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Ellie Is Here!

Our cat arrived last night after much stress. From the flakiness of the shipping company in the United States to the bureaucracy of the Indian government, this was the worst pet moving experience we've had so far.

Ellie has been living at my mom's house in Rhode Island. We realized that if she was going to join us, we had a narrow window of opportunity with the weather being neither too cold nor too warm for her to fly out of New England and too hot to land here (as it is, she can only land during nighttime temps here). To help ease the burden on myself and my mom, we used a shipper to make the flight arrangements. We will not be using this shipper again. He was a total flake. We started making inquiries weeks ago. Several times I asked him what documents he needed, no response. We finalized a date for Ellie to leave, but there were two flights on that day. Despite asking several times, he told us on Sunday which flight she was on, for Tuesday. I also asked him several times how to submit payment and he finally got around to telling us on Monday.

Also on the weekend, despite trying to get the ball rolling here in India a couple weeks earlier, we were told that pets can't arrive as unaccompanied cargo. A flurry of phone calls between the expeditor here and various customs officials gave us permission to send her as cargo, confirmed on Monday.

The previous Monday, Ellie was at the vet to get her health certificate. When my mom brought it in to the USDA office personally for the seal (an office is about an hour's drive from her), the USDA vet refused to accept Ellie's Burundian rabies vaccination. She would accept it if the Indian government agreed to accept it. So another flurry of phone calls, emails, scans, and Mike having to make a translation of the document from French got Ellie her USDA certification. (And just in time to be mailed back to my mom before the government shutdown closed the USDA office.)

An import permit was required, but between the shipper in the United States and the expeditor here, the conversation went something like this: "We need the air way bill number in order to process the import permit." "We need the import permit in order to complete the air way bill." "We can't provide the import permit until there's an air way bill." This went on for several nerve-wracking days before each side budged a little and we finally ended up with both, within just a couple hours of each other.

After all that, feeling confident that Ellie would get on the plane in Boston and be delivered here, we found out on Tuesday (the day she's leaving Boston) that the airport here doesn't process cargo on the midnight flights and Ellie would have to wait at the airport until the customs office opened in the morning. What? No one could have told us this weeks ago when we first proposed the flight times? When I specifically said that we'd like to bring her in on the Lufthansa flight that arrives at midnight and I asked if there are any times that the airport doesn't process pets? Really, no one could have mentioned it then?

My mom called early Wednesday our time to say that Ellie was on the plane, Tuesday night her time. At that point we still had no idea if we'd be able to spring her from the airport when her flight arrived Wednesday night, just before midnight. Our plan was that Mike would go out and meet the midnight flight, do his best to get her out, and if he couldn't, leave her with water, food, and a fresh towel in her cage, and I'd go back out Thursday morning to get her.

On Wednesday night, a couple hours before leaving for the airport, Mike received word that he'd be able to bring her home at midnight. All sorts of favors were called in and I'm sure we owe a few ourselves now.

But we have Ellie. She's already shaken off the travel and is settling in. I hope getting her out of the country will be easier. At least we'll have a better idea of what we're in for.


Shannon said…
Ugh! I'm sorry that it was so hard to get your cat. We had a similar experience here in Malawi with our kitty. We were unable to get everything to work so he has been with my mom for a year and we will pick her up on R&R this summer. I can't wait to have my baby with us again.
Sadie said…
What a process! I am so, so, so glad Ellie arrived safe and sound, even with all the hassle. Having lost my precious dog in the shipping process last year, I know how the bureaucratic mess can wreak havoc on the best laid plans. Enjoy your reunion!!
Smallbits said…
Wow, what a circus. Glad it all worked out.
Anonymous said…
Any chance you'll tell us on the FS Pets Yahoo group who this shipper was?
Anonymous said…
What an awful experience for both you and her! So many animals die in shipping.

Hey, incidentally, I've been trying to learn how to RSS feed Blogger to LiveJournal, so that I can read your posts more easily on a regular basis, and it appears I have to create a sort of fake LJ. What name would you like me to put it under? Or, I guess, have you considered reposting things to LJ?
Smallbits said…
You have been included in the Weekly State Department Round Up here:

If you have a problem with any of the links or photos used, please let me know.
Brenda said…
I can't image taking a cat. I was in Hyderabad a couple of years ago. I am in awe. I barely managed to get myself there, the madness in the airports to simply pick up my bags. Despite the craziness of the first couple of days, I had an amazing experience, although I was traveling on a corporate account so when the horn honking got to be too much I could escape to the solitude for my hotel rooms, far from the maddening crowds far below.

Angela said…
I'm so thrilled for you guys that Ellie is finally home! You must be so excited, and I bet she is so glad to be with her family again. What does Muffin think of her? She's big enough to do things now that might provoke a bad response from Ellie :) Ha ha. I wish her luck! If I ever use a pet shipper I will be sure to get the name of the one to NOT use from you. I just found out I am going to Madrid next summer! So excited. But, in the meantime, I am planning to come see you all on one of my R&Rs this year. I was thinking maybe December? But, I'll email and see what you guys are up to. Take care! I miss you!
Stephanie said…
Thanks everyone! I'm late in responding, but I had to distance myself from the experience before I could talk about it more.

I've posted more details at FS Pets:
I'm the moderator of the group! :)

Angela!!! Come visit us any time! Email or skype us. We're always around and Muffin loves skype. She gets so excited when she hears the dialing sound.

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