Thinking the Unthinkable and Preparing for Plan B (PCS’ing Without Blue)

Blue and [S], best buddies.
When we began this journey, bringing Blue to Okinawa with us was non-negotiable.  In turn, we were reassured that–if we jumped through some hoops–he would be able to make the trip.  We did as we were instructed; we started early.   We made appointments with the base veterinarian, shots were given, tests completed.  Everything was on track.

But we still had to arrange to transport Blue from San Diego to Okinawa.  Alas, the long wait.  When we were booked on the chartered AMC flight, Blue was booked with us.  But my Husband wasn’t.  And we were booked on a flight to the incorrect destination.  We fared no better trying to make reservations for the four of us on a commercial flight.  American Airlines doesn’t fly pets to Japan.  We were then booked on a flight that allows pets and a reservation for Blue to fly as cargo was made.  But the second leg of the trip was coded in such a way that we were unable to make reservations for Blue from Narita (Tokyo) to Okinawa.

To ensure Blue would be permitted to enter into Japan, we submitted our 40-day advance notification to the Animal Quarantine Service.  Within three business days we received our approval to bring Blue into the country, an e-mail detailing where to go upon arrival, and a map of the airport.  Unsurprisingly, it appears that Japanese government efficiency puts our government to shame.

This week–a month after our first flight reservation was made–we were booked on all pet-friendly flights.  We only had to arrange for Blue to fly from Narita to Naha (Okinawa).  This morning I sat at my computer, picked up the phone and rang All Nippon Airways. Yes, a reservation was made for Blue under my Husband’s ticket.  Yes, I would like a call back to confirm that there was space on the domestic flight.  Yes, the fee would not be an issue.  I hung up with a feeling of lightness that comes only from ensuring your entire family is traveling together, without issue.

My husband and I have spent numerous hours speaking with airlines, civilian government employees, travel office agents, and third party pet movers, attempting to move heaven and earth to get us all on the same flight.  And it had paid off.  Finally.

Minutes later my silent moment of victory was shattered by the ringing of my mobile phone.  Yoko, the customer service agent with whom I previously had spoken, politely informed me that because our pet and his kennel exceeded 100 pounds in weight, he would not be permitted on the flight.  There were no exceptions.  He was not permitted to fly as cargo.  We could not pay an extra fee to allow him passage.

According to airline requirements Blue requires a giant kennel (series 700).  It is the largest, non-custom made kennel on the market, measuring 48″ in length x 35″ in height  x 32″ in width, and weighs 42.5 pounds.  Some pet transporters and airlines alike have suggested he would fit in a smaller extra large kennel.  But I’ve measured him more than a dozen times, as has my Husband and my Father.  Each of us separately reaching the conclusion that Blue won’t meet international standards flying in a smaller kennel.  And there’s the rub.

As someone once said, a real problem is one that cannot be resolved with money.  We cannot in good faith attempt to put Blue in a smaller kennel and risk that he is prohibited from flying with us.  So while we continue to work the phones to find a solution, we need a Plan B, for his sake and ours.  We need to find someone willing and able to love and care for him until we return.

My heart aches when I contemplate leaving Blue in the States, no matter how good of a home for him we find.  But I can’t help but wonder whether his remaining in the States is in his best interest, regardless of my (very selfish) feelings.

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