If you ever want to lose your mind, try moving to Tokyo with two dogs in the middle of summer.
First of all, let me say this, "it is NOT easy to import pets into Japan"! Overall the entire process takes over 7 months. It starts with loving your pets enough to jump through all the hoops, but personally, I believe that pets are family--so it's a no brainer. Unfortunately there are some people who choose to rehome their dog/cat (or worst of all, take them to the pound!) I hate those people and refuse to acknowledge them anymore.
For starters, my dogs had to get "international" microchips. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the microchip my dog Brutus, who traveled internationally many times and even lived in Italy for three years, was not an "international microchip." Go figure! So they got new microchips $$ Then comes a rabies vaccine for each $$ Thirty days later, a second rabies vaccine $$ two weeks later, a blood test to prove that they actually DON'T have rabies $$ (as if they could after being pumped with so much vaccine over a 45 day period?) Then the clock begins as you ever so slowly wait day by day for 180 days…in "quarantine".
People always asked about the 180 days of quarantine, like just what in the hell does that even entail? Umm, nothing really. For 180 days they just lived their regular dog lives. They stayed at home like normal, went outside like normal, went for car rides, etc. Most people think (I know I did) that the quarantine period meant that they would have to be shipped off to live in a cage in some cold laboratory or kennel. Thank god, No. However, should I have tried to import the dogs into Japan before the 180 day period was up, then they would have gone to a legit quarantine facility. There they would have lived in a cage at a kennel type facility until the 180 day time period was reached. Plus you have to pay $$ for each pet for each day there until the 180 days is up--sounds like expensive dog prison.
Fast forward past the pages of required documents and $80 of international faxes, to the slow passage of time that brings the 180 day quarantine period to an end. Last but not least, final vet visits to receive import paperwork, health certificates $$ and doggie airline reservations $$$$. Airlines have a lot of rules about flying with pets, rules that can make your life borderline miserable—Delta specifically. Moshi is small enough that he is able to fly under the seat in front of me in the cabin. Funny thing is though, that he counts as one of my carry-on items and cost $200. What the hell? Right? Because of Brutus’s size, his only option is to fly under the plane where the suitcases are…the suitcases that people pay a mere $25 to put under there…it costs $200 for Brutus. “But they’re family!” how can I put a price on their comfort and wellbeing (credit card limit, that’s how). Some other rules about flying with pets are the restriction of breeds that can fly and during what time of year. Luckily I never got that French Bulldog that I wanted so badly a few years ago, because they’re on the restricted breed list including other snub nosed breeds like pugs, bulldogs, shihtzus, Boston terriers, and a bunch of others. The other restriction that Delta has is the weather (which I totally understand, I want my dogs to be safe) meaning it can’t be colder than 10 degrees or hotter than 85 degrees.
This year in the Puget Sound, there was a bit of a heat wave where there were days on end over 90 degrees. In Tokyo the summer temperatures are usually in the high 80’s and 90’s. So this is where the misery kicks in…. the waiting. All the flight reservations are booked and paid for. The six suitcases are packed. I’m checking the weather reports every day just hoping that Seattle and Tokyo will have projected high temperatures under 85 degrees, or everything is a bust! If it’s too hot for Brutus to travel it’s back to a hotel where I’d be on the phone with Delta, rebooking myself and the dogs, faxing more papers to Japan to change their import dates, going back to the vet for new health certificates (they’re only good for a few days), and oh yeah, crying. I’m sure I’d definitely be crying!
So about 10 days out I start checking, like several times a day. Luckily temperatures in Seattle are going back to normal so it looks like I shouldn’t have to worry about the temperature on that side. Tokyo is going to be the problem. The ten day forecast has temperatures of 92, 89, 88, 91, and one day 86! I got pretty excited, 86 is pretty close to 85. I had a small spark of optimism glows in my pessimistic heart. About 5 days out, something happened, I don’t know what, a miracle maybe. The Tokyo forecast for the day I flew out and the day I was arriving had dropped down to 82 and 84 degrees. I actually started to think it might all work out. Two days out, and the forecast was down to 77 and 79 for those two days—just those two days. It was like Mother Nature was giving me a break, and you’re reading this so you know it worked out in the end. The stars aligned and the weather cooperated. Moshi, Brutus, and I all were able to board our flight and relax (they relaxed because they both had Xanex)!