The most stressful part of the move was, by far, figuring out how to get Athena to Dhaka. There weren’t a lot of resources available online, and it was hard to figure out exactly what we were supposed to do. Even so, we were lucky to have the support of the embassy and this was also a huge help.
We decided to use Qatar Airways, and we’d heard generally good things about flying with pets on Qatar. Plus, the route was the fastest available with only one layover. (Although, if you have a small dog or cat that usually fits under the seat, note that you can’t carry on your pet with Qatar. The only animals allowed in cabin are service animals and falcons. Up to ten falcons, in fact. How does one person even carry ten falcons?) Our other option was Turkish Airways, and the internet abounds with horror stories about Turkish and pets. So, Qatar it was.
Here’s the basic timeline that we followed:
3 months before departure: We got Athena’s health certificate and vaccination record from the vet, which we sent to the embassy, along with her rabies certificate, so we could get her no-objection import certificate from the Bangladeshi government. She also got all the vaccinations she’d need over the next few months. At this point I called Qatar Airways just to make sure we could bring our dog with us and to find out more specifics. They asked what breed she was (the list of breeds they won’t fly is extensive), told me it would cost $250, and said to call back a few weeks before the flight.
2 months: We got Athena’s no-objection import certificate. It said she was yellow, but she’s black, and when we asked if this would be a problem we were told not to worry. (I printed copies of this email to take with us on the plane because I was still worried.)
6 weeks: We realized Athena’s rabies certificate would expire while we were there, so she got another rabies vaccination. We also ordered Athena a new travel crate because her current crate wasn’t quite tall enough for her to stand up perfectly straight and still have a few inches of head clearance. Besides the new crate, we also purchased a doggy travel crate kit, which included metal nuts and bolts, “live animal” stickers for the crate, travel tags, zip ties, and some other things. Oh, and at this point we realized Athena would need to go on a diet. The weight limit for a dog plus crate on Qatar is 32 kilograms, which is 70.5 lbs. She weighed 48 lbs, and the new crate supposed weighed about 25 lbs. We didn’t start starving her, but her amount of food was decreased by about a quarter.
4 weeks: The new crate arrived and it was massive. Like, I could fit into it if I wanted. Athena doesn’t mind going into crates generally, but she was wary of this one. We started leaving pieces of cheese and other things in it to encourage her to go in there on her own, that worked well. I weighed the crate at it came in at a whopping 26 lbs. At this point Nate also called Qatar to confirm our reservation and to let them know we were bringing a dog. They told us to call 15 days before departure with crate dimensions and Athena’s weight. The doggy diet continued.
(Also, we encountered varying levels of competence when calling Qatar to ask about bringing a dog. Nate’s strategy was to hang up each time until a woman answered, as the women were typically more helpful than the men. But the one time I called, a man answered and he was helpful. So experiences vary here for everyone.)
15 days: Nate called Qatar and officially added Athena to our reservation. He gave them her breed, crate dimensions, our flight confirmation number, and weight, and they told us to bring her to check-in desk with the rest of our luggage when we checked in for the flight, along with a health certificate dated within 10 days of the flight. He received a confirmation email, which we printed and took with us to the airport.
5 days: We took Athena to the vet for her new health certificate and to get her teeth cleaned. She weighed in at 42.8 lbs. Success!!!
The day before: We took Athena to visit her sister-from-a-different-mister, Mika. They ran around and played and then cuddled together. We were trying to tire Athena out so she’d hopefully just rest and sleep on the flight.
The day of the flight: Athena got her breakfast, and that was her last meal before the flight, even though we weren’t leaving until 9 pm. We went for a nice long walk on King St, and then we brought her to our house one last time while we did some last minute yard work. We were thinking she’d enjoy the time in the yard, but it was so hot she just wanted to go inside. She was barred from inside since the cleaners had already come, so instead she flopped down in one of her favorite shady places.
On the recommendation of my sister, who had previously flown with her dog, we also bought her a can of wet food for after the flight. We knew she’s probably arrive dehydrated, and since she hadn’t eaten she’d probably be hungry too, so wet food was a good way to solve both those problems. Plus, after subjecting her to over 20 hours of travel time, we wanted to show her that we do actually still love her. Poor girl.
Before leaving, we printed several copies of her flight confirmation, new health certificate, rabies certificate, no-objection import certificate and the email stating it was okay that her color was wrong. We left for the airport 4 hours before our flight was scheduled to leave so we’d have plenty of time to check in. We took her into the airport with us, armed with plenty of treats in case she freaked out, and we checked in our luggage and then they put Athena’s crate on the scale and she hopped on in. The whole package weighed 32.6 kilograms, which was alright with Qatar (hurray!!!). A woman who appeared to be in charge of pet shipment came out and looked over her documents and checked to make sure the crate was big enough. I was so glad we’d purchased the bigger crate…. whew! They photocopied all the documentation, but didn’t attach any of it to her crate. Also, we had to pay $350 instead of $250. Oh well.
After that we walked over to a special screening area, where a TSA agent inspected the crate. Then we loaded her up, zip-tied the door shut, and she went off with a porter to wherever the dogs go to get on planes.
Upon arrival in Dhaka: We were told she’d come out by the baggage carousel, and, sure enough, eventually she did! Her crate came out with a luggage worker holding on so it didn’t fall off the carousel. Nate picked up Athena and her crate as soon as he could, and we were both flooded with relief. Her little dish with water had fallen and her crate door was still zip-tied shut, so we knew they hadn’t taken her out in Doha. We had taped a baggie with some of her food to the outside of her crate in case they had a chance to feed her, but when we arrived it was still intact. So basically she’d been without food and water for who knows how long. She was panting, but alert and calm, and she started wagging her tail as soon as she saw us, so we knew she’d handled the flight alright. No one checked any of the documents we’d worked so hard to get (better that than scrutinize them though, so I’ll take it), and we basically just picked up her crate and wheeled it away to the car.
When we got to our apartment we let her have a few sips of water at a time, although she clearly could have drunk several bowls full. She hadn’t made any messes in her crate, and she was very relieved when she finally had a chance to potty. Athena was also really excited to get that wet food.
The following days in Dhaka: Now we are dealing with the unexpected (although not surprising) issue of doggy jetlag. Basically, she wakes up around 3 am, jumps out of bed, and starts wandering around the apartment. And sometimes she’ll jump back up in bed and just stare at us.
Overall, she is adjusting really well to life here. Lately she’s started trying to drink puddle water, so we will have to start carrying water for her with us on longer walks. But she doesn’t bat an eye at the rickshaws, motorcycles, stray dogs or crowds of people.
I’m sure there are details that I’ve forgotten, and I’ll update this post as I think of them!