Our World Traveling Pugs: A Tribute

G with Pablo and Paloma in Uruguay, 2009
G with Pablo and Paloma in Uruguay, 2009

When we moved to Montevideo, Uruguay in March of 2009, we brought our two Pugs, Pablo and Paloma with us.

We often joke that they were the most complicated part of the move, requiring specific flight times and layovers (due to temperature restrictions for snub-nose breeds),  translated paperwork, exams, shots at very specific intervals, crate requirements, leash, water, tags... the list goes on.

For anyone who loves dogs though, this is not even a question.

Our dogs were our first babies-before-our-human-babies and although we didn't plan on moving across the globe when we became dog owners early in our marriage, we knew the commitment that dog ownership entails, so 7 years later, the dogs were coming with us.

Transit was the easy part. Boarding the dogs in Montevideo another issue all together, but we worked through it and were reunited as soon as we had "our" house in the Pocitos neighborhood. It was wonderful to be together again and the dogs lazed in the sunshine of the courtyard and curled up together wherever they could find a comfy spot.

Pablo & Paloma testing a crate.
Pablo & Paloma testing a crate.
Skip ahead 18 months and we flew with the dogs again on our way to Bariloche, Argentina.

This time we knew the drill of traveling with pets and while a bit simpler, Uruguay's pet exportation requirements were still quite detailed.  Through Buenos Aires and to Bariloche, our dogs were traveling pros.  They loved the freedom of Bariloche and our fenced in yard. Pablo specifically would explore and lay in the gorgeous grass and I'd like to think he appreciated the beautiful views, too.

When we drove from Bariloche through Chile and settled in Córdoba, Argentina.  We knew that the pugs couldn't take a 15 day road trip with us so we had a wonderful neighbor family in Bariloche watch them. They were caretakers at a gorgeous estate and the dogs were in heaven with a loving family and property to roam.

The dogs flew one final time from Bariloche to Córdoba to meet us when we were in our house near the Cerro neighborhood, in the northwest of the Córdoba Capital.

Geneva (AKA "Punky Brewster") & Pablo, May 31, 2011
Geneva (AKA "Punky Brewster") & Pablo, May 31, 2011
Córdoba was to be their final home.

Pablo had been in declining health for years. He had lower spine issues and before we even left the USA, we had consults with the University Veterinary hospital, treatments with an alternative medicine Vet (yes, he received doggy chiropractic and acupuncture) and therapy to maintain strength in his hind legs.  As he aged, his gait became more and more unstable but he could still walk. As a last-ditch effort, we even used small balloons over his hind feet like booties so he'd gain some traction on our slippery tile floors.

Shortly after our second daughter was born at the end of May 2012, Pablo stopped walking completely. He stopped eating and drinking. We took him in to receive IV fluids, but he was 12 years old and  his time was up.

On our most recent trip to Bariloche this past February 2014, we stayed at the same house where we used to live and buried Pablo's ashes under a prominent tree that he loved to hide under 2 years earlier.

Franca & Paloma in Córdoba, Argentina. October 2014
Franca & Paloma in Córdoba, Argentina. October 2014

We still had Paloma, the younger of the two.  A year and a half the junior of Pablo, we felt like Paloma would live forever. She was going to be the ugly old toothless Pug that lived to be 17.  While visually, she had aged a lot in recent years, she still got around like a puppy. She had a vigor that Pablo's quiet aloofness could never match. She was the barker. She was the one wanting to 'meet' all the other dogs but then would roll onto her back in submission. Pablo was just too good for that, too much of a loner to care.  Paloma was a social butterfly, or so she wanted to be.

Our vision of the life our old dog was going to lead changed suddenly last week.

Paloma died in my arms as we were trying to rush her out the door to the vet. At 12-1/2 years old, we shouldn't have been surprised, but after watching Pablo's slow decline over the course of years, we were shocked that she passed so quickly. Paloma was fine in the morning: eating, drinking, climbing stairs; then in the afternoon: shuttering, gasping and gone. So suddenly.

