Soooo...you may or may not know this about my husband and me, but we recently realized that we are completely crazy :) Ever since we went on our honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands back in 2005 we have had the Caribbean bug. We started dreaming about one day owning our own business and working for ourselves instead of for someone else's dream. Over the past 8 years we made traveling exploring the world a priority. We have been able to explore Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and various countries in central America. We looked half-heartedly at some B&B's for sale in Europe but never seriously considered those real options.
This January we saw a real estate listing for a deli/provisioning business on St. John in the US Virgin Islands. We were intrigued and asked our realtor friend down there for some more information, and the rest, to use the horrible cliche, is history!
Long story short, we decided now was the time, before we were too old, so we went for it and here we are! We listed our house and one week, 12 showings and 3 offers later we were under contract.
For the sake of skipping a lot of what would likely bore you to death, I will skip ahead a bit! Since we have two big dogs that we had NO intention on abandoning, our only flight option was for them to fly in the cargo hold. Not ideal, but we had no choice. After doing exhaustive research, we found out that the total weight of each dog WITH their crate cannot exceed 100 lbs. Our lab/rhodesian mix is 81 lbs. and our yellow lab is 60 lbs. We bought TSA approved crates for each of them and called it good. To avoid having to transfer planes and to decrease the potential misplacement of the dogs, we opted for a direct flight from NYC to St. Thomas, instead of flying from Boston, since that would involve a layover.
Our flight was a 7:00 am early bird, so we left our home in NH around 1:00 am on Friday May 10th. It was bittersweet for me after all of the hard work and memories of the past 8 years. Sparing my hubby the cry-fest that I felt coming on, I said goodbye and tried to look ahead to the future we were creating.
Fast forward 4 hours and we arrived at JFK, with both dogs and our cat in a carrier that would come with us in the cabin. The plan was for E to drop us all off curbside and we would wait while he parked. Yeah, not so much. The asshat curbside attendant at the US Air gate said we would not be allowed to "loiter" and insisted that the pets and I begin the check-in process alone. I asked for his help getting the dogs into their crates and he said no, I would have to walk with them to the ticket counter, wheeling the crates (and the cat) on a dolly beside me. I was terrified, since both dogs were way over-stimulated and were pulling, etc. but it seemed I had no choice. When it was my turn, I walked with the dogs to the counter of the (excuse my language) biggest absolute asshole US Air agent ever to wear the uniform. After he gave me the dirtiest look and asked why the dogs were not crated, he asked why I was traveling with them alone. I tried to explain that E was parking the car and that I was just doing as told by the curbside agent. During this exchange, our 11-month old lab wiggled out of her collar and ran into the agent area! The agent YELLED at me to get her, and since I was still holding the other dog, I had to drag him with me behind the ticket counter while I tried to get the puppy. The agent at the next station then started yelling at me as well, and saying that the dogs should have been in their crates. WTF US Air, I was doing what I was told!
After the horrific counter experience, security was next. A very nice porter pushed the crates while I walked with the dogs. As soon as I got to the TSA agent who checks IDs and boarding passes before security, the older dog squirmed out of HIS collar and took off running. I wish I could make this up. He ran through the X-ray machine and was heading for the gates. I was immediately and harshly told by a TSA agent that if I attempted to chase him I would be tased. Thankfully a very nice young agent went after him and was able to bring him back. I then had to have him hold the dogs while I took the cat out of his carrier to go through security. As soon as I opened the carrier I could smell instantly that the cat had freaked out and peed on himself and all over his carrier. Having no other choice, I took him out, holding him beyond tightly, and walked through with him. Once his carrier came through, I put him back and had to walk back and go through the x-ray machine a second time, bringing the dogs with me. After that, the porter brought me their crates, and our older dog was more than happy to hop right in. Madie on the other hand was not having it. It took me 10 minutes of pushing and cramming to get her in the crate - all the while other travelers going through security were commenting "don't hurt her", "be careful!", etc. Note to those people: F you. I didn't have one person offer to help, but everyone was happy to give me their opinion.
With the digs safely crated, I secured the crates with the required zip ties and happily sent them on their way with the porter. At this point, I was texting with E, trying to let him know that we were through security and that I would meet him at the gate. With barely enough time to get to the gate, I was quickly making my way when the shoulder strap on the BRAND NEW cat carrier broke and the poor little guy tumbled to the ground. Thankfully there was a lot of padding in there and he was fine, but I was definitely holding back tears at that point. I made it to the gate and sunk into a seat. Luckily E was only a few minutes behind me. As soon as I saw him I lost it and tried to explain everything that had happened. He was beyond pissed off, but we decided it would be best to wait until after the flight to complain.
As we were about to board, I was paged to the counter. I was convinced something else horrible had happened with the dogs, but thankfully it was just a very thoughtful baggage handler who wanted to let me know that he had personally loaded the dogs onto our plane and that they were doing great. I was, and am, so thankful for him, he was the only positive part of the entire experience!
I have a lot more to share as we start our new life here, but had to get that awful travel experience out before we can move on to the good stuff! If you made it this far, thank you - and stay tuned!