Up until the moment we hit the runway in Belize City, I was certain something could go wrong and derail the entire plan. We learned in the middle of September that Belize would open the airport on October 1, 2020. I purchased tickets for October 5th, and the marathon began. In order to get the dogs in cabin with us, they became Emotional Support Animals. Rick is not able to walk long distances at a fast pace, so he needed wheelchair assistance. Rick is not able to lift anything over 40 pounds, so that left me running behind him and dragging the carry ons through all 3 airports.
Organizing every portion of an international move AND dealing with the COVID restrictions was similar in planning to launching the space shuttle. Everything needed perfect timing. The dogs had to be USDA certified within 14 days of the flight. The airline had to have all the documentation from the doctor who prescribed them as ESA support within 48 hours of the flight. We had to be tested and receive our COVID tests within 72 hours of landing. In the middle of this, Belize was adding more rules for entering that were not very clear. At one point, I decided they were not going to deport us so we might as well land and see what we need. I had 6 envelopes, one stuffed with all documentation depending on what they requested.
Once we arrived at O’Hare, the changes in travel during COVID were apparent. To begin with, there were so few people moving through the terminals I was certain I was in the wrong place. There were also very few vendors and restaurants open to grab a drink or snack.
Upon boarding the plane, you are given a baggie with a small bottle of water, cookies, and hand wipes.
The dogs did better than expected on the planes, mostly due to the tranquilizers prescribed by our vet. They also had more legroom than any human on the plane
Finally, we hit the ground the the PGIA airport in Belize City!!! We were fortunate to be assigned the world’s greatest wheelchair porter, and made it through that airport in record time. He whisked Rick away, past the socially distanced lines outside, straight to the first check in station where we presented our negative COVID tests. Those results give you a “green card” to pass you through quickly. The Ministry of Health still pulls random travelers for an additional test, and they were standing outside the testing room trying to grab us for a random screening. Our porter was not having that, he just starts yelling back in his delightful mixture of English, Spanish, etc. : ” NO NO NO…green, green!!” He whips Rick around the corner, I stand there momentarily frozen wondering what I should do. I pull on the leashes and whip the dogs around the corner with me. Nobody chased after, so we cleared that hurdle. Next station, we presented our Belize health app code and provided the address of our condo. We cleared immigration in no time, and were waiting at the baggage claim before the suitcases were even starting to come out. Another COVID delay: they spray every piece of luggage with a disinfectant before unloading.
There we were, with the best porter in the world, waiting for luggage, and he’s telling me to go to the duty free store and get some cheap import liquor (import=anything from the states. Otherwise Captain Morgan’s will cost a small fortune). I try telling him we already have 7 bags, but he doesn’t care; he just grabs another luggage cart!
Then it is on to customs, where he is calling over “his guy” to prevent too much of an inspection that may result in paying some duty on what’s brought in. We get through customs with: 2 guitars, 5 large cases, a bag of diving gear, 2 backpacks, a carry on and a bag of liquor. Don’t forget the 2 dogs. Next stop: BAHA- Belize Agricultural Health Authority. I have previously had them approved for import, and now we stop to meet with the veterinarian for a check and to pay the fee. The man looks at me and says: that’s $35 BZ or each dog and $10 BZ for the vet check. He proceeds to lean over the counter, point down at each dog, count off ” ONE.TWO. Twenty dollars.” As I wait for the official import documentation, there goes Rick’s porter, with Rick and the dogs, exclaiming: ” we’re taking the dogs out to pee pee.”
In the middle of all this, I learn that the small planes to the island are only allowing 2 pieces of luggage per passenger. Don’t worry, the porter has a plan!
I had already booked a private, charter flight to the island. I knew they would charge extra for the dogs and would make me pay to cargo the oversized luggage. I also knew less planes were flying and people had been left to wait hours. Although it ended up costing double what a regular flight would be, the convenience was worth it. We show up at the small plane: Rick in a wheelchair, dogs spinning at the end of their leashes like tasmanian devils, a ton of luggage, sweating behind our masks; and I slap the CHARTER flight receipt on the counter. Everyone springs into action like we are rock stars or royalty. I had already been told that our porter spoke to an employee who was going to take all our luggage and load it, so the deal was to tip him a few bucks. Remember they have not worked in MONTHS, so tips talk. We are whisked back through security to enter the airport, run up to the exit to the small planes and are told our plane is waiting. Everyone sitting in chairs just stares at us with their jaws hanging open.
Out to the plane we go, where the pilot is already waiting as well as a three person ground crew who load Rick in one seat, me in another, the dogs in their very own seat with a view. Then we’re off!
If you have made it this far, here is where the exhaustion sets in and I no longer care what happens. I am happily taking the gratuitous photos you just HAVE to take every time you board your small plane to the island, when I look back and see Dexter nudging a brown nut-looking ball with his nose. Remember: I am completely drained from travel and not thinking as clearly as usual; so I flick it off the seat with my finger. Then, I think to myself, ” That doesn’t feel hard like a nut. Was that a turd?” I can’t twist around, so I hold the camera behind my back, pointed down into the crack between the seat and snap a shot.
Sure enough, it appears to be a turd. Tired and beat up from travel, I lean forward to Rick and say, ” I think Dexter just left a turd on the plane, should I tell the captain when we land.” Rick contemplates it for a second and shakes his head NO.