20 January 2017

Ireland 2018 ... All in!

We love being in Ireland. It's green (oh, so green), there's water, waves, old stone buildings, castles, amazing food, excellent beer and whiskey and cider, friendly people, and history everywhere you look.

In 2018 The Reluctant Farmer and I will have been married 10 years (Amazing! He's still with me after all we've been through! What a guy.) and we figured a trip to Ireland was a completely reasonable way to celebrate. What we'd really like is to share Ireland with our kids - so the plan is that in the spring of 2018, The Reluctant Farmer and I will fly over and then the kids (who will be 14, 16, and 21) will join us for one week partway through our longer stay. It's gonna be awesome.

After last year's trip, we did realize that Ben's work supporting me is more essential than I had believed. While we had a fantastic time, I was not as well as I would like, and my husband's opinion is that I'd have been much better with Ben along - and he knows my symptom fluctuations better than I do, because part of PTSD is being a bit clueless about your own internal condition, and after six years my husband has figured out what "headed downhill" looks like.

So ... research on taking dogs to Ireland.

The regulations for bringing a dog in aren't that onerous - microchip, proof of vaccination, deworming treatment just before we travel. We can do all that. Only certain airlines can bring animals into the country, and each airline makes it's own policy decisions on service animals in the cabin.

We'd like to fly Aer Lingus, from Toronto to Dublin (we will get from here to Toronto with WestJet, who are very welcoming of service animals, so that part is no problem, and it's a domestic flight, so simple). I wrote to them to ask about travel arrangements:

 We are planning our third trip to Ireland and planning to travel with Aer Lingus again!
 I am writing to you for assistance with a disability: I have PTSD and my dog Ben assists me with me with managing my illness (primarily with nightmares, but he also eases my hypervigilance, particularly in busy places). We left Ben at home on our trip to Ireland last fall, as I didn’t feel that he and I were ready to tackle international travel yet, and although I enjoyed myself greatly, I plan to bring Ben along on our next trip as I am so much healthier when he is there to look after me. My husband takes good care of me, but there’s nothing quite like having your canine partner at your side, especially as some of the medications I use aren’t legal in Ireland so I’m already working at a bit of a disadvantage.
 I have checked the regulations on bringing dogs into Ireland and we can readily meet the import requirements, and I understand that it is up to each airline to determine policy on the transportation of service dogs. I see from your (very informative) website that you require ADI or IGDF certification … the problem is that we are currently unable to get either in the province where I live.
 I totally understand the problem of people just putting a vest on a dog and calling it a service animal, and I respect your need to see some form of documentation. I wish we had something available, but so far, there’s no ADI programs locally that will take on civilians with PTSD, and no other formal structure here … yet. Canada is currently in the midst of creating service dog standards but those are a year out, and provincial certification programs will show up some time after that … too late for our planned trip.
 We do have plenty of time to get things organized as we are not planning to travel until March of next year (2018), so I’m contacting you now in the hopes that we can find some alternative form of certification or documentation that will allow Ben to travel with me. We would be happy to do the ADI public access test with a local dog trainer, or get a letter from … my vet? my psychiatrist? Someone else you can suggest? All of the above? J Ben is small – he is a Shi Tzu Poodle cross, about 20 lbs, and he will sit quietly at my feet during travel (he’ll fit in the space between the seats, and will stay put from the time we get on until we disembark – he can stay with my husband when I get up to use the loo).
 Again, I appreciate the need for your regulations and I hope that we can find a means to meet your requirements and still allow Ben to come along. J Thank you so much for your help.
And today, I have a response!

Dear Mrs. Cunningham,

This letter serves to confirm Aer Lingus will be happy to accept your Emotional Support Dog to accompany you in the cabin of the aircraft provided all conditions set out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine in Ireland are met prior to travel commencing.
The Department of Agriculture is reachable by telephone 011-353-1-607-2827 or via email at livetrade@agriculture.gov.ie. Once you have been in contact with the Department of Agriculture, I would appreciate if you would provide Aer Lingus with confirmation from the Department of Agriculture indicating arrangements are in place for them to meet you on arrival of your flight.
Additionally, as you are traveling with an Emotional Support Dog, please ensure you have in your possession current documentation from a licensed mental health professional stating the requirement for you to be accompanied by your Emotional Support Dog in the cabin.
Again, my sincere apology. I hope despite the difficulties encountered on this occasion, you will afford us the opportunity to welcome you on board for a more enjoyable and trouble free experience in the future.
GeraldineGuest Relations Executive 

Canada doesn't actually have Emotional Support Dogs as a 'thing' but hey, the message was clear - Ben is welcome on Aer Lingus!

This is fantastic news.

On to the planning!

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