Right now, I am on what can be considered an extended home leave, in between our first post in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and language training for our second post in Belgrade, Serbia — and it is a strange feeling. I am back in the US with our silly little Uzbek dog as my husband finishes up his tour. I was extremely nervous about the trip. Traveling with an animal is never easy, nor is traveling from Uzbekistan to the US. Take the two together, and it is a recipe for some very anxious (and often sleepless) nights and stressful moments.
In April, we managed to get the tickets booked for my July trip, and that was not without its headaches, but after numerous phone calls, emails, arguments, and waivers, tickets were issued. In the months and weeks leading up to our departure date, I periodically called Lufthansa to verify that she was on my itinerary and that everything was still set: the last thing I wanted was to be stranded in Frankfurt with a puppy! These calls culminated in a final conversation with Nicole, a helpful Lufthansa representative, about twelve hours before we were picked up for the airport. I knew I wouldn’t be able to check in for the second flight before arriving to the airport, but Nicole was able to give me a seat assignment (and verify Scarlett’s presence on my booking), so I felt much more comfortable.
Before leaving Uzbekistan, we had to get Scarlett an Uzbek health certificate, which would be exchanged at the airport for an “international” one, and a document saying she is of no value to the Republic of Uzbekistan. As if she were a carpet or other culturally important artifact instead of a dog. Fortunately, we had no problems obtaining these documents, even at the last minute. At the airport, there were no problems with Scarlett — all 4.6 kilos of her, carrier and all — but Uzbekistan Airways said that my reservation had been canceled, although it didn’t seem to be a huge problem and I was soon checked in. It did make me worry (for the entire flight) about Scarlett’s reservation for the next leg, even though Grant said he would call and talk with the airline ahead of time. (Note: he did, and they said everything was fine.)
The flight itself was surprisingly normal, considering I had a puppy sleeping/crying/looking at me with sad eyes at my feet. She was loud and kind of annoying during takeoff and I was thankful that the seat next to me was empty. After a while, I took her out of the carrier and let her sleep on my lap. One of the flight attendants saw her and said, “cute dog!” so I figured it was okay to keep her out Another passenger even asked if she could hold Scarlett for a little.
In Frankfurt, things got a little more complicated but everyone I encountered was incredibly helpful, and I was very appreciative of a nice security guy who had me cut the line: Scarlett was crying so pitifully, it almost broke my heart. I was sent all over the place (and had to go through the same security checkpoint multiple times during the running around) to find someone who could check me in, give me a boarding pass, and allow me to pay for Scarlett. This someone was pleasant enough even though she almost made me cry when she informed me that I didn’t have a seat and would be on standby because the flight was overbooked.
I explained that I had called and gotten a seat assignment and that because of my traveling companion I really couldn’t make my trip longer than it already was. She said they should be able to figure things out at the gate. Should. Yikes. On the way back to the gate, we took a bathroom break (I lined a baby changing room with doggie pee pads and let Scarlett do her thing so she could go, too), and when we arrived, I explained the most recent version of the situation and was told I would get a seat assignment shortly. Phew.
Since dogs are allowed out of their carriers at the Frankfurt airport, as long as they are leashed, Scarlett and I played with her snowman toy as we waited. She gained quite a few admirers and made a number of new friends before boarding, which I hoped would give us the benefit of the doubt if she became upset on the flight.
She wasn’t allowed out of her carrier on the flight, per Lufthansa’s rules, so I spent about two-thirds of the flight with the carrier on my lap and my arm inside to comfort her when she was upset. She wasn’t exactly a happy camper, but she was good enough that one of the flight attendants in my section didn’t realize I had a dog until I was exiting the plane!
It took quite some time to go through passport control, collect my bags, and go through customs. Poor Scarlett was very upset the whole time: I knew she had to go to the bathroom but there was nothing I could do until we were out of the airport. Customs was not difficult; even though I had to declare her, all the guys needed to see was proof of her rabies vaccine, which Grant and I had gotten translated before I left (plus it was on the health certificate). The trip was long but I was a proud mama in the end. Scarlett has been exploring a lot and is getting settled into life here, although I know she misses her daddy!
Welcome to America, Scarlett!