Our flights and transporting the dog went off more or less without a hitch this time. Experience gave us enough time and knowledge to have all our papers and vet visits in order, though mailing and sending some other documents to various government offices was a bit more tedious... The Secretary of State said that I needed a "more recent" version of my birth certificate--like I had one down the front of my pants, or something--in order to get an apostille for it, which I need for my Dutch residence papers. I don't know about you, but I don't take a lot of confidence in the US mail, sending my original birth certificate around during the holiday season... so I kind of intentionally procrastinated on that one, and everything I'm not going to be there to receive is being routed to my mom. (So, thanks, Mom.)
Travelling with a large dog is a PAIN. IN. THE. ASS. If you're travelling from Europe to America, generally all they want is a clean bill of health within 3 days and proof of current rabies shots. Going from America to the EU though, they want to know that your pet is microchipped, has rabies vaccinations, has a multilingual health statement, pet passport, and a health report stamped and notarized by the State Veterinarian, which, as I've personally found out before, is ONE GUY in all of Arizona. (And once again, around the holidays. Poor guy.) Overall, this is a lot of stress to add to a so-called vacation.
The airlines don't make it any easier on you, needing to check your dog in 48 hours before the flight. When I flew with Kayenta previously on Delta, they needed me to call 24 hours or more in advance to reserve space for her on the plane. KLM's policy was more strict, needing over 48 hours advance notification. Arno noticed this as he was reading some notes about our reservations, but them forgot to remind me about this, so when I called in the day before our flight--only about 15 hours ahead--they said there wasn't any way to guarantee Kayenta a spot on the plane. The lady I talked to was kind enough to tell me that the best thing to do, if possible, was to take the dog to the airport, ready to go, and see if they could fit her in at that time. Arno's brother-in-law was so very kind--he took us to the airport at 5 in the morning, dog, dog crate, 2 large suitcases... we were really dumb in booking our flight to leave at 8:30 am, not realizing at the time that we'd have to be there three hours ahead of time! Gio hung around long enough to make sure Kayenta got checked through, then helped me assemble the crate and tape down bags of kibble and a bottle of water to the top of the crate--which, by the way, despite instructions, airlines don't really do anything with... you'll have to feed and water your own dog at the point of arrival. I believe I was told by one airline worker that "it's really just for the humanitarian effort," that you know that your pet has food with it. They'll only feed and water the pet within a 24 hour period (though I don't know if that's on top of the 12 hours prior to flight that your dog should not have any food, and 4 hours prior, no water).
Despite Delta's "We don't want your dog vomiting in our plane" policy, we fed and watered her with our taped-on supplies when we reached Detroit, and nothing came back out on the way to Phoenix (that we know of). Detroit Wyane airport, by the way, has a pet-curbing area akin to a prison cell; about 4 ft wide by 8 ft long; outside, but built onto the side of a building in a parking garage next to a service entrance. During the rest of the year, I assume the faucet there works, but the water was shut off so the pipes wouldn't freeze. We had to find this out by ourselves, of course, by Arno injuring himself on the frozen, not-turning faucet. Phoenix Sky Harbor has them beat, hands down. Nonetheless, Kayenta was happy to think outside of her box for a while. Someone had even left a tennis ball in the tiny confined space, and she was happy to chase it a few times before getting shoved back in the crate and passed on to another TSA personnel. I'll let Arno take over from here, and he can finish off the arrival part of our trip. ;)
Having said that, is was a hassle and a half, though Beedoo! took care of most of it. I have to correct one part of Beedoo!'s story, though: I actually had no idea at all that the airline needed to be alerted in advance. I'm taking it all as lessons learned for next time. Should be easier next time, right?
Detroit is where we entered the United States, and thus where we had to go through customs. Now, customs has two parts to it. The first part is about identifying yourself and your reasons for coming to the United States (terrorism is not considered a valid reason). This is where your passport comes in. The second part is about what you bring. Not every good is allowed in the United States, and not everything can be brought in for free. This means you have to pick up all your luggage and take it with you through customs. They will not automatically check them into your connecting flight; you have to collect it and present it to customs.
In our case, the luggage included Kayenta. Now, while I still stood in the 'filthy foreigners' line to have my passport checked, Beedoo! had already passed through the 'noble Americans' line, and I could hear Kayenta wail from her crate in a corner as she saw her mommy wait for our luggage at the baggage carousel. Once I got through, we wheeld the whole caboodle through the second level of customs, where the advantage of wheeling around an enormous dog-filled crate shone through: you get special treatment by officials who seem to figure we've got our hands full as it is. This meant less waiting in lines and less walking around, so I was all good with that.
Anyway, now that we had to re-check the dog, we could water and walk her, and so we did. We got some very complicated instructions to a walking area which was, fortunately, easier to find than the instructions implied. However, Beedoo! was right about the place. I wanted to type that it could not possibly be less pet friendly, but this is, of course, a lie. They could, for instance, have had electrified floors installed, or high pitched whistling noises, or swinging saw blades or some such torture device. If I have anything good to say about the place, it's that it had none of that, so good on Detroit!
The rest of the story is boring: check in the dog, get her back at Sky Harbour at Phoenix. Now, the Sky Harbour dog walking area is a five star hotel compared to the one in Detroit; it's like a tiny little golf course, grass curving gently between unobtrusive fencing. Much better. Can you spot the difference? Thumbs up for Sky Harbour.
Kayenta is a dog that travels well, I think. Oh, she hates it. She hates being left in the crate, she hates being left behind. I mean, look at her...
But she seems to survive the process of flying okay, without any visible traumas or lasting effects. Heck, it can even be exciting:
Honestly, is this the face of a sad doggy?
I've seen more tragedy and despondance when she's not getting a cookie... :)