I love dogs. I have always had pets – dogs, rabbits, fish, turtles and kids…well I guess they are not pets but sometimes I just group them all together (e.g., “Did everyone get fed? “As I look at the dog… “Who’s dirty feet just walked through my kitchen?”) In fact, as soon as we found out that we were expecting William, I felt the need to get a dog to complete our family. Hogan was our Border Collie mix that died last summer after 14 loving years and I thought, it was time to take a break from pets. Have a little more freedom, less expenses and a cleaner floor. That alternate reality only last three months before I wandered back to the pet adoption day at the local pet store with Emma. Once you take a child to a pet adoption day, you are doomed. This was November 7, 2009 and it was the Small Breed Rescue day. I knew I did not want another 80 pound dog and the thought of a cuddly pup appealed to me. We immediately found a spunky (that means barky) beagle mix that was about 10 months old and 12 pounds. Her name is Jami. Love at first sight. We took her for a little walk around the block and assessed her obvious qualities:
- Small, good for me and Emma to carry
- Fast, good for the boys
- Not so small you couldn’t play fetch
- Very short hair, no expensive grooming
- House broken
Now the plotting began. How would we convince Doug to add this dog into our already hectic life. At this point we had not even thought about going abroad… after three days of discussion and a very articulate PowerPoint (see attached below) presentation from Emma, Doug agreed and we brought Jami home on November 13th.
Fast forward to March as we are deciding on taking an international assignment, should it be India or Malaysia etc…The dog became a deciding factor – if she could not go, the kids would not go willingly and I needed to ensure she could make the journey without significant stress. India met those criteria and also offered me the best job :)
May and June consumed me with finding out how you get a dog into India. There are a lot of websites that will sell you packets of forms and directions (like pettravel.com) but these are not necessary. I found an awesome blogger, www.indiamike.com, which had several strings detailing out all the steps you need to take. I also found my local vet to be very savvy on getting me an international health certificate and the annexure forms for India. Here is the part that seems a little extreme, even for India. I needed to procure a NOC (No objection certificate) to bring my dog into India. The immigration office required within 10 days of travel all her paperwork, international health certificate and my flight information. The only way to get these forms to the immigration office is the use a third party courier, who is commonly known as Fuzzy Wuzzy (www.fuzzywuzzy.com). The price for this service is $500 USD payable only by wire transfer directly into her bank account. Ouch. However, they turned this process around within 24 hours once I submitted my paperwork. And they have updated the NOC given all my flight delays without any issues… so in this case, the service has matched the price.
Part 2 of the Dog hassle is actually figuring out what flight you can get on with your dog during the summer. Jami is now 15.8 pounds so technically small enough to be in a soft sided dog carrier under your seat. Additionally many airlines have a ban on transporting animals as checked baggage during the summer because it’s too hot to transport them on the tarmac. I researched out the options and selected Delta because it broke up the flight into two manageable segments – 8 hours to Paris, small layover which was good for a walk and a potty break for the dog (and the kids), 10 hours to Bangalore. I booked this flight 5 weeks in advance, confirmed with both Delta and Air France that she could accompany me in the cabin in Business Class and sighed with relief.
Next I began the search for the perfect under the seat dog carrier – I highly recommend the Sleepypod Air if you find yourself in this situation. Largest amount of leg room for your pet, fashionable and you can even buy a heat pad if it’s cold to keep the carrier warmed. I need one of those for Michigan winters for myself. www.sleepypod.com Jami even liked her new little tote, we left it in the house and periodically put treats inside which she quickly found. Again, I felt like this was all moving at clockwork for this journey.
If you haven’t read my blog on the visas, you will think my next comment would be – and we boarded the plane and arrived as one happy family. NOT! Given the delay in the visas and not being able to book my departure until 24 hours before, I quickly ran out of choices for the dog. Delta had seats for me, but only in economy if I wanted the dog to fly in the cabin. Delta was also the airline that would not take the dog as checked baggage due to the weather. I was scrambling. Finally, I called Lufthansa after remembering that the Frankfurt airport has a Veterinary wing where your pet will be looked after during the layover. Again, I found they had a seat for me, but apparently there were already 2 other pets in business class and they could not accommodate Jami. The agent did give me the option to put her “in the hold” for a fee of $250. This would allow her to be in the back of the plane, accessible by the flight attendants and then transported to the Veterinary wing where they would change her cage liner, feed her and give her a walk all under the supervision of trained animal handlers. Ok, I could live with this. However I would not be able to see her for the duration of the flight. And I needed a new carry case – one that was hard sided and met the IATA standards for pet travel (basically she needed to be able to stand and turn around). Doug and I high-tailed it out to PetCo and PetSmart to find the right size, clip on bowls for water, nyla bones (to keep her busy) and stickers indicating this was a “LIVE ANIMAL”. Jami and I checked in on August 17th, no problems except for her howling as she saw me walk away. I am writing this entry from Frankfurt and have confirmed she is in the Vet wing and I am in the business class lounge… so far so good.