Thursday, April 17, 2008

18 December: Cody Comes Home

John took his car down to the tire shop first thing in the morning to swap out his old flat-spotted tires. We ran some errands and then left in the mid-afternoon to drive the minivan to the Lufthansa Cargo facility near the Detroit airport, where we were scheduled to meet Cody around 4:00. We arrived about fifteen minutes early, checked in with the Lufthansa people, and waited in the car until a brown minivan showed up with Cody’s crate. We watched them unload Cody into a huge warehouse but couldn’t go see him until we took his paperwork over to the customs office at the airport for clearance. We had to sneak by and hope that he didn’t recognize us on our way out. (Yes, this is a totally convoluted process. We had to pick up Cody’s paperwork at the cargo facility, drive to the airport to clear customs, and then come back to the cargo facility to retrieve him. The customs agents never actually see the dog.) Meanwhile poor Cody had been in his crate for something like twelve hours, and we just hoped that he could hold out a little longer.

We parked at the terminal and found the customs office, where I handed over Cody’s pet passport and shipping paperwork to a surly female customs agent behind a glass window. She flipped through the passport for a minute and then said that there was nothing there to indicate that Cody had come from the U.S. I responded that we were working with a pet moving company and were not aware that we needed to provide such information. She insisted that we either had to provide evidence that he had come from the U.S. originally, or proof that he was worth less than $1,500 (there are additional requirements for show animals and those brought into the country for breeding purposes). Obviously we had none of this documentation, since all of Cody’s old shipping paperwork was still somewhere in Germany with our belongings, and proving what we paid for him would require searching through five-year-old files at home. I was furious and about to give the customs agent a piece of my mind, when John stepped in and said that we should call Air Animal (but not before telling the woman that he believed she was dead wrong about the requirements). I was fortunately able to reach our Air Animal rep on the phone immediately, despite it being close to 5:00. She was dumbfounded by the customs agent’s demands (her exact words were, “No one has ever asked for that information before”), but was quickly able to retrieve Cody’s shipping information from September 2005 and faxed it to the customs office. After several anxious minutes, the woman called us back to the window, handed back Cody’s paperwork with his customs clearance, and told us we were free to go.

Fuming but relieved, we returned to the Lufthansa facility, handed our paperwork and $40 in cash to the woman at the counter, and were finally free to be reunited with Cody. He had some water in his dish and sprang out of his crate, clean, dry and happy to see us. We quickly took him outside to piddle, amazed that he had made it all the way across the ocean yet again without having an accident in his crate. We loaded him into the minivan for the drive home, which took considerably longer in rush-hour traffic. Cody ran right up to the front door like he’d never been gone.

Both pets seemed to refamiliarize themselves with our house almost instantly, finding all of their favorite lounging spots and enjoying the view out to the back yard. Shipping Cody back and forth across the big pond has frankly been one of the most stressful parts of this whole process, but he has come through with flying colors both times!

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