Leaving Pets to Pursue Travel Dreams

It was a difficult afternoon.  As we drove down the bumpy road that leads from Atenas to Escobal, I looked back to see my 2 kids in their car seats and my 2 dogs in the back.  It would be my last car ride with all of them.  Tears filled my eyes.  I tried to distract myself by looking at the beautiful countryside.  The clouds were brushing against the hills of Costa Rica and I tried to remember that my dogs were going to love living here.  I was on my way to give my dogs of 9 years to a new family.

This was a difficult moment.  We have had Magic & Shadow since they were puppies.

Magic & Shadow

Magic & Shadow


When I saw Magic at the shelter, a tiny little pup with the most characteristic eyes, I knew we were destined to be with each other.   We adopted him right away, but had to wait a few weeks for his kennel cough to get better.  We would visit him often, bringing towels from our home so he could get used to the smells and spending time at the shelter with him, playing in a janitors closet.
He grew up on 3 acres of beautiful Colorado land.  He would perch himself at the top of the hill and lay there so majestically.  He was a royal dog, you could just tell.

Magic protecting the front gate

Magic protecting the front gate


I remember waiting in line at the local Petsmart during a Saturday adoption fest.  We had to sign in to determine the order that we would see the dogs.  I only had eyes for Shadow, a black lab-chow mix.  But there were several people ahead of me and dogs were being adopted left and right.  Luckily, noone looked at Shadow.  She was a huge, black puppy.  It came our turn and we played with Shadow.  It took us a while to make a decision.  We wondered how huge she was going to get?  What a surprise to us that she became a speedy, lean hunting machine.  She hunted a lot.  Deer, rabbits, squirrels, lizards and chickens were among her favorites.  She didn’t eat them (well, the deer she did), but enjoyed the hunt.  The definition of muscles in her hind legs were purposeful.  Fast on her feet with a keen sense.

Shadow watches over Little I

Shadow watches over Little I

Bringing Magic & Shadow from the US to Costa Rica wasn’t even a decision for us.  Of course we were bringing them.  They were our first babies and part of our family.  The 1 1/2 years in Costa Rica was a great experience with our dogs.  They ran around the neighborhood like they owned it, and they did.  They provided us with a great level of security.  No Tico (Costa Rican) would go near them because of their black fierce looks.  We didn’t tell them that they were sweethearts. They became more agile, scaling 4 foot walls multiple times a day. They were fit, healthy and happy.

New travel plans without our pets

Now that we are moving from Costa Rica, we really had no decision to make.  It was made for us.  Our plan is to travel to multiple countries around this globe for the next 5+ years and traveling with dogs is quite an obstacle.  Although some countries don’t have a quarantine period, others do.

I refuse to put my dogs in quarantine.  They’ve never been leased up, much less put in a cage.

So the search to find a great home for them began.  Luckily we were able to find a home pretty fast.  When  the new family saw them, they fell in love, just like we did 9 years ago.

What a bittersweet moment.

We dropped our dogs off on their farm and spent time with the family explaining the diet that they eat (a raw meat diet) and other dog stuff.

We were happy to find a great home on a large property in rural Costa Rica for them.  It was a tough, teary eyed afternoon for me.   The morning after, waking up without them in the house felt empty. I missed their wagging tails and beautiful eyes. My heart literally felt broken.

We were so sad to have them gone and not part of everyday lives anymore.  They will take good care of their new family.

Magic on the beach in Costa Rica

Magic on the beach in Costa Rica

Feelings of Guilt & Public Criticism

We felt guilty and selfish.  We started questioning if we are doing the right thing, but know that this wonderful family showed up at just the right moment.  It was meant to be.

We have been criticized publicly for leaving our dogs.  People wrote “Dogs are part of your family, you wouldn’t leave you kids, would you?”.  They called us irresponsible and selfish.  They called our dogs “throwaway pets”.  This was nothing short of public blasphemy.  People can be so critical and terrible when they assume negative intentions.

We questioned our future plans briefly.  But at the end of the day we always came back to “the dogs cannot keep us bound”.  We need to move on and it would be silly to say that we stagnated our lives and didn’t accomplish our biggest dreams because of our dogs, even though they are a part of our family.  Although this was enormously emotional, we know and trust that this is a good thing.

But the guilt is still overwhelming.  We feel guilty for leaving them.  But, we also have a feeling of guilty freedom.  We have less responsibility now that the dogs are with a new family.  It’s time for us to start a new phase in our lives.

Shadow in the ocean

Shadow in the ocean

Magic & Shadow are going to take care of their new family just as well as they took care of us.  The family is very grateful to have such beautiful and compassionate dogs.  And we are fortunate to be able to live out our dreams. 

I said a final goodbye to my Magic.  I gave him a hug and kiss and he stood up and walked over to his new “mama” and sat beside her. He was telling me that he’s going to be okay and not to worry. I love him.

They’ve been gone for a week now (at this writing) and it is easier every day.  Since we will be leaving this weekend, we’ve had packing and plans to focus on which has made the grieving period easier.

Fond Memories with our Pets

We can leave knowing that we’ve had a wonderful time with our dogs. We’ve hiked mountains in Colorado, blazed through snowy patches of forest in Aspen, splashed around in Costa Rican oceans and many more adventures. We love you Magic and Shadow.  You are always in our hearts.

 “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
Milan Kundera

Have you had to make tough decisions regarding your pets and travel?  I’d love to hear your experience.


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20 Responses to “Leaving Pets to Pursue Travel Dreams”

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