Lessons on island living, The Case of the dog adoption

By Wanda Bermudez, May 8, 2015

So you came on vacation to Vieques and noticed an invasion of ‘loose’ animals everywhere. ‘Wild’ horses mingling among stray and not-so-stray dogs and cats plus the now ever present iguanas. By your third day you decided that the cute stray that’s living on your vacation porch deserves a better life. You want to take it home. Here is a story about an abandoned puppy and my struggle to send her to her new home in Ohio. What you are about to read was done by experienced people on island living, do not attempt to do these dangerous activities on your own. Before I start you must know that I do not own pets. I can’t handle pets due to health reasons, allergies and respiratory problems. Plus, because I never had pets as a child, a cow does not count, I don’t know how to handle them and do not understand their psychology. Those facts have not stopped the people of Vieques from dropping their unwanted pets in my yard. The first time I saw this white, black and brown dog she was in the balcony of one of my rental apartments and looked she might still be a puppy, a large puppy. My guest was not amused by this dog that came up from nowhere and refused to leave his balcony. You see, not everybody likes or wants to be around animals. Of course it was my duty to get rid of her. So I tied and practically dragged her away, she wouldn’t move. I gave her food and water on my balcony and she stayed. Now I had a problem, I had to find somebody to adopt her.


I called, I facebooked, I prayed and lit candles to the saints and nothing happened. She was still there chewing away at everything she could find, stealing my neighbors’ sandals, and getting hair all over my balcony. I went by the Humane Society and they were packed. Then these two mean dogs, one of them was a Rottweiler, with a collar, attacked Spock (I gave her that name), while on the beach in front, and left her terrified in a corner of my balcony. That might be why she was paralyzed the first time I met her. The problem was I couldn’t bring her inside. An attempt to tie her in the balcony failed when she chewed thru the leach twice.


Then, Dianna showed up, another guest, and decided she wanted to adopt Spock but it was too late to take the puppy with her on the return trip. Dianna left me money to cover expenses and a note to please take to the Humane along with the dog the following Tuesday. All I had to do was drop the dog at the Humane for the veterinary to check her, issue a health certificate and take care of transportation. Lesson no. 1: If it sounds to good to be true…


I should have known then that something was not right. Nothing in the island is as easy as “just take the dog to the Humane on Tuesday”. Nope. When we got there, the sound of 100 barking dogs scared Spock so I had to pick her up to take her inside. There I found somebody else waiting for the vet with her pet and the tail of some other animal coming from under the desk. All I was seeing were allergens and lung irritants flying around me.


I approached the desk and gave them the note. The director was called in and she asked, “When is the dog flying out? Who is going to take her to San Juan?” “I don’t know. I only know to bring her here.” The people at the Humane told me they couldn’t check her until there was a plane ticket issued because the health certificate expires in 10 days. Nothing was done, I had to bring the dog back home. Now my car and shirt were full of dog hair and dander and I still had a dog in my balcony.


I called, facebooked, texted again and quickly found out that there is nobody on the island, no community group or entity either, that can help me with this process. I was on my own. I contacted Dianna and told her that the only way to go was to find a volunteer to take her to San Juan. The Humane did not have anybody soon. I couldn’t find anybody, not even paying.


Time passed and Spock got yet another beating by the Rottweiler and his now two dog entourage. Something had to happen soon. Against my better judgment, I volunteered to take Spock to San Juan myself. Dianne then made arrangements by phone with United Pet Safe program, set a reservation for Spock to travel by cargo and purchased a plane ticket for me and Spock via Cape Air to the International Airport. When she told me all this, a little flag went up on my head. “Really?! Cape Air?! Those little planes?! They are going to accept a dog in a kennel?!” Lesson no. 2 Never underestimate your inner voice.


