We are back in the US for Nate’s next several tours. I’ve been hesitant to write about it because honestly I didn’t want to jinx our PCS here.
When we arrived in Namibia it was like “oh look how great this is!” and then Athena died and it was horrible and we vowed to never put ourselves in that situation ever again.
This time, we had to leave our dog behind again. Yes, again. It made me so upset and stressed out, and I cried about it on a practically daily basis as we were preparing to leave Namibia. After everything we went through with Athena how could we possibly be finding ourselves in the same position all over again?!
The CDC rabies dog ban, that’s how. What a clusterfuck.
Artie stayed with some good friends rather than at a kennel. While we had a kennel in Windhoek that we liked, we just couldn’t leave her there for who-knows-how-long. Thankfully several friends stepped up and offered to let her stay with them, and she stayed with a family that has several kids, another dog, and lax rules about dogs on beds and sofas. I think she enjoyed her time there.
So, back to the CDC rabies dog ban. There are a lot of steps, a lot of rules, and this is absolutely not a post explaining any of it. Suffice to say, we sent Artie’s sample to the lab in South Africa over a month before we left, thinking it would be enough time for her to arrive in the US shortly after we did. HA!
We didn’t get her serology result from the lab until mid-October. Then we had to apply for the CDC import permit and arrange her travel. Thankfully we had a pet shipper in Namibia who actually made all the bookings, made sure her kennel was set, took her to the vet for her export visit, etc. They also recommended a customs clearing agent, an awesome fellow named Mike, who turned out to be worth his weight in gold.
After a lot of waiting, lies from the lab, back-and-forth communications, and money, I finally picked up Artie a few weeks ago at the cargo area at Dulles! It was a very fraught experience.
Initially they told me she hadn’t cleared a customs hold and she would have to spend the night someplace else because the USDA customs people had already left for the day. Or something like that. Honestly I was too busy trying to not scream bloody murder to follow whatever convuluted yarn the Qatar air cargo guy was spinning. I just kept saying “But we have all the required paperwork and our clearing agent cleared her through customs.” Apparently getting cleared through customs is not the same as clearing a customs hold.
At this point I was crying and it was not a great situation. I definitely looked like a crazy lady, holding a leash no dog and wiping my tears/snot on my sleeves. They told me to call Pender Air, which I did. A very helpful guy named Logan gave me detailed, albeit complicated, instructions for what to do if Artie had not in fact cleared the customs hold.
But before embarking on the literal journey that Logan’s instructions involved, I called Mike, our customs agent. He assured me that she had cleared the hold and spoke with the very unhelpful Qatar air cargo guy. Mike kindly stayed on the line with me until the Qatar dude checked his computer and sure enough, she had in fact cleared the hold!
Fast forward to about 45 minutes later, they tell me that, despite flying cargo, Artie had been sent to the baggage claim rather than the cargo bay. So they were sending some people to baggage claim to get her and bring her back to the cargo area. Well, at this point, “Your dog is at baggage claim, oops” was loads better than “You don’t get your dog today,” and I continued to wait. Thirty minutes later, they came to tell me my dog had arrived.
They opened the huge garage door into the cargo facility and there was Artie in her crate. She saw me and immediately started whining and wagging her tail, and they couldn’t get the zip ties off the crate fast enough. I got her leash on her and took her to pee, while the cargo guys put her crate and document folder in the car, and then we headed home!
She was so excited to see all of us. M gave her the longest, tightest, full-body hug imaginable and she soaked it all in. I took her for a walk around the block, and she started to settle in.
Her first night back, she had doggy jetlag. She woke up at 1:30 am ready to play and go outside. We were all just so glad to finally have her here, we didn’t mind one bit.
Artie was clingy for the first couple of days, but eventually she felt comfortable going outside into the yard by herself and exploring. Now she’s fully adjusted and it seems that she loves living here. It’s not too hot, she has a massive grassy yard full of squirrels to run around in, there are no vehicles with barky dogs driving by, and she gets to greet dogs when we go on walks. She’s making friends with our friends’ dogs, including some of Athena’s besties. It makes me just so happy.
Life is good. Our family is whole again and we have all settled into the easy rhythm of life here. It involves more cleaning, chores, and yard work than any of us are used to but for now I actually enjoy it. We love our house and we take pride that it’s ours.
Right now I am embracing the calm before the storm. “What storm?” you might be wondering.
The HHE storm! It arrives tomorrow! Gulp. How we will fit five crates of stuff into our 1000 square foot house I don’t know.