We interrupt your irregularly scheduled travel blog posts for an important announcement: the repatriation process has offically begun! While we are disappointed that our adventure will be ending earlier than we hoped, we have reached the point of “let’s just get this all over with.” Like a particularly sticky bandaid, we are ready to just rip it off, scream a little, and move on with our lives. Perhaps the most stressful part of the entire process is moving our pets home, a feat we have successfully accomplished this weekend (more or less). We opted to start this process a little early as there are temperature limitations for the dog on cargo travel, so our furry friends will be living with family until our official return. This is their story…
In order for your pet to leave China and move to the USA there are three major pieces of paperwork you need to acquire:
- Proof of Rabies Vaccination
- Domestic Outbound Animal Transit Certificate (aka – permission to bring your pet to the city where your international flight will leave from for a vet inspection)
- Animal Health Certificate (customs export clearance requires certification within one week of the departure date that the pet is healthy enough to fly)
If you have to send your dog as cargo (this is the only option available China -> USA anymore) there are plenty of other customs papers to fill out, but you are not allowed to do them yourself. Instead you are required to hire a Chinese company to manage this process for you. Very expensive, but they really did take care of almost everything. We also had to fly Kenobi United direct to Chicago (not Detroit) because Delta now requires a stop be included for any trip over 12 hours (ours was 13).
Unfortunately due to different regulations on United vs Delta for cage sizing requirements we needed to purchase a slightly taller crate for Kenobi to go home in because his ears are too big! We were told there needs to be 3″ clearance between his ears and the top of the crate, whereas ours only allows him to sit upright without making contact with the top of the carrier. Our travel plans also turned out horribly bizarre in order to balance our flights home “within the allowed budged” provided by our company and David’s refusal to travel economy when business class was provided as an option. As such we devised the following plan:
- David left Thursday direct to Detroit in business class (apparently booking an extra flight to Chicago the next day saved $2000 on the total ticket price, so this was obviously approved by the company)
- Friday morning China time I brought Kenobi to the cargo office in Shanghai and left him in the capable hands of our agent.
- Friday morning US time David flew to Chicago to prepare for Kenobi’s arrival.
- David met Kenobi in the Chicago cargo office and drove him back to his temporary home near Detroit via Grand Rapids so they could get some sleep on the way. (Kenobi’s flight was invariably delayed because almost everything going in and out of Chicago is never on time.)
- Saturday morning China time I rode 2.5 hours with Roxy to Shanghai, carried her through customs and metal detectors, sat on a plane in the economy comfort section with her for 14.5 hours, hauled her through USA customs and baggage claim to the off airport car rental location, and drove her 2 hours to Grand Rapids.
Unfortunately it was raining the morning of Kenobi’s departure, so I did not want to run him around outside like I had originally planned. I did my best to entertain him inside for an hour or two before we had to get in the car and traumatize him a second time.
When I dropped Kenobi off I was pretty disappointed in the crate our agent had arranged, it seemed at most an inch or so taller than the crate we already had and used previously. It was not any wider or longer either. Oh well.
Roxy, being a cat, put up a decent fight about returning home (and to her carrier for that matter) complete with hiding under the bed and hissing and spitting when I was finally able to man-handle her into her crate.
When we finally got to the airport she became very clingy when I had to remove her from her carrier so it could be sent through the x-ray machine. Fortunately she is uncomfortable in public places like this and opts for the security her carrier and I can provide.
Thankfully on the plane I happened to be sitting next to an off-duty Delta pilot with a wonderful sense of humor and fondness for cats. After exchanging cat photos/stories for 20 minutes, he opted to pet Roxy a little in her crate and I felt much more at ease about our being trapped in a small confined space with these people. It could easily have been much more uncomfortable. All this was lost on Roxy of couse as she was the one subjected to infrequent leg stretching in the lavatory and peeing in a bag toward the end of the flight. Much to my relief I might add…
The legroom for the aisle seat on the heritage NorthWest 747 we were flying was less than ideal, but fortunately the stewardesses were very helpful and did not make a fuss about the fact that Roxy could only be stowed length-wise. In the end this may have been a blessing as Roxy-Houdini managed to weasel her way entirely out of her crate past my leg about mid-flight! The fact that she had to brush up against my leg alerted me to the situation in time to prevent it from becoming a full blown hide-and-go-seek adventure through the business class cabin right in front of us. That would not have gone over well as animals are not allowed outside their carriers on flights. Now I know why they have those “lockable” zipper pulls on the carrier…I made sure to be more fastidious about closing her carrier from that point forward.
Getting through customs was mercifully quick and straightforward, and at this time I am happy to report that both animals have safely made it to their (almost) final destinations and are re-adjusting quite nicely.