Maria and Shark crisscross the world together for four years, and are the stars of the blog The Tropical Dog. Today, Maria answers our quehetropicaldog.com/stions to show you you can travel everywhere with your dog.
Tell us how Shark and you met.
Shark is a crossbred female Border Collie who has just turned 4 years old. She was born on Rodrigues Island, in the Indian Ocean. It’s a tropical dog, hence the name of the blog. Her mother, an abandoned dog, gave birth in my garden while working there. So I have Shark since birth. It necessarily creates a fusional relationship.
What was the frist trip you did with her? How was it?
When I had to leave Rodrigues Island in January 2015, I had no choice but to take 3 planes to return to my parents’ home, in Morocco with Shark. There was no way I could abandon her. So I had to overcome my fear of putting my dog in the hold, especially for 3 successive flights including a long 12-hour flight. Needless to say, I was stressed throughout the trip and prayed to find my dog alive. I had organized my flights so as to have stops at least 4 hours to have time to recover Shark, walk to stretch her legs, reassure her, fill her bowl of water and feed her, before embark on the next flight. Since then, my number one safety rule has been when I travel by plane with Shark: always pick up my dog during stopovers and take care of her.
Why did you choose to bring you dog?
Very sincerely, it was not obvious at first. I thought to give it to a friend on the spot because it seemed to me unthinkable to make a dog travel to the other side of the world. But the sooner the departure date approached, the more I felt that Shark and I still had a lot to live together. Our paths could not separate like that. I also understood that the dog, unlike the cat, is attached to his human, not to his territory. At that moment, it became obvious.
Can you talk about the others countires you discovered together?
So we left Rodrigues Island, which belongs to the Republic of Mauritius. In 2015, we made Morocco, France, Greece. We stayed several months in each country because I have family. In early 2016, we flew to Latin America! A dream … I got a job in Colombia where we spent a year. At the end of my contract, we visited Peru, Bolivia, northern Chile and Florida before returning. In 2017, we have done Morocco again, France and we
are currently in Greece. It makes us 9 countries on 3 continents.
Which was you favorite trip?
It’s hard to choose, as you can imagine. But I would say our stay in Bolivia in January 2017. We arrived by bus from Peru to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. We sailed to Isla del Sol. We took the bus back to the capital La Paz where we spent a few days. Then we flew over the country on a propeller plane to Uyuni. From there, we made a 4×4 road trip in the famous Salar of Uyuni, the largest salt desert in the world, and the southern Lipez region with its volcanoes, lagoons and lunar landscapes. It was just magical to see Shark exploring all these places with so much joy!
How did you manage stray dogs with your dog in Latin America?
Indeed, there are many stray dogs in Latin America. It really impressed me in Cusco Peru and San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. In our experience, they were not aggressive towards Shark. When we crossed one, I let them sniffle if I saw that they were giving each other friendly signals. That often ended up in game. In the case of Shark who is a female, I know she does not get along with other females in general. So I tried to avoid them, while remaining calm. Another trick to prevent it from escalating: I kept saying, “Who is Shark? Is he a friend? “In a cheerful tone. This is the sentence that signals that a human friend or dog is approaching. It breaks his potential aggression. In any case, we had no problem in the 4 countries we visited (Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile).
What difficulties did you have?
Sometimes, accommodations indicate on the booking sites that they accept dogs, but they do not specify the conditions. This was the case of the hostel where we stayed in the village of Machu Picchu which only accepted small dogs. After long negotiations, they accepted us. Another difficulty when traveling with a large dog on a plane: what to do with the cumbersome cage once arrived? Again I learned to negotiate to leave it at the hostel or lugging with me with a little organization. Finally, some countries are ultra rigorous. I remained stuck on the Chilean border for several hours because the deworming treatment had been administered to Shark 15 days and not 10 days before arrival. It’s the hazards of the trip!
How do you prepare a trip?
Before choosing my next destination, I always check the entry formalities with a dog in the country. The official website (in
English) is that of IATA, the International Air Transport Association. The information is safe and up to date. For francophones, I recommend the Anivetvoyage website where you will find lots of useful information. I take the necessary steps to cross the borders without problem with Shark.
The second step is to prepare my stay. Through Internet searches, I learn about on-site transportation, whether or not dogs are accepted on board, whether to rent a car, which accommodations and dog friendly activities. If I do not find much, I ask the locals once there.
What are your future travel plans?
We have been sitting in Greece since May. I work as freelance copywriter and freelance translator to bail out the coffers and finance our trips in 2018. Nepal, Cuba, Mexico, Africa or the Indian Ocean … I have not decided yet! We will see where the wind will carry us.
Why did you decide to make a blog around this?
In 2014, before traveling for the first time with my dog, I had no idea what to do. So I searched for information on the internet, but it was very difficult to gather information and feedback. When I returned to France, I had the idea to create the first international travel blog with a big dog to share our adventures and our advice.
What advice could you give to people who want to do the same thing?
We must first get rid of prejudices. Today, it is quite possible to travel with a dog. The animals do not die in the hold of the plane (if you have respected the safety instructions). Secrets are to be well informed before the trip, to perform all the veterinary procedures required by the destination country and to organize to find dog friendly accommodation and activities. The hard part is to take the first step. Once you have started, you will wonder why you did not do it sooner!