward the bottom. Phew! Close call.

Let’s see, what else?

Ooooh, what’s everyone reading these days? I myself have been a reading machine lately. You know, with oodles of free time (and a rainy day or two) while hanging in Christmas Cove the past week and a half. I’ve finished The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things No One Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon, Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? by Mindy Kaling, and Summer at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs.

A total random mix of books and nothing heavy or scholastic, but I like what I like. No apologies for that.

Mindy Kaling’s book was funny, but not exactly what I expected so I’d grade it a B- to C. Steal Like An Artist was a super duper quickie read, but I definitely got a tiny spark of inspiration out of it. And the other two (Summer at Willow Lake and The Matchmaker) were both easy reads my mom recommended and I actually really really truly loved both.

If you’ve read something spectacular lately, pretty puhlease let me know. :))

And that’s that. A few cannonballs, an almost lost pair of shades, and some easy reading. Life does not suck.

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

KateFebruary 24, 2015 - 4:17 am

I’m about 1/3rd of the way in to ‘The Husband’s Secret’ and LOVING it so far. I also heard great things about Amy Poehler’s book.

BrittanyFebruary 24, 2015 - 1:12 pm

Currently reading “Wild” and loving it. Another great book that is fantastic and so fun to read in these parts is Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Hesse. It is considered “literature” (so not super light) but still easy to read and one of my most favorite books. Love it.

Dawn DunkelbergerFebruary 24, 2015 - 6:02 pm

I just finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It was a really nice read. Also, the Circle by Dave Egger was a good commentary on social media gone wrong.

Thanks again for blogging! I love being able to see and read about your adventures.

Lindsay MerkerFebruary 24, 2015 - 10:25 pm

Finished WILD by Cheryl Strayed a few weeks ago, LOVED it. Just bought UNBROKEN because everyone keeps telling me it’s so interesting. I read the LIFE LIST in December and thought it was really cute and certainly not scholastic.

Karen CookFebruary 25, 2015 - 2:19 am

I always enjoy your photos and light hearted writing. Keep it coming.

DebbyFebruary 26, 2015 - 4:34 am

I love all the Susan Wiggs books! I’m currently reading the latest of Catherine Coulter’s FBI series. And I love reading your posts, so much fun.

GUS CORTESFebruary 26, 2015 - 6:03 am

we’re planning to do something very similar to what you’re doing right now, but have so many questions about cost and permits and visas and everything else, how can we contact you , or what will be the best way to get some information from you and your experience

Manscaping Meets Cruising.

I find it kind of ironic that Jereme (and not I being the girly girl I am) has to partake in regular grooming sessions while living a simple no frills kind of lifestyle on a boat. Seriously, is it me or is it kind of hilarious to think that the man of the ship has to conduct regular beach barbershop sessions to keep a presentable, less than total salty sailor appearance?

I cannot imagine if the reverse were true and I had to drag Jereme to shore to help cut MY hair. Seriously, can you imagine the outcome? Scary!

Now, don’t let me fool you…I would certainly kill for an actual cut/color/and style from my fav stylist and great friend Dre back home, or a legit mani/pedi, or hell if I’m really dreaming big a professional massage, but on this here sailboat, it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Long hair and self-manicured toenails it is!

It does happen for Jereme, though. The haircut part at least.

We all know that beard of Jer’s can take on a life of it’s own and, if his mom had a say in the matter, would be trimmed much MUCH more frequently. ;)) I’m pretty sure his last beach haircut was just a few weeks ago back in St. John, but Jer was definitely already overdue for a trim so he spent some time just last week getting his hair and beard under control with a beach cut.

Now, haircuts on the beach are all kinds of interesting.

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They are hot for one.

Think sweaty, sticky, with hair flying everywhere. As if sand sticking all over you isn’t bad enough, why not throw in a million tiny shards of hair? ;)) So not totally ideal of a hair cutting locale, but we work with what we got.

For the obvious reasons of hair getting EVERYWHERE, we prefer not cutting Jer’s hair on the boat (or Oliver’s for that matter)! And since Jer’s clippers are battery-powered (we use this cheap set of clippers), they can be easily transported from the boat to the beach for this little chore.

It gets even worse if there are lots of other boats/people in the anchorage and you know somebody is clearly watching and wondering what the heck you are doing sitting way up on the shore with a mirror and some gadget in hand…desperately trying to find a tiny slice of shade to work within.

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Jer handles most of the cut himself (thank goodness he’s got the buzz style working for him) and I come in at the end to straighten out the back and around the ears, and clean up any loose ends.

And at the end of the cut, I get a real chuckle out of watching Jer wade into the water with his bottle of shampoo to do a quick rinse off before heading back to the boat. :)))

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And that’s just another peak at our typical boat life. Regular hair cuts on the beach! Sounds totally abnormal, I’m sure. ;))

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

Pooping in Paradise

Jereme and I regularly laugh about how this whole cruising adventure is one big exotic potty break for Oliver. To every new island we sail, we are constantly scouting the best “toilets” for Oliver. It’s become a sad running joke between the two of us.