We have such an emptiness in our hearts. After nearly 14 years of having dogs in in our lives, the changes in routine and in looking for the pitter pat of little doggie feet to greet you are the hardest.

Pablo and Paloma were great dogs, not perfect, but they were ours. They gave us unconditional love and we gave them a forever home, even though that home changed a few times. We miss our two babies-before-our-human-babies and will be forever grateful that they took this crazy international adventure along with us.

Besos a ustedes dos, Pablito y Palomita!!!  Los queremos y los extrañamos mucho!
Pablo and Paloma Jan 12, 2008
Pablo and Paloma Jan 12, 2008

Dogs in Uruguay Part 2- Gear & Our Airline Experiences

After the paperwork and necessary shots were completed for our dogs, we had to consider how they were to be transported and what was going to happen to them during the long journey to Uruguay. We had previously looked into animal shipping companies that can handle all of the paperwork and logistics for you- including providing a crate for the animal and grooming before departure. These are door-to-door services, and as such, have a hefty price tag. We were quoted between $3500-4500 to ship the two dogs separately from us. We decided for that sort of price, we could go through the steps and handle it on our own.

Pug in Suitcase

Our first questions for the airline involved the crates: We had two plastic dog crates, one large that can hold both dogs and one small. We would have loved to put both dogs in the larger crate together since they are always together and really quite attached, but it was against airline regulations. Dogs have to be the same breed and under 6 weeks old to be allowed in the same crate for international travel. Our pugs were 8 and 6 years old at the time of our travel to South America, so that plan wouldn't work.

/>We sold our larger crate and went out to look for another small crate that would be more comfortable for a single dog and easier to transport. We found a great Bargain Hound crate that is perfect for airline travel.  Not only was the Bargain Hound crate sturdy and a perfect size, it had the following features:

  • Lockable wing nuts to secure the top and bottom together (some airlines require this)
  • Ventillation holes on all four sides
  • Carrying handle
  • Enclosed door pegs- some brands have the metal ends of the door latches exposed on the top and bottom of the crate, creating a potential danger for pets and children.  The bargain hound crate had this enclosed for safety.
  • Zip tie holes to secure the crate door during travel.  The agent at the airline check in will do this for you.  The bargain hound crate had dedicated holes for the zip ties, our other crate did not.
  • Pet travel kit with international travel stickers, water bowl and zip ties

We brought one crate to the airport for a dry run the weekend before our projected departure to make sure all of our questions were answered and there were no unexpected surprises.  I highly recommend doing this when you have pets and so much luggage.  The airline also appreciated it because they could make a note in our record of our discussions and expect us to take a while upon check in.

We packed the crates with a folded 'mattress' of fleece blankets with a towel as the core.  I figured this would keep the dogs warm when leaving MN and the towels would provide some absorbency in case of accidents. It worked perfectly. On top of each crate, I duct-taped a gallon size ziplock bag which contained the dogs leash, two meals worth of food in a smaller ziplock, a few extra zip ties in case the dogs had to be removed, a small water bottle to refill the bowls during transit and another ziplock bag with copies of all the dogs paperwork.  The top of each crate also had the international travel information sticker and the dogs name written in permanent marker.

We arrived at the airport the day of our departure to find that the check-in agents were waiting for us.  We had our own dedicated line for check-in and it was very much appreciated.  The agent asked at check-in if we were interested in a short-check for the dogs and we had never heard of this before.  Since we were flying from MN to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, Miami to Montevideo, we could check the dogs for all or only a portion of the journey.  Our longest layover was in Miami and since that was almost halfway according to the overall transit time, that would make the most sense for a short check.  We could claim the dogs in Miami, walk them and have them out of the crate for a while, then re-check before our flight.  We opted to check the dogs all the way through to avoid the stress on their part (and ours) to have to put them back into the crates for another check-in and long flight to Montevideo.

