UZBEKISTAN: All Dogs Aboard!

Sunny front doorI pulled up to the pet boarding and shipping facility in our rented Jeep Cherokee and my insides twisted in painful anticipation. My husband and I were moving to Tashkent, Uzbekistan for two years and our rescue German shepherd was coming with us.

After spending several hours a day for three weeks on the computer and getting dubious and vague pieces of information, I finally had somewhat of a plan in place. Unfortunately, our dog needed to be flown via a certified pet shipper because we were using a cargo plane on one of the legs of the journey, due to our dog’s size. And to add to my already fragile composure was the fact that the airline did not fly animals on the weekend, so our dog would have to spend two days in the Frankfurt airport pet hotel.

Two veterinarian visits, two health certificates, and a rabies certificate had preceded a long and lonely drive to Richmond for a USDA stamp. After a security check worthy the White House, a not-so-pleasant lady had grudgingly accepted my paperwork. I crossed my fingers it was OK. Of course it wasn’t. The vet had marked one of the certificates as a straight through flight. I had felt the floor melting from beneath me and my head spun. Now what? To my immense surprise, the lady had offered to fix it and call the vet. I stared in disbelief. A government worker taking the extra mile? Maybe I had misjudged her. About an hour later, I had received thoroughly scribbled over and stamped papers and drove back home to do what I had dreaded for months – leave my dog at the dog shipper and give up all control over the process.

As soon as we put our dog in her own kennel at the pet shipper and walked away, I made the mistake of looking back through the window and seeing her frantically run back and forth, jumping at either end of her run. Tears flooded my eyes and I didn’t calm down until we got back to the hotel almost two hours later.

This was on a Thursday. I knew I wasn’t going to see my dog until Monday late afternoon.

The fact that I didn’t even know for sure if my dog would even make it onto the airplane in the USA did not add any comfort to my brain, churning out one worst case scenario after another. The reason why was because Uzbekistan as well as Lufthansa had very vague and inconsistent instructions for what paperwork was going to be needed. I spent days upon days emailing and calling various points of contact and assembled a portfolio of permissions, certificates and email conversations, hoping they would do.

I begged the pet shipper to send me a text as soon as my dog was checked in at the airport and her paperwork was cleared. I knew that since her flight was at 3 PM, she would have to be accepted no later than 11:30 or noon. The day of her flight, I bit my nails as I watched my phone. Minutes ticked by. It was 11. Then 11:30. Then noon. Then 12:30. I couldn’t decide if no news was good or bad. Did it mean there were no questions about the paperwork and she made it or did it mean the pet shipper was arguing with the clerk at the airport?

By 1:00, I was a nervous wreck and my stomach hurt so much, I couldn’t eat or drink. I knew that if something went wrong in the airport, not only would my dog have to stay boarded for a whole another week, but I would also have to rely on other people to get all of the permissions and certificates, which didn’t mesh with my OCD personality at the moment.

I picked up my phone and dialed the pet shipper. My hands shook and I closed my eyes as I heard them answer the phone. I carefully inquired about our dog’s check in.

“Oh yeah, Sunny, right?” The voice said, not waiting for a reply. “Hey…” I heard the voice yell, “When did the driver get back from the airport?” Presumably turning away from the receiver because it faded. Then the voice came back on the phone louder: “So Sunny was dropped off at the airport and the driver is already back, he got back half an hour ago.”

“OK…” I stuttered, “Does that mean her paperwork went through?”

“Yep!” The voice exclaimed loudly accompanied by frantic barking and thumping sounds. I swallowed any other questions, sensing urgency on the other side of the phone.

As I hung up, the knot inside my stomach disappeared and I smiled for the first time in 24 hours. Then I looked at the hotel bed covered in THINGS that needed to be stuffed in only two suitcases and the smile slowly transformed into a frown of Tetris-like concentration. Step two of our journey was to pack and get on the plane ourselves.

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