“Cats don’t like change…without their consent.” ~Roger Caras
My cat only speaks Spanish.
This is a loose reference to Baxter the dog in Anchorman (the movie), and a constant joke in our household. And besides, I can’t understand a word my cat says, much like my Colombian in-laws.
And that’s both good and bad. Bad because she’s moving to Japan, where she won’t be able to get away with feigning ignorance of indigenous language. Good because I don’t understand the bitching I’m sure she’s doing while we are packing…and that to come while we are moving.
And she also doesn’t understand how closely she came to NOT going to Japan with us. You see, the Navy and the government are involved in most every aspect of this move. Need I say more?
Way back when, months ago, when Jody put in our travel request, we made it very clear that we were traveling with pets. Nothing abnormal that would or should cause any concern, like, say, an Asian Tiger, for either the Navy or the somewhat proud owners of a smallish female Tabby who, in our backyard, tends to think of herself as said Asian Tiger….
If you agree, you’d think wrong.
You see, the first hurdle in traveling with pets to Japan is actually with the Japanese. However, having been there – with cats (yes, plural, *sigh*) – I had a leg-up on those requirements. Time being the main concern.
While I understand that no country wants to import animals with disease, how is it that the humans they do allow in are not screened at all? It’s a very odd situation if you think about it. Aids, SARS, influenza, hepatitis, typhoid, small pox, yellow fever, chicken pox; one would think all these diseases would be at least of equal concern! However, Cleo, our cat (“Cleopatra” is her full name, sister to Alex “Alexander the Great,” who went missing 15 months ago *SIGH*), has these requirements placed on her:
- Be micro-chipped…. Check.
- Have two rabies shots…30 days apart, and prior to 6 months entering the country…. Check.
- Have a blood titer drawn and confirmed…at least 180 days prior to import…. Check.
- Submit notification to import a domestic animal to Japanese authorities…and have it approved…at least 10 days prior to travel…. Check (ApprovalNonF_EN_sofa).
- See a USDA-certifying vet within tens days of travel to have issues an International Health Certification (which itself is only good for 10 days)…. That’s for next week….
However, the most important requirement is to figure out transportation for your animal so that she can actually get to Okinawa!
Okay, not hard. Many families in the military have pets, and surely the Navy knows how to arrange transportation!
Not for us.
We get our flight arrangements – finally – after waiting like 2 months, and we are being forced to utilize a military charter flight referred to as “AMC:” Air Mobility Command. While this is nothing more than a chartered commercial airliner, complete with civilian aircrew, it is the biggest red-ass you can ever imagine. More on that in a bit, or, better yet, see my previous blog on AMC buffoonery!
Fine. Red our asses, Navy, it’s all part of the “fun.”
Except our cat is “not confirmed.”
What? What the hell does that mean? Unfortunately for Jody and I, we mistook or misinterpreted the flight email to imply that they would keep trying to confirm our pet…mainly because that’s exactly what it said. You know what “they” say though, don’t you: you can’t trust the government.
After weeks of hearing nothing, and after fighting the Navy for some domestic travel arrangements that actually make sense, and after planning to spend a day getting to Seattle, getting a hotel room, and then catching the AMC flight the next morning, we finally call about our pet and, well, they’re sorry, but “they” made mission by getting us on an AMC flight, and that “they” were worry but the pet is really “our concern.”
There is only one flight a week to Okinawa from the states, at least on AMC. Fine. I understand that quite possibly – although I remain unconvinced – it is cheaper than commercial ticketing. However, why on earth would “they” not put on us an AMC flight that had a pet allocation for us? The flight the week before AND week after both had room for our pet, but changing our plans so late in the game would cause a whole cascade of issues. Like pet-friendly room-arrangements in Okinawa. Like we already have a renter for our house and we have nowhere to live. Like the moves are all set up and we are losing the vast majority of our schtick! Changing the AMC flight is really not an option, or, not a very good option.
Oh, but the Navy has a solution: we are allowed to “delay up to 20 days en route.” So, this is what “they” expect, given this authority. We go to Seattle, and hope that, by using some form of Harry Potter magic that a pet slot opens on our flight (not likely). If not, we stay in a hotel – in a city we don’t know, without a car but with a cat, who relies on an international health certificate that is only good for 10 days, AND, to be renewed, has to be done by a military vet OR a USDA official…. Really? It’s really beyond belief that this is an approach that the Navy would take, an approach that would negate any cost-savings from flying AMC since “they” would be reimbursing us for hotel and per diem fees!!
Okay, Plan B…C…and maybe Q.
First. Can we send the cat as cargo? Oddly enough, we can. It is not easy, nor cheap, AND, the cat can only be sent once we are in-country in Japan, so we would have to rely on some very good friends to help us out. We don’t have many of those.
Next. How can we get out of the AMC flight? The one that requires TWO days of travel and showing up for a flight at 2:30am for an 8:30am departure (true story), AND, stops twice in Japan before we get to Japan? Well, there’s an instruction called the “Defense Travel Regulations….”
The DTRs state that the “mode” of dependent travel cannot be specified, or at least cannot be specified to either a military aircraft or military contracted aircraft. So, I play the “I’m not playing your game Navy and you can’t make me play” game! This would result in Jody, as the active duty servicemember having still to fly AMC, but me – and Cleo the non-English speaking cat – to fly commercial. Fine.
Before forcing the issue, Jody has the good (common) sense to contact her detailer (the person in charge of the permanent change of station) to ask some advice. Her detailer has an even better, if not graceful solution: “circuitous travel.” This means that we fly commercial, that we pick the routing and flights (where we can ensure that Cleo has a seat as well), and that we avoid two full days of travel (for only one) and the silly-assed rules and requirements that the Navy puts on flying AMC….
So, after three more days coordinating pet travel with two different airlines and agricultural officials at Narita airport in Tokyo, Cleo is going with us. But nothing’s quite that easy, is it? One leg requires us to have our cat in the cabin, while another requires us to put her in the cargo hold. So, we will be hand-carrying a soft carrier and checking a hard-case! That’s a lot of luggage for an eleven pound cat.
Who doesn’t even wear clothes or use a toiletry kit.
The water bowl however can always be half-full. Even though we don’t have a military vet in Pensacola and now have to travel 1.5 hours (each way) to Eglin AFB for Cleo’s health certificate – and she really hates car rides, we are all traveling together on this great adventure. And I’m sure that Jody is, at least, relieved to have Cleo with us physically in the cabin most of the way. After all, family is family, and while the Navy doesn’t seem to realize or acknowledge this, our pets are every bit part of our families as we are.
Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” I’m not sure what Gandhi would think of our situation, but…
…I sure am glad Cleo only speaks Spanish. She remains blissfully ignorant of moral issues involved in her moving to Okinawa!
- “Military Intelligence is a contradiction in terms.” ~Groucho Marx (fareastfling.me)
- USO Northwest will move to bigger space at Sea-Tac Airport (bizjournals.com)