So I get to the flat on Friday the third of october, after almost missing the plane and being chastised by the gate agent for not being at the gate 30 minutes before scheduled takeoff. Oops. So the gate agent tells me that my luggage “may or may not” be on the plane and there is no way to check so I’ll just have to wait and see if my luggage actually shows up at Heathrow. What a fantastic start.
When I get on the plane, I ask the stewardess cabin attendant if she can tell me if my dog is on the plane. She comes back a bit later and says that the documents are in the cabin and the pilot is busy so she’ll get back to me once the plane is in the air. Fair enough. So she comes back and tells me that yes, indeed, my pup is on board. Hooray! After hearing my story – that I am moving to London – presents me with a congratulatory bottle of champagne.
The plane lands, I get off and miracle of miracles, my bags come down the carousel. I exit and joyfully meet up with Verena and we get on the train to head to the flat. Cae the dog will take 5 hours to clear customs, so the plan was to go to the flat, have some food and then head to the Animal Reception Center to collect her.
At the flat I get a call from the people at DEFRA (the UK equivalent of the USDA) who tell me there is a problem with Cae’s paperwork and she either has to go into quarantine for 6 months or go back to America.
“Well, yes, you see in 2007 her rabies vaccination was given on January 4th and in 2008 it was given on January 8th. So unless the rabies vaccination was a two year vaccination, she is not eligible for the PETS program and she will either have to return to America or go in to quarantine for 6 months.”
“Yes, well, terribly sorry, but those are the rules. We are an island nation and rabies does not exist here and we can’t be too careful”
“So, there’s nothing I can do?”
“No, not unless you can prove she was protected from rabies for those 4 days”
“Right, well, I will see what I can do”
To make a horribly boring long story short – I head to the internet cafe (the internet at the flat was not turned on yet) do a bunch of research, call a bunch of people in the US and generally fail miserably in my attempt to find some way of keeping my dog with me.
The best idea I had was to suggest that we re-test her here and if she has the acceptable number of rabies anti-bodies, wouldn’t that prove that she was inoculated and rabies free? I call a DEFRA vet and they say well, there is no way to tell if the anti-bodies are from an infection or from the vaccine. Furthermore, the “no vaccination gap” rule is under consideration for change, but as it stands today that is indeed the rule and so I’ll have to either return my dog to America or put her in quarantine for 6 months.
Since it was about $500 cheaper to book a round trip flight instead of a one-way I oh-so-thoughtfully booked my return to be Tuesday the 7th of October. So I spend an enormous amount of money to have Cae transported back to America on the same flight as me and we arrive in Minneapolis St. Paul International later that day.
And… more drama at the airport. Going through customs I hand my passport to the annoyed looking border patrol agent and the following exchange ensues:
“Do you have any checked luggage”
“Yes, one bag, and I am bringing a dog, but I was told I need to collect her at the cargo receiving center.”
“A dog? No, you’ll pick her up here”
“Are you sure? My cargo agent said I will need to pick her up at the cargo receiving center. She was loaded as freight cargo, not as checked bagge”
“Look, I’m here all day, all dogs come up here, talk to someone in baggage claim”
So I go into baggage claim and talk to another pair of border patrol people and basically reiterate that I was told that I need to get my dog at the cargo receiving center, that my dog was booked as freight cargo, not as luggage and they tell me, that she’ll be here in the airport.
I ask a baggage handler if they know what the deal with my dog is –
“Dog? Big dog? Yes, big dog on the plane.” says the guy.
“When can I get her?”
“I’ll go look”
10 minutes go by, the guy comes back and says “Wait 10 minutes.” So I wait 15 minutes, find the guy again and he disappears for another 10 minutes and comes back empty handed. He points at a red jacketed northwest helper person and says “Talk to her”.
Oh, hey, guess what, yeah, I need to pick her up at the cargo receiving center. So I get my rental car, go the the cargo place and I have to wait until wednesday morning to pick her up because the customs office in MSP closes at 5:00 (how does that make any sense at all?
Wednesday morning I get Cae, she looks a little worse for wear but overall pretty good. We go back to my friend’s house in St. Paul and have a bit of a nap and then head out to my friend Matt’s place in Madison, well, really Stoughton, Wisconsin. And that’s where she is now and she seemed happy to have people and cats around her. Matt is awesome for watching her.
I left her on tuesday the 14th and returned to London.