After all of our bags and boxes were weighted and tagged, it was time to take the dogs for a final potty break and get them packed up.  After I removed the dogs from the crates, a TSA agent came over to inspect both crates and bedding. I took the dogs to their approved area outside the entry (who knew there was such a distinction?) and came back to find the inspection completed and the agents ready to seal the dog crates.  One last kiss to the pups and in they went.  The crates were zip-tied, water bowls filled and away the Pugs went.

We all traveled safely and securely- and were reunited in Montevideo.  The dogs were happy to see us and anxious for a potty break and food.  Thankfully there were no messy dog crates, which I had feared.  We hired a truck at the airport to transport us and all of our things to the hotel- and our adventure in Montevideo began...

Next up in the “Dogs in Uruguay” series: Dog culture in Montevideo, licensing and the cost of dog food.

Dogs in Uruguay- Prep for the Journey

We arrived in Uruguay this past March with our daughter, all of our stuff and two funny little Pugs named Pablo and Paloma. The dogs were by far the most stressful part of the move, in part because we had never traveled with pets before.

Can't we both just go in this big crate? There are many details of traveling, boarding, vet care, food and licensing that we've encountered since our journey to Uruguay began. This will be documented in a multi-part Pet series.

Prep for the Journey:

Uruguay has no quarantine for cats and dogs, and is pretty relaxed regarding a lot of import/customs requirements through the airport.  Since we didn't know if we were going through customs in Buenos Aires or Montevideo, we had to comply with the customs requirements for both countries. The paperwork required to export a pet from the USA and import to Argentina or Uruguay is quite involved and required three trips to our local MN Vet and one to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office to get the official approval.  All information on the export of cats and dogs, including specific country requirements, can be collected at the USDA website. For export from the USA/import to Argentina (the more strict location), a dog needs:

  • A 1-year rabies shot administered less that a year, but more than a month before traveling
  • A vet exam within 10 days of travel
  • Tapeworm medication administered by the vet at the exam
  • Paperwork completed by the vet in both Spanish and English

We also asked for a cold-weather waiver from our vet to allow the dogs to fly down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The paperwork from your vet then needs to be taken to your local USDA APHIS office for review by the APHIS Vet and receive the official seal of approval ($48 for both dogs).  Our APHIS office in St. Paul was incredible with helping our local vet understand what is needed for import into Argentina/Uruguay and making sure everything was completed  correctly.  Please contact your local USDA APHIS office first and they can send your vet all the necessary information.

Ours was a somewhat unusual experience because we were flying with Pugs.  Pugs and other snub-nose breeds can overheat easily and as a result, there are tight restrictions on the temperature range that they can fly.  All stops along our route had to be within the temperatures of 32-75 degrees Fahrenheit (this can be different depending on your airline).  In March, it was cold in MN, but potentially above 75 degrees in Miami. Since we waited until the temperatures looked good, then booked our flights last minute, we also complied with the animal import requirements for Argentina, just in case that would give us a better route for the temperature limits. Thankfully we had the additional cold weather waiver  because temperatures were hovering around the freezing mark when we left. We ended up flying from Minneapolis-Chicago-Miami-Uruguay and even after the extremely long travel time, the Pugs came through just fine.

Be aware that there are also summer embargoes where due to the heat, animals are not allowed to fly.  Spring and fall are the best times to travel with pets when crossing the equator. Check with your airline about all requirements before booking your ticket.

Next up in the "Dogs in Uruguay" series: Necessary gear and the adventure at the Airport - including "What is a short check?"

A Much Better Day

pugs-on-boxes Great news that Pablo, our 8 year old male Pug, is on the mend.  We had a vet visit yesterday, along with medication delivered today and all should be better soon.  Brad can write more at some point about his vet adventures.  I also have to mention that Paloma, out female Pug turned 7 today.  Happy Birthday!! As you can tell by the photo above, the days festivities were exhausting and they found a comfy spot on a flattened box to rest. 

