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Flying with a dog from Mexico to Canada

Travel Journal #21

A year and a half ago we crossed paths with a street dog named Maya. She grew up in Playa del Carmen and was rescued/fixed by a friend of ours. Our friend needed someone to take care of her for a few days so we decided to foster her while we looked for a permanent home. We quickly gave her a name and she has lived with us ever since. Awwww, cute right? Well, now it is finally time to bring her to Canada. This is usually quite a normal procedure. Unfortunately, it was still 2020, and we were in the middle of a Pandemic. This is the story of how we (hopefully) bring our dog Maya to Canada.

It turns out, Maya’s adventure to Canada was going to be more exciting than any of us had planned for. The good news; traveling to Canada with a dog is a little bit easier than traveling to Canada with your significant other*. At least during the pandemic. On March 21st, 2020, Canada closed its borders to basically everyone. The prime minister pleaded with Canadians to come home, as things were going to be not normal for a while. Turns out he was right.

* Getting Married in Mexico During a Pandemic.

We’ve sheltered in place here on the island for several months and are now ready to take the next step in our journey. It’s time for us to leave Cozumel.

Look at this hipster. Maybe Maya should have her own instagram account? 2020.

Flying with a Dog

From Cozumel, international flights on and off the island have gone down to nearly none, and the two most reliable airlines were not taking pets unless they were small enough to fit under the seat (or are a doctor-approved for “emotional support”). We did not qualify for either.

The biggest challenge for us was going to be the temperature. Most airlines won’t take pets if the forecast is over 29.9 Celsius (about 86 Fahrenheit). Luckily we would not be flying until the end of August or September. There are many airlines that don’t take pets until November (WestJet) and many of our stopover options in the US (United and American) were not taking pets at all because of regular cancelations.

There are currently no direct flights to Vancouver, and since we didn’t really want to stopover in the United States, we decided it would probably be best to fly over the US and arrive directly into Canada.

Flying into Cozumel is quite the sight. 2019.

We explored several options with flights and narrowed down our search to Mexico City, where we found the most reliable options to take us to our final destination. While doing some research, we discovered both Air Canada and Aeromexico had direct flights between Mexico City and Vancouver.

The final steps involved making sure that we could bring the dog to Canada. Sometimes the internet provides too many opinions and not enough answers, so we decided we wanted to go straight to the source.

Checking with Air Canada & the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City

What we needed to do was check with both the airline and the Embassy of Canada to ensure this whole plan was going to be possible, these were the two speed bumps ahead of us. We have been living on the Riviera May for several years, and we were not afraid of speed bumps.

Air Canada says that yes, they are taking pets, but we need to speak with them in advance because they’re only allowed 2-3 pets per flight. We are at least a month away from our departure and have lots of time to pick a date, so we would be in good shape here. Aeromexico also has been in operation on this route for the last few months, so we had a reliable backup plan.

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View of Paseo de Reform in Mexico City from Chapultepec Castle. 2019.

The next step was the Canadian Embassy, and they ensured us that the protocol for taking a dog to Canada was the same as usual, and they directed us towards their “pet” section of the website. We would need to have a “Vaccination Certificate” signed by a vet no more than 7 days before out flight. The main thing they are looking for is information about the rabies vaccination.

This process will require us finding a vet in Mexico City, but since it is a city of over 20 million people, we’re not too worried.

Leaving the Caribbean & driving across Mexico

Our dog loves adventures. 2020.

Norma’s family lives a few hours north of Guadalajara in Zacatecas State. We decided that if neither of us was working in Mexico, we shouldn’t be paying for an apartment and should be visiting them. We’ve just been waiting around anyways. We could leave the car with her family.

Maya, our dog, has never flown before. She’s actually never left the Riviera Maya. Her biggest adventure so far has been the ferry between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, which she has done several times now. This was one of the main reasons we chose to drive from Cozumel to Mexico City first, instead of flying. It also turned this part of our journey into quite the adventure.

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Destination: Vancouver, Canada. 2017.

The drive from Cozumel to Mexico City is a little bit over 1600 km in distance. According to Google, this will take around 21 hours. We’ve decided to spread this over a week or 10 days, so we can limit our driving to 3/4 hours a day, and maybe even stop and see a few things along the way.

Step one was getting here a kennel, so we could train her to be inside for 8 hours (the duration of our travel). We got lucky and she was quick to accept this area as her own. Less than a week later, she was relaxed and sleeping inside. This would become very helpful for her during our planned road trip.

The next step, will be actually getting us there. The only thing preventing us from finishing this story is that we haven’t actually left yet. We crossed from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen on the 31st, and have been in Puerto Morellos for the last few days tying up a few loose ends. Stay tuned for whatever comes next! This story is far from over…

Our adventure team visiting Isla de la Pasión on Cozumel. 2020.

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