It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

International Pet Transport

A snoozing Lab in a crate.  Archie's crate is much bigger than this though.

This morning I read this article ( about more pets dying on Delta flights than any other airline, and it bought back the memories of shipping Archie from Detroit MI to Frankfurt, Germany back in March 2009.

I looked back through my old newsletter archives and thought my new readers might be interested in my pet transport story below.

To give you some background, we'd had to leave Archie in MI after we left as we didn't know where we were going to end up.  After much stress and many tears, we found some amazing people, Irene & Gary, who are a guide dog puppy family.  I took Archie around to introduce him, and to see if  they would look after him for us, and I think it was love at first sight.  Archie looked right at home and Irene & Gary were the most lovely people.  I felt very comfortable leaving him there - and he ended up being there for nearly 6 months!

After we'd secured our house here in Rado, I flew back to MI to collect Archie and organise the reams of paperwork you need to do to fly a large dog internationally and give him a new home in Germany.  So, here's the story ...

25th March 2009

After lots of running around (who knew the USFDA Vet was all the way over on the other side of the state?) and worry I finally have Archie's shipping paperwork all updated and stamped with the official seal of the US Food & Dog Administration (yes, I know it's the Food and Drug Administration, but I think Dog is more fitting in this case).  Keep your fingers crossed that we're all good to ship tomorrow afternoon direct into Frankfurt.

It was great to see Archie again after 5 months of us being gone.  I was so worried that he wouldn't remember me, but he was so excited that he almost turned himself inside out when he heard/saw me.  He is in fabulous condition and now weighs 72 pounds.  Irene & Gary have taken such good care of him and he's even developed some manners, though I doubt he'll remember any of it when he gets home to Germany.

I took him over to see our old neighbours Beth, Emma, Andrew, Joey and their new pup Abby yesterday.  Archie remembered them all and had a great time playing chase with the boys and meeting his little half sister Abby.  He then celebrated the occasion by going to our old front lawn and doing a ginormous cr*p right in front of the new Indian owners of the property who obviously don't like dogs much.  I think they don't like me much now either, though I did get most of it off the grass.  Then we took him over to the neighbours on the other side, Heidi & Craig, to play with his old friend Murphy and their new rescue dog Dempsey.  They ran around like mad things for a half hour or so, and then we had to head off.  Archie was so tired he passed out in the back of the car.

I'm doing some last minute running around today and then moving from the Milicias to the Macneils tonight as Mary & Joe are helping me with Archie at the airport tomorrow.  I know I couldn't manage a dog, a crate, my bags and the hire car, so it was great that they can give me a hand (and a meal, and a bed!).

I had pre-booked Archie and myself on a KLM flight from Detroit to Frankfurt and it wasn't terribly easy to organise.  They were happy to book a dog in, but no-one could tell me how much it would cost.  The web site said one thing, the people on the phone said another thing, and when we finally got to the airport, they said another.  In the end I decided to chance my arm when they said $US500 to fly him (totally different, and cheaper, from everything else I'd been told) and said "But the people on the phone said $US300!".  After about 20 minutes on the phone with her "supervisor" they apologised for giving me the wrong price and let me pay the $US300!  It just goes to show how unorganised they are for pet transport, I was given so many different prices (from $US500 to $US1,200) and in the end just decided to make up my own - and they went with it!

Before I go any further, let me just say that Archie was crate trained from the day we brought him home as a puppy, as we knew that we'd have to fly him one day, and we tried to make it as stress-free for him as possible.  So, to Archie, going into his big crate is just like going to bed each night - easy peasy.

He was totally stress free at the airport.  The security people made me take him out of the crate so they could check the crate for anything unusual, but of course there wasn't anything except a dog, his bed and some towels (in case of toilet accidents). Archie jumped back in, I closed the gate, and they were off.  I was given one of a multi carbon sheeted form and was told that once I was on the plane, and Archie had been loaded, they would bring me another copy of the form, signed by the baggage handler.

By this stage I was getting a bit nervous about the whole thing, but I waited on tenterhooks in my seat until the flight attendant arrived with the signed form and then I relaxed a bit.

The flight was much faster than expected because of a strong tailwind, and I arrived in Frankfurt an hour earlier than planned.  I had been told that I would need to collect Archie from the Frankfurt Airport Vet, and that I must bring all of my paperwork with me to enable them to check it all, and for me to take him home.

So I waited for my luggage to come off the conveyer, with my wodge of Archie paperwork weighing down my hand baggage.  Grabbed my cases off the conveyer, stacked them on a trolley and was just about to leave the secure area when someone came out pushing a dog crate on a trolley and called out "Does anyone own this dog?". Yes, I flipping do!  No vet check, no paperwork check, no anything at all.  I put my cases on top of Archie's crate and walked him straight out through customs and out of the airport to wait for hubby to collect us.

Pretty much it was a shambles from start to finish.  I'd had to get his MI vet to put a European chip in (as well as the US one he already had), as you DEFINITELY must have a Euro chip to get him through Frankfurt Airport Vet.  We never even saw a vet at Frankfurt.  I had all of this paperwork, with official seals on it, as you DEFINITELY need them to get your dog from the airport.  No-one EVER looked at them.

The only thing that was absolutely perfect was Archie.   He didn't turn a hair, and as soon as I got him outside the airport terminal I let him out and he went straight to the toilet, wagged his tail and smiled at me, then jumped back into his crate for another snooze.

So, if you're flying your pet, I wish you luck.  It all seemed very vague and there definitely weren't any standards that people had to adhere to.  My advice to you would be to get all your paperwork done and your Euro chip put in, and then just cross your fingers.  Archie wasn't sedated either, his vet recommended against that.  Good luck!

Archie's crate is an XL version very similar to this style.

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