This afternoon we had a bittersweet lunch with friends who will be leaving UY today to head back to MN.  While they are planning to return here next year, we probably will not see them before then and miss them already.  Jim and Mariellen had a wonderful experience here and are definitely planning UY as their retirement destination! Yippee!!

At the tail end of our lunch, I had to leave a bit early because Ms. G was in dire need of a nap.  I took her back home (which was about a 1/2 block away) and put her to bed.  I then prepared coffee for everyone to come back and enjoy once they were done with the bill and the last bit of wine at the restaurant.  15 minutes had passed.  30 minutes had passed.  Still no sign of them.   40 minutes after I left the restaurant, they get back here.  Turns out that the bill was paid and then the waitress brought two BIG carafes of wine, on the house.   That was certainly unexpected and I was more than a bit envious that I missed out.  We talked some more and had a quick 20 minute coffee (Record time in UY!) in our back courtyard before the landlord and Jorge were scheduled to arrive.   

Jorge  and the landlord get here.  We say our goodbyes to Jim and Mariellen (who have to get to their hotel and then off to the airport ) and we are off to talk about the water issues.   The landlord lived in this house for 4 years and is familiar with the systems.  He says that the water pressure can build up in the system overnight and that causes leaks where there are not normally leaks.  For the next few days, he is asking us to turn the water off at night until they can get the system repaired.  Not a big deal and we are happy to do so if that will prevent more water.  The kitchen cabinet need to be dried out (we have some stuff to absorb the moisture) and then bleached. I don't like bleach, but if it can kill the nasties, I'm all for it.  The atmosphere was all very comfortable and they came prepared to hang up a clothes line while here (we already did that a few days ago) and silicone the shower fixture as we had requested.  We  also got the assurance that all was going to be made right and received the landlords phone number and address (he lives right around the corner) and then an invitation to come to his house to pick up a tricycle.    His daughter is 3 and had graduated to training wheels.  He thought that we might like it.  Geneva thinks it's fun to push it and walk while straddling it, but hasn't gotten the concept of riding get.  It'll come.

All in all, a much better day than yesterday.  A vet visit (along with a husband who's Spanish is good enough to handle a vet visit) great lunch with friends and a responsive and helpful landlord all make for a very happy Lisa!

Not All Is Rosy

Today I hit the wall. Not literally of course, but I hit the "I'm freaking-out-could-this-be-culture-shock" wall. I think it was more just general stress with lots of weird things compounding.  There were lots of tears involved, but fortunately a very supportive husband who along with Baby G gave me some much needed hugs.  Sorry for another list.  We've has a bunch lately--- 

1.) Pablo is sick. I'm not going into the details but it has to deal with his bowels and said evacuation. We thought it may have just been a stress related issue for him, coming to yet another new environment, but since it continued through the weekend, we have to call the vet. So, sick dog. Gross. Lots of cleanup involved. Plus, dog who loves people and toddler who loves dogs are hard to keep apart.

2.) VERY willful toddler. That goes without saying, I guess. She's our first, though, so we've just never been in this stage before. She is testing us like crazy and is still not extremely stable on her feet. A tall baby with a big Dutch head is just asking for trouble! It is taking constant vigilance to keep her safe. (Thanks Paul, you warned us!!) Not much unpacking, cleaning or cooking is being done. Email and blog posts are happening only during naptimes and after bedtime. I am full-time mommy, which I have never been before.

3.) Child safety standards are different here (I knew this before we arrived) and while I want to bring Geneva to the parks to blow off some steam, they scare the bejeebers out of me. Baby swingThink wooden baby swings with no crotch rail that are 4.5' off the pavers/concrete slab below. Or slides that have a small patch of sand at the bottom with a ring of bricks to keep the sand in. I envision kids cracking their head open at every turn. It is not unlike the types of playgrounds Brad and I remember from our childhood. My mommy instinct to keep my child free from harm is in overdrive. Thank god that Brad reminded me the life expectancy here is the same as the US. I was wondering how anyone made it to age 10.

