Thursday, January 24, 2008

Passports for Shugie Lynn and Sweet Kitty

The single largest file in the file cabinet is the pet file...with all their paperwork from various countries on entry and exit, vaccines, health records, flight records, etc. It's true.

And yes, the girls now have EU passports that will allow them to travel within the EU and soon, to the UK. They are the same size as our passports, have a little EU symbol on the cover, and contain all their pet and vaccine records. Instead of passport entry stamps, their stamps are rabies and other kind of vaccine stamps. Too cute.

Anyway, for those of you who have been asking how Ginger (a.k.a. Sweet Kitty) and Gracie (a.k.a. Shugie Lynn) are doing, here is a brief update on their current status and impending travel plans to their new home in London.

First, they are living in Dusseldorf during the week while Budman and I are travelling. Simone, the catsitter, comes in twice a day for feeding and watering, counting noses and giving heads a quick rub, checking for emergencies, and changing the occasional litterbox (thankless job). They are doing fine...are fat and happy.

Truthfully, one of our biggest considerations in the "go/no-go relocatione to London" decision was the pet restrictions and quarantine laws in the UK. The good news is that with the right preparation and advance paperwork we will be able to enter the UK without sending the cats to a 6 month quarantine. Just thinking about that makes me not be able to have the girls at home for 6 months...would they even remember us after 6 months?

Anyway, we checked out the EU pet travel and UK pet entry requirements and learned that with:

* a rabies documented vaccine in their EU passport (by a UK vet)
* submission of blood tests to an EU approved facility to verify that the girls did not have rabies
* an identification chip inserted into their skin (they were already"chipped")
* and a few other paperwork requirements (including a worming test that must occur at least 24 hours BEFORE entry to the UK and no earlier than 48 hours BEFORE entry to the UK)

...that Sweet Kitty and Shugie Lynn should be able to enter the UK and go to the new house on the same day. At least that is what we have been told...from multiple "reputable" sources. Will let you know how that goes on the "flip side" of the flight to London.

Which brings me to the whole pet transportation strategy. Trust me, it was not our decision to make this travel route, but rather we are required to enter London from Dusseldorf on a prescribed route IF we have pets in hand.

(1) We must use a pre-approved flight route and airline carrier when flying from Dusseldorf to London. For us, that means we must fly from Dusseldorf to London via Amsterdam on KLM. No direct routes for us. Everyone loves traveling on multiple flights with pets. Still, this is not a flight from Dallas to Taipei or Seoul to Dallas, so we have made our peace with the fact that we will have two flights of only about 1 hour in duration. Next....

(2) Because the planes that KLM uses on the Dusseldorf-Amsterdam routes are Fokker 50s (think American Eagle puddle-jumpers), our pet carriers will not fit anywhere in the small aircrafts. And it is not just "our carriers" is "any carriers". These planes are flying bricks. So, how do we get from Dusseldorf to Amsterdam with the girls?

(3) We rent a car and drive to Amsterdam (about a 3-4 hour drive from Dusseldorf). And to make matters a bit complicated, that includes renting a car for a one-way drop-off at Schipol airport, because we have had to turn in the Germany car. OK, so car has been reserved. Now what?

(4) We must arrive at the "pet drop-off" location at the Amsterdam airport 5 hours BEFORE our flight commences. Actually, it is called the "pet short-term stay hotel" but regardless, we must show up and deliver the girls into the hands of strangers, have their paperwork perused and approved, and let them "wait" in the pet hotel until such time that they will be loaded onto the KLM flight to London. This means we must be out of the Germany apartment and on the road with the girls and our last lot of luggage on the Saturday we fly to London by 5 am +/- in order to get to airport to check in the cats on time. Plenty of time for duty-free shopping.

Not to mention, that the day BEFORE we will have had to visit the German vet one more time for that final worming (see item above). OK, rental car reserved - check! Vet appointment reserved - check! Cat passports in hand - check! Cat airline reservations made - can't do that until this week progress.

(5) Pick-up the girls upon arrival at Heathrow. Upon arrival of Budman, Hachie Gal, Sweet Kitty and Shugie Lynn at Heathrow, we need to go "somewhere" about 5 miles from the airport to pick up the cats once they have been cleared for entry and their paperwrok reviewed and approved. We've been told to expect 2-3 hours delay on this one. More time for duty-free shopping ...NOT.

Assuming all is in order, we will then be cleared to leave the pet intake facility to go home...home sweet home...with no furnture since our belongings are still in transit. I am not even considering the possibility of problems with the cats and what we will do if there are any hiccups along the way. It's kinda like putting "all your eggs in one basket" and trusting the system won't let you down. Because, if there is a problem, not sure where we all end up on Saturday of us will return somewhere to Germany with the cats...but where, I am not sure, since we will have no apartment.

Can't even mentally go there right now....

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