The last twenty four hours have been mostly about Tanner and getting Tanner safely to Budapest.
I’ve been traveling internationally for 19 years, and I have moved my pets multiple times. It’s always a little stressful, and there are many details to handle. This time, with a dog the size of a small pony it was even more challenging. Later I will write a post about the process, the steps I took, the decisions I made and how things came together.
Tanner with his crate note, at my cousin Cindy’s home in Maryland.Preparing to depart for Frankfurt
As I write this I am sitting in Frankfurt, for my layover. Tanner and I arrived safely a few hours ago. The last twenty four hours have been about his needs, more than I realized. (I will explain a little later.) At this time yesterday I was preparing to walk Tanner in North Beach, Maryland on the boardwalk. I wanted to be certain he had nice long walk before departure. Tanner and I walked for 45 minutes in all.
Walking Tanner at the Beach in Maryland before our departure.
Practicing Putting Together the Crate
Also on my list was to practice building his travel crate. Since Tanner refused to get into the crate when it was fully put together, we were forced to build it around him. In the end this worked out well, but sucked away time at the airport.
Comfort and Nourishment
A requirement of shipping your pet in cargo is to tape a ziploc bag of food on top of the crate. In addition you are expected to tape a bottle of water to the top, with your name and information, and a zerox copy of all official pet entry documents.
We started at Dulles with a quick walk for Tanner to pee. I couldn’t find any grass so we walked the crazy concrete strip on the opposite side of the traffic. (Since then I found a FAR better spot.)
From there we got him in the bottom portion of the crate and began building it around him. He did REALLY well. The crate was very simple, it took only hand tightened toggle bolts and nuts. More difficult was finding a bottle of water to tape on top of the crate.
Somewhere in the early stages, before I walked Tanner my family stayed with him while I inquired about his check in. I knew waiting in a two hour line of people was not an option so I found an agent to ask and discovered we would be checked in away from the crowd in the executive area.
Pet Check In
It is a relatively straight forward check in process, but it is very time consuming. We arrived two and a half hours before departure and I found myself running to the gate twenty minutes before departure, praying I’d make our flight. (I did)
There is paperwork for the crate, there is also a claim check, that looks like a bag tag. In addition the agents make a copy of the all official paperwork, (that goes to customs officials in the country you will reside in. )
TSA For Pets In Cargo
Under normal circumstances I believe an airline agent takes your pet through the TSA check point, because the airline was swamped with extra passengers from two cancelled flights and we were only 45 min from departure the agent had me go with the baggage handler to get Tanner through TSA. (I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it. I felt happier having the time with Tanner out of the crate.)
I had forgotten that pets have to come out of the crate, so that the crate can be run through security. After all I’d done to get him in the crate, and his stubbornness at home about getting into the crate, I was nervous. I prayed a lot as we walked the five minutes to Pet TSA. I took him out of the crate as they instructed and then was given a happy surprise that they have an outdoor fake grass area that is fenced and even includes a doggy fire hydrant for your dog to pee on. (of course after I sprint out there with Tanner he happily smells but refused to pee. Seriously?
We sprinted back in to Pet TSA and I was praying the whole way, asking every angel to assist in getting Tanner easily and smoothly into his crate. It worked, because he went in, with only a little push on the butt and a few big hugs of love before I said goodbye. From that point he was in the hands of the airline officials, to get him to the cargo boarding area. (Which on my Lufthansa flight was on the right side of the plane under business class.)
Once on board I asked the stewardess’s to confirm that Tanner was on board. Two different stewardess’s came to me to confirm he was indeed on board. I was a very happy dog mom at that point. We were both on board safely.
Though we arrived at the airport at 12:30 and my flight didn’t depart until 3, I never had time to get any lunch. I barely had time to buy a drink at the gate. (Then only because we departed late.) It wasn’t even until the plane was departing the gate that I realized I was starving and had no way to buy or get food until the meal was served. That was the moment I realized how intensely I was focused on Tanner. His safe transport to Frankfurt and Budapest was ALL that mattered to me.
Gate Angels and Issues
My gate agent, Sabina Fisher was an angel. She knew what she was doing, she was kind, compassionate and on the ball about Tanner’s departure. Of course we also had interference, another counter agent was trying to tell me that they would not let Tanner out of his crate and that he would have to sit in the crate for our entire 12 hour layover. (I only slightly freaked out) I knew I’d had two specific conversations with the pet/cargo department at Lufthansa. I had studied extensively their interactive pet care web page on the Lufthansa website. This lady kept trying to convince me that it would be better for us to take a flight much earlier giving Tanner only a two hour layover. I refused, knowing I’d been told his pet care required a five hour minimum layover to be taken out of the crate. It was a scary moment, buying into her nonsense. But, thankfully my intuition, my phone calls and my gate Angel Sabrina made me realize I had to stick to my original plan.
Just as I had been told when I booked our flights Tanner received pet care. I confirmed it on arrival this am in Frankfurt. Another very nice gate agent C Vorsheim called two different people to confirm that Tanner was off the plane and at the Pet Care station. He would be walked, fed and given time to rest before re boarding tonight.
Not For the Faint of Heart
This process is not for those who give up easily. It requires many phone calls and a good BS detector. When I got an answer I believed was BS I kept calling and kept asking additional people for information. It always paid off. I learned through talking to multiple people that there were certain flights on particular planes that are better for pet travel. (These planes cool down faster after take off.) We took that plane/flight thanks to a pet relocation agent I spoke to.
For me there was never any option but to bring Tanner on this move. I love him more than life it’s self so whatever I had to do was worth the time, energy, money spent. (over six hundred dollars ) Flight $400, Crate $179, Supplies $60 +. Travelers who want to avoid the hassles use a pet relocation company which costs between $2000 and $4000. I felt that cost was out of the question. I would have only done it if I moved to another more complicated area of the world with more difficult entry requirements and longer flights.
In my opinion an international pet move is something that anyone can do with patience, persistence and love.