4.) After the first two days of no water in the house at all, we now have water seeping from both sides of the plumbing wall, into the kitchen cabinets and the bathroom. We saw the water in the bathroom late last week and didn't think too much of it ("Hey, maybe I left the shower door open a crack."). But the water kept coming back at random times, from the area between the floor and baseboard. We couldn't figure out what was causing it. We reported a small amount of water to our rental agent on Thursday via email, then called on Friday to follow up. Within minutes, the owners agent called us and told us that a plumber would be here on Monday. Cool. We could deal with that. Late Sunday night though, I walked into the kitchen at about 1:30 AM to find water dripping from the front edge of a base cabinet (from the wood above the toe kick) and the musty smell that I originally detected was overpowering. The sink pipes were fine. This water must be coming from the wall.

Everything I know about construction says this is no good at all and we could have a serious mold issue. But wait, this is poured concrete/block construction with plaster. There is no wood framing, no sheetrock and no insulation for mold to feed on. The only "food" for mold here is the cabinetry. It seems like there must have been water before to cause the original musty smell that I noticed upon move in. I shot short videos of the water and Brad got a hold of the rental agents this morning. A plumber was over at noon and checked all of the exposed pipes and then turned everything off and checked the water meter out front.  No movement at all, so no internal leaks. Then he turned on the spigot to a drip, the meter started spinning. He said that our water issue is actually from the building next door and not coming from our wall. He confirmed that this building has had a problem with the adjacent building's water once before.  No more update as of yet as to the solution but the cabinets are still wet and the smell is horrible, so we are staying out of the kitchen until we have this resolved.

We're pushing for new base cabinets and a full clean-up of that wall. We'll keep you updated on the progress of that. We knew not everything was going to be rosy in paradise, but the last few days have been stressful indeed.

Thankfully the vet is two blocks away and is coming over tomorrow. One issue down. Yippee for small victories!!


So tonight I just had to go out.  We went for a short walk, then enjoyed an early dinner. I had a crazy-big Chivito and a glass of wine to decompress at "Chivitos Marcos" (Corner of Louis de La Torre and Sarmiento). While the photo is not my exact sandwich, it is close, except mine was goopier and included pickle and hot pepper and was without fries. It was excellent and I will definitely be back again. Nothing like comfort food after a rough day!

We're in!

Well, it's been another interesting, exhilarating, wild 24 hours!  I wouldn't have it any other way!! living room-move inWe're in the house.  A cute little furnished one level on the border of Pocitos/Punta Carretas.  There really is just about everything within 8 blocks.  For the last 24 hours though, that has not included running water.  What????  I said the same thing.  No running water. We got all the boxes and suitcases moved and we were starting to get things unpacked when the water in the kitchen sink slowed to a trickle.... and then stopped altogether.  I thought the water must be shut off to the building. No, all the lines were on.  What could be going on?  I called Jorge, he'll know what to do (thankfully we have Jorge!) Well he tells me that half of the city is out.  A main burst and they don't know when it'll be restored.  Hmmmm.  Okay.  The Disco (supermarket) is 2 blocks away. We'll get a few 5 L jugs of water, but no shower, no flushing toilet and no hard-core cleaning of this place before we unpack.  

Here it is 24 hours later and still no running water.  El Pais (newspaper) says they are working non-stop to fix the problem, but it was a 40 year old concrete main that is very deep.  They hope to have it repaired by the end of today.  All of the coastal and downtown neighborhoods are affected including: Buceo, Pocitos, Punta Carretas, Parque Rodó, Barrio Sur, Palermo, Cordón, La Blanqueada, La Unión, Parque Batlle, Tres Cruces, Centro, Maroñas, Flor de Maroñas, Cerrito, Villa Española, Pérez Castellano, Larrañaga, Bolivar, Brazo Oriental, Jacinto Vera, La Figurita, La Comercial, Villa Muñoz, Sayago, Peñarol y Retiro. 

Happy Earth day!  We're conserving water!!

