Adopter and Courier: All about Travel

Though airports and itineraries are daunting to some, I have always found them connected with the ideals of adventure and as such, quite enjoy travel. However, I had never considered the possibility of sharing the mad dash from flight to flight with an animal, let along two dogs. That was intimidating even for me. Overall however, I am happy to report that not only was it surprisingly simple. It was also a fun and fulfilling experience.

In less than a week, actually I think it took all of three days, I was able to reserve spots for two dogs on my AirCanada flight from Seoul to PDX. In the same amount of time, as both dogs had been kept up to date on vaccinations, health papers were processed with little encumbrances. Allison handled the health papers for me. I was incredibly grateful to have that help as it saved me an almost headache with Jelly’s rabies vaccination documentation. In this sense, it was practically to my benefit to offer to courier a second dog as I got help with every aspect of navigating the process for myself. All I had to do was call the airline. Jelly was booked in the cabin with me and Koya was reserved a spot below as “checked luggage.” It took about 15 minutes on the phone per dog (as the reservations were made at different times) and all too soon, the say of the flight arrived.

At the airport, I was grateful to have Allison not only wait with me in the quarantine office- more papers and about 15-20 minutes of wait time. Moreover, it was really nice to have the extra person to help handle luggage carts as I waited in the check in line. It cost $100 CAD (so about $102 USD) to fly Jelly in the cabin. I paid that ahead of time. Koya’s reservation had to be paid at the time of check in and came to 305,000 won, a charge absorbed by her adoptive family.

Koya went on to the “oversize check in” and Jelly and I went through security. She clung to me as the security people pointed and made baby voices about the cute little dog. I arrived 3 hours before my flight and with the small detour in the quarantine office plus a really long check in line, found the timing perfect. I had about 45 minutes to get to my gate. More would have been annoying and less would have been worrisome. Prior to boarding, Jelly and I made a stop in one of the bathrooms where she relieved herself on one of my packed pee pads before we boarded.

I had brought a hard but small carrier for her in the cabin and it actually ended up being about an inch too tall as the new plane has an iron rod that goes under the edge of the seat. I couldn’t get the crate to fit past it. The flight attendant frowned when she saw my knees folded higher than was comfortable as Jelly’s carrier occupied all my leg room.

“Can you push it under the seat.”
“Sorry, it won’t fit.” I showed the flight attendant where it was getting caught on the bar. “It’s okay though, I am happy to be uncomfortable on her behalf.”

The flight attendant just shook her head and muttered something about it going to be a long flight. Later, she found an empty seat and was able to move the person sitting next to me over there so that I was able stretch out over two seats. She cautioned me that I should get a different carrier if I fly with my dog again. I thanked her politely and took advantage of the extra space. This was a luxury I have never experienced when flying sans dog and found it excellent when I wanted to curl up and catch a few hours of sleep.

We transferred in Vancouver Canada. I was a bit concerned about going through customs in Canada when both dogs had health papers appropriate for the States (Canada requires and ISO microchip but has more lenient regulations regarding the timing of the rabies vaccine. It can be administered anytime whereas America requires quarantine if it is more recent than 30 days.) I was pleasantly surprised to find they had a United States customs division within the Canadian airport. In fact, there was even a sign that said “welcome to the United States of America” so though in Canada, I was technically already on American ground.

All the customs checks were done there and were mind-blowingly simple. I went through another x ray check, and then since I had dogs to declare was filtered to a waiting room. There, they showed me a picture of Koya in her crate and said “is this your dog?” I confirmed and they sent me over to get my passport stamped where the clerk hardly glanced at the dogs’ papers. Instead, he talked to me about Korea and how he had been stationed there during his earlier Military years. It was conversation more than anything. And that was it. I was done. I didn’t have to do a second check. As soon as I got my bags in Portland, I could go home straight from the airport. It really was that easy.

In the past, I have always flown through San Francisco. There you have to get your bags, have them searched, and recheck them. Vancouver was amazing. I did none of this. Instead, I declared what I had to declare, did not have to pick up any bags or manhandle Koya’s big crate. It was all transferred for me and an interview, which was more casual than anything else, was all required before I was sent on my way. I seriously cannot emphasize how brilliant is was not to pull heavy bags off a belt and then wheel an ill-steering cart back to a check in when in between flights. Dogs or no gods, Vancouver is an awesome connection.

Koya was kept with the bags. All I got to see was the confirmation picture. However, Jelly and I stopped in a restroom again where I let her go on a pee pad. The airline crew had told me I was not allowed to take her out of her carrier so it was her first opportunity in over 10 hours. With terrier determination she had held it the whole time too.

Our next flight was more of a skip than a jump. It was a tiny plane with only 27 seats and I could hear Koya underneath, barking during take off. At first I thought it was Jelly and was a little surprised as she had been silent the whole way (seriously, pro-traveller dog). Then I realized it was too muffled and could only be Koya. She fell silent after just a few minutes. I think it was the excitement of all the transferring that made her think we were finished before we were.

Since the plane was so small I did not have to wait for my luggage. It was already there by the time I got to the baggage claim. I loaded everything up on a cart, my parents picked me up, and within 15 minutes was home.

Much to my surprise, Koya had not made any mess in her kennel. She had been travelling for over 15 hours and there wasn’t so much as a pee spot that I could tell. She went and played with my parent’s sheltie (who adored her) in the back yard while I got Jelly settled in. Then, my mom and I took the dogs for a walk before Koya was picked up a couple hours later.

I know that Koya, now Roxy is enjoying her new home and am happy to have been the one to help her get there. It is nice to know that at little inconvenience to me, I was able to help her make it to an incredibly different and better quality life. Moreover, from my end, I feel so lucky to have Jelly come home with me. She loves it here. My bed is softer than the one I had in Korea and she has become quite lazy as she sleeps on it almost all day. She even crawls under the covers of my plush down comforter- a luxury I missed having in Korea. The backyard is a fun place for her to explore. Although, she hasn’t quite adjusted to wet grass and flings her back feet up when the water starts to soak in. Though she was a picky eater even with treats, Jelly has become ravenous here in the states. I bought her some organic canned dog food which here is easy to find and she practically dances whenever mealtime rolls around. I took her to the vet just for a brief post flight health examination and also to establish her as a patient. The vet checked her hydration levels and gave her some chicken baby food (which is really good for dogs to rehydrate and nourish after the stress of travelling- hint hint), which Jelly went bezerk over.

The vet was really impressed with Jelly’s story and has invited me to design a flyer pointing clients to ARK should they be interested in adopting internationally. Putting that together is next on my to do list and honestly, I hope that even though I will not be flying them over personally, this is the start of me being involved in helping to coordinate or facilitate a few or (with some luck) perhaps several more adoptions. It truly is a good feeling to be involved and to have the privilege of helping.

Tags: adoption, air travel


Sofia's picture

It couldn't be written any better.
Thank you!