I am a pediatric nurse by trade, but now I teach English in Spain while studying Spanish. Lyla was not originally my dog, but was my best friend’s dog as a puppy and for almost two years. Later when my friend joined the Peace Corps and lived abroad in Cameroon for two years, I took Lyla and when my friend returned I told her I wasn’t giving her back. Kaitlyn is still one of my best friends and was happy for us to be together. I have had Lyla for 8 years and she is almost 10 years old. I had a dog for 12 years growing up named Misty. I grew up in the countryside where everyone had a dog and the neighborhood pack roamed from house to house. Lyla and I are planning to stay in Spain and possibly move for one year to France for graduate studies. Lyla is still working on her Spanish 😉
How did the idea of bringing Lyla with you from so far appear? How did your friends and family react when you first decided to come to Spain with Lyla?
Once I realized that I would be living in Spain indefinitely, I started researching “how to bring your dog to Spain” and even spoke to a guy who had brought his Labrador retriever and was really happy that he did so. My friends and family were all super supportive and helped me with the paperwork and some logistics. My vet was really helpful because she had to do so much of the paperwork herself. It was a lot of work, but completely worth it.
What is the assistance certificate Lyla has got? Which it consists of? Do you think that that document could help people to decide to travel with their pets? Is it a common practice in the USA to get that kind of certificates? Is it valid all around the world? How much does it cost?
The vocabulary surrounding certification and qualifications of dogs can get quite confusing and overwhelming. Lyla has the Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog Novice certification. These are both obtained through and recognized by the American Kennel Club. This is the organization that I believe has the most credibility and is trusted and recognized in the United States. Lyla is also an Emotional Support Animal, however, this title does not require any training or certification. CGC requires a training course and test while the Therapy Dog certification requires the former as well as observed hours in a facility. I would recommend the Canine Good Citizens certification for anyone travelling with their pets as it helps you to handle your dog in many situations and gains the trust of the public for you and your dog. I do not think that it is very common and I wish that it was more so. I found it to be one of the best experiences for me and Lyla, we both learned a lot. The CGC certification is not valid around the world but is recognized nationally in the USA. I like to clarify that while Lyla helps many people, including myself, she is in no way a trained service dog. Trained service dogs, such as seizure dogs or dogs for the blind have certifications that are recognized internationally and provide an invaluable service to people with disabilities. It is, on average, $50,000 to train a service dog. Lyla certification costs around $300 and included lots of contact hours.
How did Lyla travel from the USA to Madrid? Tell me your experience.
After completing A LOT of paperwork, Lyla was able to fly into Madrid. She had to be examined by a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) certified veterinarian and then approved by the Spanish Consulate in Boston, ME. Because she is an Emotional Support Animal, under US law, she is allowed to fly with me in the cabin as long as her behavior is acceptable and she is clean, free of shedding and odor. We flew from Boston to Madrid on Iberia. Iberia only allows ESA in the cabin if the final or origin destination is the USA. They were very kind and we had an uneventful flight. I have also flown within Europe with Lyla and had good experiences. Lyla is very quiet and it’s quite common that no one notices that she was on the plane until after we land.
Was it difficult to Lyla to get used to Spain? Did she have the jetlag o something similar? Did she have any strange behaviors, is she suffering from the Spanish hot weather now?
Lyla does not seem to notice we have crossed an ocean or are in a different country. She does not experience jet lag. I use CBD treats when we take long flights just in case, but in general she does not get nervous or have drastic changes in behavior. Last summer she got Lyme disease and this was the first time I saw any change in her behavior. She is generally very easy to read and I can tell when she is nervous or uncomfortable.
Do you find many differences in the way Spanish people and Americans treat dogs?
Yes, in general I have found that Spanish people are far more afraid of Lyla than I have ever experienced in the US. I think it is because Lyla isn’t as small as the average dog in Europe. Most people in the US are very enthusiastic when they encounter Lyla and want to pet her. I get this response less in Spain, but still in general if they are dog people, they like Lyla.
Which is the meaning of the word dog-friendly for you?
Dog-friendly to me means that I am allowed to patron a restaurant or business without any problems. It is even more “friendly” if there are dog bowls for water or places to hook the leash, or doggy bags and trash cans.
What attitude, decision or solution would you propose to make easier and more peaceful the coexistence of dogs and humans?
I really think that people who decide to own an animal should do their research and be given plenty of information prior to making the decision. I also think it’s a really good idea to take a general behavior class. Its good both for the dog and the owner has the opportunity to learn a lot. I think this fosters more trust among community members and helps dog owners to be better community members. I think a small percentage of irresponsible dog owners give a bad name to those who do a really good job.
Do Spaniards complain when you use public transport with Lyla?
I have only had one negative experience on a Renfe train with one conductor who did not want to allow us on the train, even though we had all of our paperwork including written permission directly from the train company. But in general, people either ignore her or are friendly.
Which is the average cost of travelling with Lyla?
It can get very expensive. For example, with AirEuropa you are required to purchase an extra passenger seat when flying with an animal in the cabin. However, I plan ahead with plenty of time and budget properly. To me it is more than worth it and I consider it a lifestyle choice and a really good alternative to medication.
Is Lyla an inspiration for you to keep travelling?
Definitely. I love to travel. She has helped me to grow as a person and I wouldn’t make any life decisions that wouldn’t include her.
- Some tips to travel with a dog: LOTS of exercise the day before the trip is crucial. It helps to relax the dog and makes the travel go smoothly. Always have travel bowls, food, a bottle of water, and a clean up kit. I also really like CBD treats which have many health benefits for dogs, including easing any stressful situations.
- A bad experience in transports: Just the one time on the Renfe train, and sometimes people are rude but I try to ignore them and stay positive.
- A place where you would never take Lyla: any country with infection diseases like screwworm.
- The most wonderful and weird place you have ever been to with Lyla: The most wonderful was by far an 18 mile hike in Wyoming to the top of the Teton Mountains. The weirdest experience was when we were in a 9 seater airplane flying
over the islands off the coast of Maine. I was scared to death and Lyla didn’t seem to notice anything.
- The best airline to travel with a dog: Iberia for international flights and Delta for domestic flights.
- The way of transport you recommend to avoid when travelling with a dog: Escalators? It’s still a little tricky for Lyla and it’s dangerous because her nails can get caught in the grates. I avoid them completely or carry her.
- An essential tool when travelling with a dog: Treats!!!
- The best thing in Spain regarding dogs: She’s allowed inside a lot more places, like book stores and some restaurants. This would never happen in the US.
- The worst thing in the USA regarding dogs: The general public in airports. People are very judgemental and rude and have very little respect or tolerance for other people’s lifestyles.
- The next destination of Lyla: Canada!!!