Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Heat anxiety...

Summer decided to hit Virginia with a vengeance. It's almost 10:00 p.m. and it is still 80 degrees outside. I spent my formative years in Las Vegas, so this really shouldn't be terribly dramatic, but really it's not the fact that it is dreadfully hot outside that is disturbing me. The source of my anxiety has everything to do with getting my pets to Germany. To protect the animals, the airlines have a strict policy that an animal is not permitted into the cargo hold if it is greater than 85 degrees Fahrenheit on the tarmac. The process of getting my puppy to Germany is not an adventure that I'm enjoying, and my anxiety levels are rising exponentially each day we get closer to her flight.

Have any of you ever tried to bring a pet overseas? To say it is challenging is putting it lightly... Germany is thankfully pretty laid back about animals, so unlike Hawaii or England or many other countries in this world, there are no quarantine requirements - huge relief. Instead, you just need to be certain your pet's rabies vaccinations are administered within a year and greater than thirty days before the pet's arrival into Germany. To bring a pet into Germany also requires that the pet have a microchip installed. And of course, the final requirement for pet travel is a health certificate issued within 10 days of the flight stating that the pet is in good health for air travel. Sounds simple enough, right? HA!

So, here is how all of these details get complicated. You know, I really can't make this up, so just hold on for the ride. First, the rabies. No problem. Only one of our three pets needed a rabies vaccination. My faithful pup, Rani, has also had a microchip since I adopted her over twelve years ago, so this whole travel into Germany thing is getting even more simple. I called well ahead of schedule to talk with the Army veterinarian to make sure I completely understood all we needed to do and when. Everything was in order, and after my conversation with the vet tech, I had decided I would call to get everything scheduled when we returned from our vacation out west. Little did I know at the time, that things were just starting to get interesting...

The microchip requirement is tricky because it must be compatible with the European system. One thing I've learned all too painfully during our preparations for our move is that the United States does things differently than the rest of the world on just about every level - should we blame capitalism? (a topic for another day.) The microchip then needs to be linked to the rabies vaccination and then also referenced in the health certificate. I threw in the towel with the Army vet. Not only did you have to get an appointment more than three weeks in advance (who has time for that type of planning?!) but they don't have any of our pet's records, which causes more problems. So, I brought all three pets to our local vet to take care of everything. The image was definitely amusing, I'm sure - me, an old pup on a leash wanting to have nothing to do with being in a vet office, and two small carriers with screaming cats. I was so thankful that both of my cats have absolutely no issue with getting in the carrier otherwise the date with the vet never would have happened.

Kudos to the vet and the vet tech for the work they did that day. The vet did an exam on all three of them, including new rabies vaccinations and insertion of the microchip on each pet. All this was done while Sergeant, our crazy tiger cat, decided he needed to take a piss and a dump like nobody's business. The vet said that was the first time she'd seen a cat use a litter box with an audience before - the cat has no shame... Turns out Rani needed a new microchip because her old one is not compatible. That creates a minor complication because we need to be sure the authorities and any future vet realizes that she has two microchips because both chips will register. Not an additional complication we needed...

Now that all that is behind us, the next step before the flight is getting them into the vet for their health certificates. My vet decided to get herself certified to do international health certificates, so I no longer have to depend on the Army vet for anything at all. It'll probably be on us to get the certificate translated into German, but that is the easy party (I think).

The actual travel situation has become the most complicated part of this move. Big R is taking Rani and Sergeant with him to Germany when he leaves in a few weeks (yes, just a few weeks! Another blog soon to follow will address other details about our crazy move!), and Lucy, our orange fluff ball, will be going with me. Might seem like an odd partnering of pets, but here is why we are doing things this way. Summer is an extremely difficult time to put a pet on air travel - well, in the cargo hold that is. We decided early on that we would bring the cats into the cabin to take away any additional issues. I might be an independent and strong woman, but I'm no super hero. There is no way I can handle two cats, a toddler, a car seat, and carry-on luggage on my own. Well, at least not without creating several carbon copies of myself. The risk would be far too great to wait until August when I leave for Germany to put one of the cats in cargo because it's just too hot here in Virginia that time of year. There in lies also the reason the pup is going to Germany with Big R and not staying here with me.

We really thought this would be the end of the surprises, but the Army loves to keep life interesting. We figured there would be no reason why we could not leave direct out of DC to Frankfurt. But we were wrong, of course. The contract flights are required to leave out of Richmond, through DC, and then onto Germany. The layover in DC is either 40 minutes - I would not lie to you, this is seriously one of the options - or five hours. The flight from Richmond is a small "puddle-jumper" so the cargo cannot carry a dog crate. Even if it could, 40 minutes is hardly enough time for the ground crew to get luggage from one plane to another let alone a dog, and I'm not sure a passenger can go from the express flights to the international terminal in that short a period of time. So, we got creative... I called the airline and got Rani and Sergeant booked on the flight from DC. I'll drop Big R off at the airport so he can board in Richmond, then I'll pick up the pets and drive to DC. Once Big R lands in DC, he'll come back through security and get the pets checked in. A five hour layover should leave more than enough time to allow this to happen (fingers crossed). Then I'll sit at the airport until the flight takes off to be sure that Rani got on the plane and wasn't restricted from the flight because it was too hot.

This leads us back to my "heat anxiety"... Why is it so freaking hot?! Please tell me this is a heat wave that will end. I'm going to drink a glass a wine and pray for a cold front to hit the area three weeks from now. Think cold, people!

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