Now that we had a volunteer and a travel date, I went back to the vet at the Humane. This time I decided to wear a mask and good thing I did, the place was packed with pets. With the travel date and Dianna’s information, a health certificate was finally issued. Spock also received vaccinations and preventive medicine for heart worms thanks to the Humane Director. Total cost $111. The travel was for the following Tuesday, 7 days away. I was to get back to the Humane before that to get a kennel they would lend us for Spock’s trip. They even suggested that I put a doggy plate with water to freeze so I can place that block of ice on the kennel for Spock to have some water to lick off the ice during the transfer. Seemed like a good idea.


Since I did not have time on Monday and the Humane does not operate on weekend, I went for the kennel on Friday afternoon. And guess what, they did not have any kennel left to lend. Now, at this point this was a crisis. There are no pet shops in Vieques and only a few businesses carry limited stock of pet related supplies. I went to the “Centro Comercial”, the only store I knew had some pet supplies, and found they do have kennels but not big enough.


The United Pet program is very specific about the size of kennel you have to use. The dog needs to have at least one inch clearance from the top of the ears to the top of the kennel and be able to move around freely. I named the dog Spock for a reason. Her pointy ears stand about 3 inches tall. I needed a large kennel and it was late on a Friday, the stores were already closing and the only other store left to check does not open on Saturdays. Lesson no. 3: In the island, do your things early so you make room for contingencies.


I called, facebooked and texted again. My cousin Mitsuka offered to sell me her kennel so I can solve my problem and one week later she would be in the big island and buy another kennel. And… the kennel fit perfectly. The other option was to take the ferry to Fajardo and buy the kennel there, an ordeal from 5 am to 10:30 am at best. Lesson no. 4: You do need family and good friends to survive in a hostile environment.


On Monday I had to fly out and back to Vieques. While at the airport I stopped at the Cape Air counter to verify that everything was ok for the next day. Guess what? The guy at the counter said the kennel would not fit. Remember lesson 2? I went home and called Cape Air headquarters. They told me that yes it would fit. I made them write on my plane reservation that I called and had given them the specs for the kennel. I pondered whether I should just go by ferry, but it had to be the 6 am one, or risk it by plane. I hate traveling by ferry so much that I decided to go back to the airport plus I did not want Dianna to loose her $300+ plane ticket.


I prepared Spock for the trip. Took her inside my house and forcefully gave her a bath, a difficult thing for her and for me. She hated me after this. I fed her double the food I usually gave her and placed a barricade on the balcony so she couldn’t escape at night. In the morning I had to carry her and forced her inside the car. We were ready.


Tuesday at the airport a new guy at the Cape Air counter told me he could not take the kennel. I did not scream, I should have but didn’t. I argued with him, had him call corporate, invoked the constitution, the American with Disabilities Act, and all to no avail. The pilot just refused to take the kennel because in order to accommodate it with the dog inside, one of the seats had to be placed on a reclined position and that was not safe for flying. Spock did not make the United flight on that day. Dianna almost had a heart attack. She did call corporate and did some screaming and phone hanging. Good for her. Me? Well let’s just say I have had better moments.


I offered Dianna to take Spock by ferry the next day. She called United and was able to change the San Juan flight to the next day, same time, 2 pm. I had to take the darned 6 am ferry.


The problem with the ferry is getting the kennel and the dog in and out of the ferry since I was traveling alone. There is no service at the ferries and the kennel is as big as I am. But this is a small island and you always find somebody to help. My son helped me get the kennel and dog in the ferry. It was the first time for Spock inside the kennel and she made the point she did not want to go there. It was not fun doing it with an audience. Once in Fajardo, I came across another cousin of mine, Raul, who helped me get everything into the car I keep in Fajardo. That was a huge relief.


I was heading to United cargo where they would take the kennel and place it on a flight that takes off from the International airport. You would think that I had to drop off at the International airport but no. Good thing I had checked in Google, but even with that I couldn’t pinpoint the exact place. I called while on the way and the guy that replied was not even able to give me a street name, just reference points I was not familiar with. The roads were not labeled anyway. After several trial and errors I finally found the place. It is inside the Muniz Air Base which is next to the airport but not interconnected for civilians. Lesson no 4: Give yourself time to find an address. Streets are not labeled in Vieques nor in San Juan.


