Friday, September 2, 2016

The pup

Fun Fact: the dog population in Tel Aviv has tripled in the past 20 years

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  I'm not going to go into *extreme* details because it could very well turn into a 20 chapter novel, however, if you ever want more details or advice around flying your dog - whether you're moving or not - reach out to me. I mean it, I'm passionate about it.

Immediately upon learning that our move to TLV was a 'for sure' thing, I began the extensive research process around what would go into bringing our husky pup Kai along with us (there was never a doubt that she was coming).  All countries have different rules and regulations - Israel falls somewhere in the middle in regards to the strictness and complexity of their import rules, at least that's what I've been told.

The planning started months out.  There were strict timelines around certain shots/when lab tests had to be sent, etc.  The last ten days possibly took a month or two off of my life, as she needed a Health Certificate no more than 10 days prior, then the USDA had to sign off on all of the paperwork (I had to drive up to PA for this) and then 2 days prior to flying all paperwork had to be faxed to Ben Gurion Airport in TLV to be approved.

Ben Gurion's fax wasn't working... so after a few international phone calls, and some googling, I found that their fax actually never works. I spoke with one Israeli who basically told me 'not to worry about it' which wasn't the answer I was going to accept.  I eventually ended up getting an email address, that immediately bounced back to me saying the inbox was full.

After a few more persistent phone calls and re sending the email about 10 times, I got the OK from the Veterinary Inspector at the airport. 

My biggest worry (I'm not joking I sometimes laid awake at night running through worst-case scenarios of Kai's first flight) was the water situation.  The flight from Newark to Tel Aviv (we drove up to Newark so that she would be making zero connections) is roughly 10 hours on a good day, gate to gate.  We had to drop her off 3 hours minimum prior to the flight.... plus tack another hour on upon landing, that's 14 straight hours in her crate.  A MASSIVE crate for the record - I could sleep in it if I needed to.

The dog drinks more water than I do, so the tiny ass plastic water bowl that comes with the 'travel kit' wasn't going to cut it.  Not to mention she ripped it off and chewed it up upon our first time leaving her in that crate.

(Panic ensued, I then ordered 3 different travel bowls online to try)

Long story short, I ended up leaving her with 2 metal water bowls on her crate door - United filled both with ice upon her boarding - another plastic water bowl on the side, that I had frozen the night before so that it would slowly thaw... and a hamster waterbottle feeder (also frozen) that I zip-tied onto the outside (because again, she had ripped it off several times in the past) with the nozzle sticking through the crate.

Yes, it was a lot, but better safe than sorry.

I was crying when we entered the Pet Safe office at Newark to drop her off.  If you aren't a dog person judge away, but if you are then you understand dropping your 9 month old puppy off to be put in a plane for 10 hours is heart wrenching.  I'm going to give the Newark office props, because I think they deserve it - the lady I dealt with was great, she reassured me several times, and allowed me to take out Kai twice while we were waiting for them to come take her away.

Her words were "Heck, I think our program is so great I would fly via. Pet Safe if I could"
Unsure why you would opt to fly down under the plane, but I appreciated the reassurance.

Once she was carted away, there wasn't much more we could do besides drink some wine and get ourselves through the next 12 hours.  Prior to boarding, the employees at the gate verified that Kai had been boarded into her temperature-controlled room under the plane - separate from luggage. Regardless, I didn't sleep much, grimaced anytime there was turbulence, and watched the screen on the back of the seat in front of me slowly track our progress across the Atlantic.

Upon landing, it took roughly 45 minutes until we were reunited with Kai. We stood by the over-sized baggage area, and all of a sudden a large garage door opened and Kai was carted in on one of those trucks that are always zipping all over airports.  I saw her little head watching through her side window, probably wondering WTF happened the past 12 hours, but looking perfectly fine nonetheless.  Upon seeing us she starting barking and I again started crying, and the rest is history.

Kai splashing around in the Mediterranean Sea at a local dog beach
Some other time I'll write about why Tel Aviv is actually an awesome dog city (or you can google it, it's actually insane how dog-friendly it is), but in short her transition has been pretty easy. Not to mention she's made my own transition easier - I honestly can't imagine not having her as a companion out here.  She's a handful, but we love her, and can't wait to go on more adventures with her.

Anyways, that's my moving Kai to Israel story.  Hope you have an awesome long weekend!

Cheers - 

Below is a list of specific advice that I kind of just want out on the internet for those who may need it or be interested. 

- I strongly recommend not to get too deep into the online reviews of the different airlines.  EVERY airline has haters, as well as lovers - but who are the people taking the time to actually get on there?  The haters. I read some scary reviews about the United Pet Safe program, but at the end of the day it seemed to be the most used program to ship pets, and our best bet for a direct flight.
- Know that crate requirements are different per airlines and per domestic vs. international travel. Read crate reviews and know what you are buying. Sizing definitely matters.
- Buy the dog's travel crate a month or two before you fly, so that they can sleep in it at home and get familiar with it.  Try out the different travel bowls as well and find out what works best for your pup.
- Our vet (and it seems most vets) won't really recommend much when it comes to sedating.  Airlines will not fly dogs if they 'look sedated' however, you will find there are things you can try to help them remain calm/more chill.  We experimented with children's Benadryl prior (it makes some dogs actually more hyper, hence why we tried it first) and it chilled Kai out a bit, but not to the point that she was knocked out or didn't have her bearings.  Therefore, we gave her two Benadryl (50 mg total - they say one MG per pound) about three hours prior to the flight.  I also put a pheromone collar on her because why not - you can read more about those here.
- Kai is super high-energy, another reason I was so worried about putting her in a crate for so long.  I did some research, and found a dog park actually fairly close to Newark... so we got up to the area roughly 6 hours before our flight so that she could eat, run around and wear herself down.  I'm actually really glad that we did that.
- $$$ - without going into exact numbers, it's expensive to fly a dog.  Even outside of her actual ticket, the crate, the vet bills, etc. - all of that added up.  Obviously you can't put a price tag on having your best friend with you in your new home, but it's something to keep in mind going into it, to prepare for.

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