You know how they say cruising is really just “fixing boats in exotic places?” (That is true btw.) Well, we would also add that cruising with pets is mostly just “letting your dog poop in exotic places.”

Seriously. It is. ;))

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^^Look at that face. One happy little beach poodle.^^

Oliver has done his business on more beautiful beaches than the average person will ever even see in their lifetime.

He has also probably swallowed more sand than I would prefer. :(((

And caked bucket-loads of said sand onto his poodle velcro fur, thus requiring dog baths on the regular.

There have been wild donkey and deer encounters on some of these exotic beaches, plenty of pointy sea grass prickers collected in his poor paws, and a few tense moments trying to land our dinghy on some serious wave-breaking shorelines.

And as much as I’m sure that sounds like a chore to most (as opposed to say simply opening the back door of your house and letting the dog out), for us it’s been honestly some of our most favorite memories made on this trip.

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Every single day of this little life afloat of ours, we start with the same exact routine…taking Oliver to shore.

This is our usual three (or more) times a day task-a-roo. And it’s not as terribly painful as you might think. Our routine pretty much goes down the exact same way each and every time…

Jereme gets into the dinghy.

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Then, I do the old fashioned poodle hand-off, demonstrated below. ;))

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Oliver is well-versed in this little maneuver and has no problem being lifted, dead weight style, off and over the side of the boat and into Jereme’s waiting hands.

And then we make a beeline to the closest beach for Oliver to take care of business. He usually swan dives off the front of the dink as soon as it comes close enough to land. He would prefer not to swim in, but sometimes he miscalculates his jump to land ratio and ends up about knee-deep in water.

Oliver also pretty much always manages to get smothered in sand during these trips to shore. For him, potty breaks clearly = play time, and hence the sand smothering. This is more likely to happen when we are on a really gorgeous sandy beach. Oliver’s no dummy, he prefers running wild and free along a powdery white sand beach over a rocky one any day. But he’ll take what he can get.

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And if there’s a stick anywhere along the way, he will certainly find it!

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We always try and squeeze in a good bit of playtime for Oliver while we’re on land. I mean, being the best dog ever, he totally deserves it! ;))

But usually, he gets pretty darn messy in the process. We try our hardest to get as much sand off his poodle velcro as possible before dinghying back to the boat.

Most of the time Oliver’s paws are soaked with saltwater after a quick rant along the shore. So, as soon as we get back from taking Oliver, I rinse his paws with fresh water. (And sometimes, he’s such a mess that he requires a full blown bath.)

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We’ve found that saltwater logged doggie paws simply do not dry. The saltwater causes major irritation and results in Oliver chewing his paws into oblivion if left untreated. Our fresh water rinse has really helped combat the issue for him.

And that’s really our typical routine with Oliver.

I really can’t even imagine not taking our cute poodlepants off the boat for bathroom breaks and fun rendezvous on land. I mean, what kind of life is that for a dog? Yes, it would be great if Oliver knew how to “go” on the boat as a last resort during long passages, but the fact that he doesn’t isn’t the end of the world.

Cruising with Oliver has (more often than not) required us to launch the dinghy when we would be too lazy to do so, explore more off-the-beaten-path beaches than most, and allowed us to enjoy it all with our favorite furry family member in tow.

Oh, and we’ve amassed a serious sea glass collection in the process while waiting for him to do his business. So there’s that. ;))

Wanna know more about Oliver and his “boat dog” lifestyle? You can find all the deets >> here!<<

>>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.

Jeremiah & BrittanyFebruary 20, 2015 - 3:52 am

We love how positive your posts are! What a great outlook on life and it’s little joys!! We look forward to walking our little pups on the same beaches next year!

BillFebruary 20, 2015 - 1:55 pm

My dog, Riley, is the same way! Just can’t wait to get to shore. He usually finds a blown out flip flop amongst the weed line and insists on playing with it. So we’ve dubbed him the “finder of lost soles”. Crazy dogs…

PaigeFebruary 21, 2015 - 12:46 am

2 paws up on that blog post from Winnie. =)

Kelley - Sailing ChanceFebruary 21, 2015 - 1:59 pm

BEEN THERE! Riley’s favorite is to roll around in the sand making sure he gets sand in every possible place! But, how happy Dewey and Riley are running around on the beach make the whole cruising thing worth it :)

Boat Life Lately. According to my iPhone.

Life lately has been a big mix of hustling to pack in as much sight seeing fun as humanly possible with visitors on board, along with a decent chunk of total utter relaxation and not doing a thing in between sets of visitors. A nice little balance, if I do say so myself.

After running around BVI and USVI with family for two awesome weeks, we spent the past week kicking back in Christmas Cove, St. Thomas (awaiting our next round of visitors).

Here our a few of our most recent iPhone photos (all posted over on Instagram of course)!

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Instagram >>Thanks for visiting LAHOWIND sailing blog! We’d love for you to get to know us and follow our story as we attempt to navigate a whole new world of sailing, as we cruise the Caribbean.