Thursday, July 31, 2008
Maggie's odyssey--by Lisa
After a long journey (mentally and physically) Maggie is finally a Parisian dog. She seems to have come through it better than anyone! Months and months ago, after learning the Queen Mary had no more kennel room, we began to explore other options for getting her to France. We finally came up with sending her cargo and picked Northwest because it was cheaper, and because she could go direct from Detroit to Paris, only spending about 8 hrs in the air, and we had willing family in Michigan to care for her and get her to the plane. Cargo, to us, meant she would fly in the plane with other animals, packages, maybe an employee. I was imagining the FedEx cargo flight Tom Hanks was on in Castaway, without the crash. I carefully combed through the French Embassy and Consulate paperwork on the rules and forms. It all seemed pretty simple and straightforward: Rabies shot, exam, international microchip, paperwork signed by a vet, no quarantine. And we had a 4 month window to get it done. She made 2 trips to the Ashland vet to get ready. Paperwork copied for all who would be caring for her. Before we left Michigan we learned Northwest had a tighter window--10 days between exam and flight. The other potential glitch was temperature--they would not put her on if the temp was over 85. The seemingly sane bureaucracy (oxymoron?) takes a turn:
New exam scheduled in Michigan, new papers dated w/in 10 day window. Dog still healthy, good to go. Arrangements made amongst family about getting her to Detroit, all good. She travels to Detroit, refused by Northwest because papers (so thoughtfully researched, completed and explained) are not "stamped". She goes back to Holland. We are informed at 1am, angry and sleepless. Irie informed when she wakes up, cries. It is now the weekend. Michigan vet not USDA certified so papers must travel to Lansing to get "stamped". "Stamping" can take weeks, and we have the 10 day window. On Monday appointment made to get papers stamped, they will be hand delivered. Tuesday is paper appointment in Lansing, then on to Detroit with fingers crossed that papers will be good enough to let her leave the country. Then Northwest warns the temperature may be too high and it's likely to get hotter the rest of the week. Situation getting tight as 10 day window has 1 day left. She goes anyway with positive thoughts surrounding her. We get a call at 4am, she's on her way.
Wednesday in Paris. Commute ourselves to pick up rental car, negotiate Parisian highways including Le Périphérique ("Beltway" to you East Coasters) to Charles de Gaulle airport. Find Terminal 2E where flight has landed, 15 minutes early. Pretty easy parking garage, lovely air conditioned building, equally lovely airline hostess who escorts us back to baggage claim to find dog. Oops, no dog. Another calm and lovely baggage office person tells us since Maggie did not accompany us she is "freight" and has been or will be (which verb tense did she use?) taken to Freight Area where we have to go get her.
Find the car, try to pay €3,50 but can't because machine does not accept change, nor does it accept our American bank card. (We have a French bankcard, it is sitting in Strasbourg at our "branch".) We are sitting behind an exit bar, hoping another car doesn't come behind us and honk. There is a call button! A very nice man helps us pay in the kiosk (what if it had been after hours?), gives a map and reassurance that finding Freight Area 6 will not be too hard. Bien marqué--well marked! Well, the map, with all its winding loops and off ramps looks like a plate of spaghetti with no sauce, and the well marked signs lead us to Freight Area 1. But we inch our way along, never discouraged, even when bien marqué shows us areas to Freight 4, 5 and 7. Where is 6??? We approximate with 5 (which is prelude for the rest of the day) and somehow find 6.
A series of security guards and doors later we finally find "imports" for Northwest. Very nice lady tells me we must go to customs. I'm thinking we have to go back to the terminal and can only collapse my head in my hands. She becomes nicer, says "ne pas problem" customs is only a couple buildings away, we can walk (smart lady not involving us in those one-way spaghetti loops again). It is hot. These buildings are not air conditioned or posh. There are trucks, gates and security guards to negotiate. I feel my French has hit an all time low as we get door after door wrong, all the while seeming to get closer but not really getting there. Like a nightmare asymptote. By this time it is "le chien"--THE dog. Everyone knows there is a dog, but where is the dog? It seems like they know but we keep going to the wrong door! We get to customs at 12:31. Lunchtime! I go back to outside hot (temperature!) security guard, getting tearful as I ask him if this is really the customs office. No, wrong door, it's over there. Trudging on. Customs is buzzing as the young workers are going off to lunch, but sanely and incredibly, the window has not closed for lunch. We are greeted with "bonjour" by every functionere who works there. I have no clue what we did there but we got ANOTHER paper and went back to Imports. Very nice lady still there, maybe she delayed her lunch because we were so pathetic. Our American credit card is accepted for import tax and she says "go through that door and get your dog." We go onto loading dock and there she is, quietly in her crate, surrounded by workers. She barks when she sees us. The workers tell me they weren't sure if she had been drugged so didn't want to give her any water. When I assure them no meds they find her some water. She is alert, fairly clean (just a little poop on her butt and towels and toy) and robust. She is quiet on the way back to Paris and I have to turn and remind myself we have a dog in the car. When Rick originally booked Maggie's flight he was told "it could take up to 2 hrs to process before you can get her." It took us 1.5 hrs.
Maggie and the apartment. She has settled in nicely. She likes the cool concrete floors. She met one of the cats right away and was scratched. She retaliated by drinking all the cat's water and starting to eat the cat's food. She tolerated that flight better than the cross country car ride.
Maggie and the streets of Paris. She gets some looks--many people are taken aback and the few comments we've had I think these Parisians think she is a wolf. Other people rightly admire her as the gorgeous dog she is. "Elle est sympa"--she is nice--seems to do the trick. She also gets friendlier looks when Irie walks her--if a kid can manage "le loup"--wolf--she must be tame. We got kicked out of the grassy area of the park, only little dogs--whatever that means--can go onto the grass.
So, France and the rules, not liking that so much. Again, the lesson that personal relationships carry the day: our family--Rick's parents, Lisa's sister, Randy, and especially Lisa's mom--really stepped up for us; it's ok to show emotion like fatigue and worry to the office lady and she will help out; chat with the guy who has bad teeth and a weird looking dog and he will not be afraid of yours.