Now that we are wrapping up our English Adventure, it was time to start thinking about getting the Z's back to the US. Since the US has more lenient restrictions on bringing in pets ("They got rabies vaccines? Cool."), I expected to be a bit easier.
As it turns out international pet relocation is no fun no matter how you slice the pie.
Okay, let me retract that statement for a minute. It actually could have been a LOT worse. Most of the anxiety and stress had more to do with all the preparations leading up to the shipping and less to do with the actual shipping itself.
Since I decided to fly back with them myself instead of using a pet shipping service (cheaper, and gives me a chance to house hunt on this side), I had to really up my game, do my research, and make sure all my I's were dotted and T's were crossed.
In spite of my preparation, it seemed a lot of little issues cropped up last minute.
- I lost the health certificate my vet issued ten days prior to shipping.
- I forgot to get their vaccine card updated with their most recent rabies shot. (Rabies doesn't exist in the UK, so they hadn't had a rabies booster in years.)
- The low temps in our final destination (Columbia, SC) was just below the airline threshold of 45 degrees, which meant we needed a cold weather acclimation certificate. But our own vet wouldn't issue one, so we had to go to another vet.
- I couldn't find all of the mandatory dog dishes that must be attached to their kennels and had to order some from a UK site and have them overnighted.
- I needed to get enough of Zeus' seizure meds to last until we actually move in January so my in laws wouldn't have to worry about it.
And due to my own wired personality, I began to envision every possible thing that could go wrong. What if they won't accept them on the flight? (American Airline's won't book pets as checked baggage until two hours before the flight.) What if our plane was delayed and we missed our connection? What if the customs personnel didn't like the British vaccine card and demanded a rabies certificate? What if I forgot one tiny piece of information and we're stranded in Dallas-Fort Worth? WHAT IF THEY TELL ME TO TAKE MY DOGS BACK TO THE UK?!
I know, I know. I'm a real worry wort when it comes to these things. I plan and plan and still worry that I didn't plan enough. And I give myself pep talks. I try to remind myself that all I can do is prepare. I can't control all the circumstance, just be prepared. I tell myself it's going to be okay.
Unfortunately, my brain doesn't always buy that. I remind myself, "The eyes go where the car goes." (It's a racing metaphor from a book I recently read, The Art of Racing in the Rain. Really good. Go read it!) No point in envisioning the crash, 'cause the eyes go where the car goes. Envision the finish line!
In spite of all my pep talk, I was still a little nervous Wednesday morning when we arrived at Terminal 3 at London Heathrow Airport.
As it turns out, all my preparation paid off. Everything went great! The American Airlines staff were super helpful. One of the BAA (British Airport Authority) security dudes was SUPER awesome. After I checked in the dogs, he took the crates, but let me keep the dogs for about an hour and half before I needed to go get ready to board the plane. So we walked all over Terminal 3, letting them take care of business (yes, I cleaned up after them!), and just letting them get a bit of exercise before they were penned up.
In Dallas, I went through immigrations and then picked up my luggage and the dogs and headed for customs. Everything was smooth there, except the customs lady "confiscated" the two Ziploc bags of dog food I had taped to the top of their crates. No biggie. I just had about a days worth of food in case we got separated at DFW. Take the food, just don't confiscate my pups! The AA desk let me take the dogs for about a ten minute walk again, which I know their bladders appreciated!
They arrived in Columbia safe and healthy and happy to see their Nana (my mother-in-law) who came to pick us up from the airport. We dropped them off with their doggy cousins and Linda and I went to grab some 1 am breakfast at IHOP. (God bless the overnight shift workers at IHOP and their delicious omelets! That tiny puddle hopper from DFW to CAE was gonna charged me $4 for a pack of pretzels! I slept instead.)
The Z's are currently settling into life with my in laws. It didn't take them long to reacquaint themselves with the old dogs and introduce themselves to the new ones. (Yes, there was some bottom sniffing going on.) They seem no worse for the wear and ready to just move on to barking at the neighbor dogs and sleeping all day long.
Over all, it was much better than I could have even hoped for. They were a hit wherever we went. (Well, who doesn't love a dog in a personalized hoodie?! Crazy people, that's who!) They behaved themselves beautifully, and held up fabulously after a ten and a half hour flight to Dallas. (Remind me not to make that flight again. WAY too long. And no personal TVs on that particular plane. Say WHAT?! At least they played new episodes of 30 Rock on the overhead TV!)
Now I can take a deep breath, revel in the relief of having successfully gotten my dogs back to the US, and focus on looking at some houses and cars while I'm here. Good times!