I arrived at United cargo at 10 am. It was not easy to go thru the door with a dog on one hand, my bag on the other and the kennel on both. Out of breath and finally at the counter, I couldn’t believe it when the lady behind it told me that she could not accept the kennel because it did not have an interior food tray that attaches to the sides. No tray, no flight. I repeated back what she had just said just to make sure I heard it correctly. She nodded. This is when I laughed, a soft but audible laugh when what I really wanted to do was scream and take somebody by the neck and squeeze hard. But I just stood there and laughed. Is this a sign of maturity or is it that I am getting old?


Had I taken the flight the day before, I would have ended inside the International airport with a kennel as big as myself and a dog that craved to be let loose. I would have had to find a taxi willing to accept the kennel and the dog, and drive me to the cargo counter to find out I needed a bird-like-food-tray. Forget about the ice idea.


One hour later, after getting back from the nearest Petsmart with the food tray, I had to take the kennel and the dog to the warehouse to be weighted and measured. When they said warehouse they meat it. A dusty, hot and noisy place where trucks of all sizes come and go picking up and dropping cargo and no reception person to say “Welcome to the warehouse, how may I help you.”


Back at the cargo counter there were other people with a traveling dog. While I waited I saw a sign on the counter that said to be there 3 hours early. The papers I received from Dianna said to be there 2 to 4 hours early. Two hours turned out not enough. I heard the other guy behind the counter, the one that took my phone calls, trying to give directions to somebody that was dropping another dog for a flight also at 2 pm. “Do you know where ‘such and such’ business is? Get off at that exit and look for the Burger King…” This person went to the United counter inside the airport by mistake. I didn’t think he was going to make it.


It was taking over half an hour to do my paperwork. The time came to check the kennel and dog for comfort and signs of health problems. The guy went to check Spock and came back kind of agitated, “Have you given water to your pet today?” “Yes”. “Is your pet sedated?” “No.” Spock was not moving inside the kennel. Sedated dogs don’t fly. I had to go with the guy, passed security clearance (sign here, wear this badge, put on this safety vest), to approach the kennel. When Spock saw me she stood up and got excited. They guy asked me to take Spock out of the kennel and placed her next to it so he can determine if the kennel is high enough. Not an easy task as Spock attempted to run away. She did not like the confinement of the kennel. It was difficult to place her back in. Then the guy notices something wrong on one of her eyes. “What is that?” he asks. “What?” I say. “Oh, must be just normal eye stuff.” Boy that was close. If the dog shows any signs of unhealthiness, even fleas, she does not fly. Finally at 12:15 pm and after $352 for Spock’s airfare, it was done.


Spock made it to Ohio passed midnight. Dianna received her like a lost child. Yes, Spock will miss her playing time at the beach but she will now have a lot of land to run around and she will live inside a home like a pampered baby and there will be no mean Rottweiler to hide from.


There is a saying that goes, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. It certainly felt that way many times, especially when my good old friend Murphy decided to stick around. Now that it is all over I feed good I did it. Just tell people to stop abandoning their pets in my neighborhood.


This is the info Dianna received:

Cargo Services Building (outside of terminal) Base Muniz Suite E 5 Building K 787-253-3473


It is not outside of terminal, it is outside of airport.

The buildings are not marked. The name of the street is Jose Santana and it is within the Base Aerea Muniz but there are no street name signs anywhere. From Baldorioty expressway going towards San Juan, exit at Campo Rico. Go right after the exit ramp. At the first light turn left, you will be heading north on a side street along Baldorioty de Castro. Follow this road to the entrance of the Muniz Base. Turn right to enter the base. Follow the road , which runs along mangroves and lagoons, until you see a sign that says GMD. Turn left there. The United cargo counter is at the end to the right. The counter is shared by other companies.


This is United’s Pet Safe web site



The kennel I used was size XL, measured 36x23x26h and the total weight, with dog, was 56 pounds.







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