Wednesday, November 16, 2016

So, say "Geronimo!"

We were scheduled on a direct flight from DC to Tokyo, which is a 14 hour flight. Direct international flight? Sign me up! I enjoy flying, but that long of a flight does not need multiple legs. In fact, when I flew to Egypt, I drove to New Jersey and took the train to the airport so that I could fly directly to Cairo.

However flying internationally, with a dog, on military orders, is not exactly the simplest process. Let's back up a few months.

The TL;DR (too long; didn't read) version of the following blog - We all flew to Japan! Yay!

The longer story:

Japan is a rabies-free country, so they are super strict about the process for importing a dog. In order to live freely in Japan, Malcolm had to be microchipped, receive two rabies vaccinations after that, pass a rabies test, quarantine for six months, and then pass another rabies test.

I know.

So, on June 1, Blake took Malcolm to the vet for his second post-chip rabies vaccine and first rabies test and officially begin his quarantine. Yes, time in U.S. counted toward his quarantine, for which I am grateful. He'd been microchipped by the rescue agency we got him from, so that was taken care of.

Then, when we got our official travel orders ten days before departure, I had to fill out all the documentation required by Japan to notify the airport of his arrival. If we had flown on a military flight, we would not have had to do this or go through customs at all, but because of Malcolm and the late date of our orders, we had to fly commercially. But that's why we got to fly direct, so you win some, you lose some.

Late Thursday night, 9 days before we left, Blake and I filled out the form over the phone together, talking through it while I wrote things down. Fortunately, I found an email address we could send the paperwork to, instead of trying to fax it. Since it was Japan's Friday and I didn't know their weekend hours, we wanted to get it to them ASAP. Japan actually wants these papers 40 days before the dog arrives, so I was quite worried we were already too late.

Amazingly, within an hourish, and just before I turned my lights out at 1AM EDT, Japan emailed me back with clarification questions! So got out of bed and wrote them right back. After about 30 minutes with no response, I went to sleep. I happened to wake up around 4AM, saw there was another email with questions, wrote them back again and went back to sleep. When I was up for good, there was one more email thanking me, letting me know that they had passed it to the right people for us, and that we should expect their form to print and bring with us within 7 days.

With only 8 days to go, we definitely prayed for a swift arrival of that form, and it showed up by Tuesday! Before my printer was packed up! That was also the day that I took Malcolm to the vet for a travel certificate that proves he was examined with 10 days of traveling and he's healthy enough to do so. To get all the paperwork, medication (we put him on an anti-anxiety medication, not officially a sedative), and checkups, I was at the vet at least three times that last week.
Malcolm was pleased to be reunited with Blake in our hotel on our last night in DC.

But with all of us good to go on paperwork and packed up, we were good to load up a rented pick up truck with at least 8 pieces of luggage and a huge dog crate on Saturday morning and drive to the airport! We arrived three hours early, specifically to get Malcolm checked in, which took about an hour and cost us a pretty good chunk of change. Then we took him to pee, gave him his next dose of anti-anxiety meds, and wished him well as we crated him and passed him onto TSA.
All sorts of paperwork and stickers on Malolm's crate! His leash was under the mass of tape in the upper left, and a bag of food was taped to the now open spot on the back, just in case.

The next 15-16 hours were relatively uneventful. We made it to our gate shortly before boarding. We actually weren't assigned seats together, but we convinced someone to switch to Blake's assigned window seat so that we could. The longest flight I had been on before this was 11 hours, but I knew passing 14 hours with Blake would be just fine, and it was! We watched Independence Day Resurgence (kind of terrible, but fun), 90s music videos (Blake knew shockingly few of the songs), napped when we could, played some games, ate the not terrible in-flight meals, and relaxed.

We landed in Japan on Sunday afternoon, local time, and slowly made our way through passport control. Blake had never done this before, so it was fun to do it with him.

Malcolm was waiting in his crate for us at baggage claim! He was alive! He was not pleased! He had probably relieved himself in his crate! (There was a pad down for that, just in case.) We made our way to the quarantine desk and spent the next 45 minutes doing their check in procedures. It was really quite smooth, just a little time consuming.

But then we were free! And customs had mostly cleared out by this point! It took us a few minutes to find our ride, thanks to not having cell phones yet, but once we did, we loaded up and took the 90 minute ride to our new base!  Unfortunately, it was dark by this time and we were exhausted, so we didn't see much more than a lot of shiny lights.

We had a reservation at the Navy Lodge on base in a pet-friendly room, so while Blake and his sponsor checked us in, Malcolm finally got out of his crate after 18 hours and enjoyed his first stroll in Japan.  Malcolm is allowed to finish his quarantine on base, whether in the Lodge, the kennel, or on base housing. I'll go into more details later, but we got housing on base just before we had to move out of our pet-friendly room, so Malcolm has been with us the entire time!
Happy family!

Malcom isn't very good at hide and seek.

Naturally and thankfully, we passed out just as soon as we could, because we hit the ground running on Monday!


Anne said...

Oh, I'm so glad that this all went so smoothly! I've heard horror stories of people's dogs not being treated well and quarantine lasting weeks on the other side and stuff - So glad that Mal had such a good experience! :) (Also very glad you and Blake are there safely, too, of course! :D )

AmandaStretch said...

Thanks Anne! I had heard of a few scary stories myself, so I'm quite relieved he is okay. He'll be free to roam (with us, of course) off base in just a couple more weeks!

Giggles said...

International travel is no joke, and I imagine even less so with a dog. I'm glad your whole family arrived safely!