We’ve only been in the U.S. for 10 hours and already Coco’s been to three states (Illinois, Indiana and Michigan). Yes, both dogs made it to the U.S. healthy and safe, and remarkably calm. There were a few hiccups, which I guess are to be expected with any trip, especially a complicated international one.
Things went great in Lusaka. Charles, the KLM representative in charge of dogs, was utterly, wonderfully, awesomely helpful and competent. When I arrived they sent me to the KLM office (opposite security and check-in) and I filled out paperwork for the dogs. Due to Dr. Liza’s diligence and experience, I just handed him the stack of papers she gave me, which included a “sanitary clearance” and “international health” certificate, among others.
Then, Charles came out to the curb and went through the checklist (dog appears healthy, crate large enough, water/food dishes available, etc.), attached the paperwork to the crate and labeled the crates “Live Animals” and “This Way Up.”
I had ziplocked and taped food, treats, leash/collar and a note to the tops of the crates (as suggested by doggie travel sites).
Then, we were ready to go through security and check in. There was a snafu at security checkin; they said Coco had to be in her crate but they didn’t have a cart big enough to hold her crate level, so she was put in tilted.
Then I said my goodbyes, they were taken to “a quiet place by the tarmac” and the next time I saw them (albeit from a distance, through the window at my gate) was in Amsterdam.
Charles was wonderful – he came to the boarding gate and told me they were safely on the airplane and that the pilot knew they were in the hold. Unfortunately, the plane was delayed about an hour (because the incoming flight arrived late from Amsterdam), so it cut down our layover in Amsterdam, but we arrived in enough time for a 3 hour layover (instead of the planned 4.5 hour layover).
In Amsterdam, no one could tell me if they had arrived safely and no one knew how to contact the doggie hotel. The airline is supposed to let the dogs out for relief (and I paid $200 each dog for the service) if the layover is 2 hours or more, so I just had to trust that they did that. I waited by the window by our gate and about an hour before take-off, a huge pallet of dog cages (12-15 crates), was driven to the plane and then lifted and loaded on the plane. I saw Coco and Buddy’s crates, next to each other, so knew they were on the plane.
We arrived early in Chicago, I was through passport control and out to luggage within 20 minutes (this was a pleasant surprise). I found a porter right away and we went to where they delivered the “checked baggage live animals” and the dogs never came. Other dog owners waiting with me said usually the dogs came out first. All my other luggage/boxes came no problem. After about an hour and a half of waiting our porter went out of customs to talk to the gate agent. Then we all went out to the transfer desk (past customs but still inside the security zone). Turns out that all the dogs went to cargo, so they had to figure out which dogs were “baggage” and bring them back from cargo (which was about 15-20 minutes away).
I was feeling pretty irked by this time because these dogs had been locked in their crates from Amsterdam for about 10.5 hours already, on top of the previous 14 hours from Lusaka -> Amsterdam. And, they wouldn’t let us go back into customs because we and our luggage had already cleared. Thankfully, “Vlotsky,” my wonderful porter, took my paperwork and went and got our dogs plus the three other dogs delivered to baggage and cleared customs for us.
Meanwhile, my son’s childhood friend (and my good friend Shelley’s son), was waiting outside for me. Steve and his girlfriend Nina had driven to Chicago in the big conversion van we bought off of his parents to pick us up. We finally got out to the curb, Buddy used the teeny-tiny doggy facilities (a 12 x 14 foot fenced pen) but Coco refused. We had to take Coco’s crate apart to fit in the van and then we were on our way for the four hour drive to Lansing.
Unfortunately, because of the delays, we left the airport about 4.50 pm, right in time for rush hour. For some reason, I thought Chicago O’Hare was south of the city but it’s north of the city, so we had the full pleasure of viewing the Chicago skyline inch-by-inch, at 5-10 mph. I as worried about Coco, as she hadn’t relieved herself but there was no where to stop or pull off. Finally, we reached the toll road and eagerly took it, $22.90 be damned! All of a sudden traffic cleared. The instant we crossed into Indiana there was a small greenbelt after a toll booth so we stopped and Coco went pee and poo.
We made it to Lansing about 11.30 pm, tired, but healthy, safe and calm. Since it was so late I decided to stay at a hotel instead of bothering friends and the puppies slept well.
Next stop, Frankfort, Michigan!