Other than the *minor* water issue, we are thrilled to be in the house.  It is working out really well for us, and we're getting into our routine.  Internet was set up this morning and Brad will comment on that. I met with the security company who came by to make sure we understood the system. There was a technican with very good English as well as another "translator" that they sent with. They left a manual for the system in English and also gave us the phone and email information for an English speaking customer service agent in case we have additional questions.  I appreciate the English help but certainly didn't expect it. Talk about service!  The technician also stopped by again this afternoon to make sure he got the monitoring setting correct.  After he left, he said that he was questioning himself if he did the final setting and he hadn't.  At home, I would have expected a phone call to set up another time to come by a week from now or something.  Wow. 

Next thing to arrive this afternoon should be our two furry friends, Pablo and Paloma!  I am thrilled that after a month they will be part of the family again.  I should learn all of the Spanish commands that they have been hearing from their temporary family.  For a month stay for both dogs I think it ended up being 7000 pesos ($280 or so).  Plus we had a minor incident with a need for a vet visit  and antibiotic shot for Paloma's bladder infection and a refill of her perscription food.  Still not nearly the cost it would be in the US, and the vets come to you instead of you carting a sick animal to them.  Seems more humane to me. 

So that covers the gamut:  House, water, technology, dogs.  There is so much more to say but I have to leave something for later.  

Please send good vibes this way that can fix water mains. We need water soon!!

Language... Oh the Challenges!

Learning a language while in a foreign land is a great way to do it because you're immersed but extremely frustrating because you're immersed. It is baptism by fire, being thrown to the wolves, complete trial and error.   I ventured off today with the baby to visit the dogs at the house where they are being boarded.  Not a big deal.  I knew where they were and how to get there.  I had a few basic questions in mind that I needed to know: 'Do they have enough food to last one more week?'  and 'Have they gotten the flea/tick treatment?' Both of these are pretty easy questions but to a person who doesn't know much Spanish (Me) and another person who knows even less English (the lady who boards the dogs), the whole exchange was a challenge.  She ended up grabbing her daughter's Spanish/English dictionary which helped immensely for a few key words.  "How did Pablo get the scar on his leg?" I told her that he had surgery to remove a lump. "When will you be picking them up?" Next week Tuesday or Wednesday. "Where is the new house you're renting?", etc.  The visit ended after about a half hour and I was proud of the things that we were able to communicate.  We both tried really hard and had to resort to miming at points, but we got the point across.  Oh Marcel Marceau would be so proud!!


On the walk home, I was hungry so I stopped by a panadería (bakery) to get something to snack on when I got back to the aparthotel.  It was late in the day but I hoped that they would still have some empanadas (meat or cheese filled pastries).  The veggie options are sometimes hard to find but necessary for my vegetarian husband.  I pushed the stroller in and took a look in the display cases.  One Cheese/Onion and one Cheese/Olive Empanada left.  Perfect!  I started by asking the lady for "Empanadas, por favor" and it all went down hill from there.  She started asking me how many I want total (in order to get the right sized bag to put them in) and I thought she was talking about how many I want of each kind.  We stood there for a moment, not knowing what to say because neither of us was being understood.  I eventually understood what she was asking and told her I needed 4 total, then proceeded to place my order.   We got them bagged and she passed them to the check-out lady who asked for "Ochenta Pesos".   I know that means 80,  I had exact change and handed it to the lady.  She counted it out onto the counter and told me "Ochenta pesos" again along with a string of other words that I didn't understand.  After a moment of talking to me, they ended up saying it's all good (in Spanish) and handing me my bag.  I was so confused because I thought she was asking for more money, but I think she was just counting it and saying that I had exact change and to take my empanadas.  I HOPE that's what it was! How a simple exchange can be so confusing!! 

That's the way to learn, though.  As much as it's painful and I want to avoid those uncomfortable situations, I also want to be immersed in the culture and have real experiences with the Uruguayan people.  Through my whole day and those interactions, I think there were only two words in English!   I'll be happy when I can start my Spanish lessons as I'm sure my language skills will progress quickly.  One can hope!