Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cleared for Departure: USDA APHIS Edition

Today's the day. Phil, Bella, and I are currently sitting at the airport waiting to board. By some miracle, we both had TSA-Pre AND our gate is right next to a McDonald's. I ordered two hash browns because, darn it, moving is hard.

Moving is hard

On Monday, we made the long trek to the USDA APHIS office for Bella's health certificate. We'd made an appointment in advance, which we later found out is critically important if you don't want to sit there for 5,000 hours. Even with an appointment, they began processing our paperwork a half hour late, because every day at the APHIS office is pure, sheer, stressful insanity. We shared the tiny waiting room with a well-traveled, talkative rich woman, a Georgian with a flight the next day but without an appointment, a buff, Russian-sounding guy with a cat, a hysterical couple who were definitely going to miss their flight that night, a military wife who had to spend $1,500 to fly her dog to the Netherlands, and a few other randoms that were also at peak stress level. I think we made some lasting friendships.

As usually happens when you're two days away from a major life event, not everything went as smoothly as planned. Despite the fact that I had provided our vet with the correct forms and instructions for those forms, when she took them back to her office to sign them, she decided to use her own form that was only good for 48 hours from the time of issue. I panicked because I really thought I was going to have a heart attack and die before I got the chance to reach all the way from Richmond to D.C. to kill her. Bless the hearts all the way out of the APHIS staff, because they found a way to make it work with a spare form I had on hand, and Bella was endorsed for EU living.

We are thirty minutes from boarding. We'll keep you updated on our travels this week, as well as the status of our marriage by the time we arrive in our new home country. Just kidding. We still love each other.

Jane and Phil Advice for International Pet Travel:
1) Go to the USDA website at least 3 months in advance and look up the international regs.
2) Print off the forms you need, take them to the vet, and command that they use those exact forms.
3) Assume that the vet used the wrong forms, and quadruple verify that the forms are correct.
4) Make an appointment with the USDA and/or just mail the stupid forms via Fed-Ex express.
5) Make multiple blank copies of forms, in case your vet totally blows it and the blessed USDA staff have to cobble something together for you.
5) Give yourself a grace period of a couple days for when everything goes to hell.

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