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jumping through hoops

Although we felt good about our decision to leave Emmie in Nairobi for the summer, the last few days before her travel almost made us regret not taking her with us when we departed Kenya. We had left her in great hands, but could not make shipping arrangements several months in advance. Coordinating all the last-minute logistics of our pet’s international travel from across the Atlantic was incredibly stressful, to say the least.


Most disappointingly, the shipping company, which had been recommended by the Embassy and to which we had paid a sizable amount of money, created the biggest headache. Months after inspecting Emmie’s crate and obtaining measurements to certify that it was appropriate for a dog her size, the shippers all of a sudden tried to require an extra trip to the airport to re-certify the crate, and when we balked they asked for numerous photographs instead.

We had expected stringent guidelines from the airline, or the Kenyan export office, or even the EU customs officials. The demands of Bollore, our shipping company, were stricter and at times bordered on the ludicrous. They even made a fuss over the lining for the crate, suggesting items that could pose a choke hazard and were against veterinary advice. Worst of all, these requests tended to come late in the afternoon Kenyan time, so each morning we awoke to an email storm as Emmie’s hosts attempted to respond to one unreasonable request after another.

The tight timeframe for shipping our dog compounded the stress. The airline would not confirm the booking more than ten days prior to departure, which left S in a precarious position, as she wanted to wait until Emmie’s trip was confirmed to purchase her own flight to Bucharest. In the meantime, we learned that the shippers tended to leave pets in their crates once they arrived at the airport, so we hired a dog handler to transport Emmie and stay with her while she awaited her flight. A few days before departure, the dog handler told S that the vehicle he had purchased had not arrived yet; fortunately, he managed to arrange alternative transport.

We also had to scramble to find a second host for our beloved pup for the last week of her stay in Kenya. The health certificate, export permit, and final shipping clearance all had to be obtained no more than 72 hours before departure. Unfortunately, the friends who had taken Emmie in for the summer were juggling out-of-town guests as well as their own pre-departure preparations and could not dedicate the time and energy needed to finalize arrangements. S found Emmie another incredibly generous host back in her old haunts on the Embassy compound where we had lived. She even offered to go into work late to take Emmie to the vet for her health certificate and de-worming when the vet refused to do a house call.

There were a few more last-second hiccups, which we probably should have expected. There was no electricity at the government vet’s office, so it took almost an entire day to obtain the export permit. And there were a few minor inconsistencies with dates on her health records, which required a second visit from an Embassy representative to the vet to correct. After all was said and done, it seems like a minor miracle that Emmie boarded her flight and, after a brief stay at Schiphol’s “pet hotel,” arrived safely in Bucharest as planned. We’ve learned some lessons in the trials and tribulations of our first doggie relocation but most importantly we confirmed what we already knew: that we have some pretty terrific friends in Nairobi.

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Are you all back together now?

    August 22, 2013
    • Yup :) There is a second part to this post about Bucharest and the ride to Chisinau that we’ll post soon.

      August 23, 2013
  2. How stressful! I’m so glad Emmie arrived safely — just have to say again she is the CUTEST.

    August 23, 2013
    • Thank you! It’s amusing, in a slightly sad way:

      One of the things that makes her so darn cute is that one cocked ear. This whole cross-continent travel must have been so stressful for her that her ear has been a been deflated of late. She’s been in Chisinau for almost a week now and it’s just now starting to perk up again.

      August 23, 2013
  3. As much as I miss my cat, reading this I am thankful we decided to leave her in the States with my parents! Hope you’re all settling in nicely at your new post!

    August 23, 2013
    • Depending on where we get assigned next we might reconsider, but for now we are content with the choices we made and are very happy to have Emmie with us here in Moldova.

      August 23, 2013

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