Thursday, May 17, 2007

bringing the dog to the rock

More on the Kirby front

I am so, so grateful that modern technology has given us Vonage. After the discouraging Monday of last week, I spent hours on the telephone with various agencies, veterinarians, and airlines. Having a USA phone number for them to return my phone calls was a huge help in getting the communication flowing. At the end of the day, there are still various moving parts to getting Kirby into Malta but they are starting to come together. He has an appointment with a vet down the road from Terry's dad to get the health certificate filled out, and the USDA office in Harrisburg knows our Fedex will be on its way. I ended up getting in touch with a whole new set of people at Lufthansa who actually had a clue, and Kirby has a reservation on the day we wanted to ship him out. I had decided to give Lufthansa another chance because there is no other airline that flies from the USA to Malta, and keeping Kirby on one airline is a priority for avoiding me having to go to Europe somewhere and get him.

Finally on the Malta side of things, I had gotten in touch with the lady in charge of the Bureau of Pet Importation before we left the USA and she had been very helpful and friendly. So, I contacted her again and this woman is amazing! I sent an email Sunday, she had replied before 9am Monday morning. She had me scan and send our application for a permit and I explained we needed the permit issued before Friday so Terry could go home with the original in his hands – she returned a .pdf of the official permit with her signature within an hour or two. I have never in my life received such service from a government worker in any country in the world.

The permit allows us to bring Kirby into the country but to get the folks at airport quarantine to release him to me I need a customs form signed and stamped by three different agencies. The first place I went was in Valletta, after a long, windy path that seemed to go nowhere (turns out lots of government offices are located in “you really need our services if you are going to find us” locations). The very nice man there told me he can't stamp our documents until the other 2 places have done so, and that his office is normally only the first stop if people don't already have the forms they need. I did get his name and direct telephone number, though, which turned out to be essential later, so it was not a wasted trip.

The next day I wandered over to the MEPA office in Floriana (about a 10-15 minute walk from the embassy, so very convenient) and after going to the wrong building first, was soon walking out of the correct office with the proper stamps and signatures. The next office, Veterinary Services, is located in an abattoir, along the dockyards. I took my first solo car journey, figuring it would be only moderately difficult to find this place. I actually did manage to get myself to within a mile or so of the office on my own, then spent a good 20-30 minutes, and 4-5 stops for directions, getting myself to the correct place. This guy saw my forms, told me they were the old ones (the MEPA lady had also said that) and that he was uncomfortable signing it. He called some folks in his office, nobody had an answer, then I gave him the nice Trade Services man's phone number. He was in (thankfully!), they spoke, and in the end the forms were signed. I only got lost once on my way back to Valletta, and it wasn't really my fault.

By the time I returned to Valletta, the Trade Services office was closed for lunch and I had to get back home in case I got a phone call from the vet regarding Kirby's health certificate – the appointment was at 2pm my time. Amazingly, nothing went wrong at the appointment, and the really amazing lady at the vet's office called me to let me know the visit was over and it had gone well. She even offered to overnight the forms to the USDA office so Terry's dad could get back to work!! And she told me about an interaction between Kirby and one of the dogs in the vet office and it made me miss him so bad. We'll be sending this woman flowers next week, she really went over and above her job for us. I think she really loves pets :-)

The next day, I went back to the Trade Services office to get their final stamp on the document. The guy there said it was good, gave his stamps, then said “What about the customs form?” Aaarugh! Because we are diplomatic neither he nor I knew whether I had to do anything with Customs, but he gave me the phone number so I can verify. Nobody at the embassy has said anything about a customs form, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Every time I think I am done something new pops up.

At the end of the day I got a message from the nice vet lady back home saying the documents went out overnight to the USDA and that she's asked Terry's dad to call her to let her know when the docs are returned to him because she was as anxious as we are that everything is in order. We had asked her to wait a day before sending the docs because she said the USDA routinely stamps the docs right away when they get them, and we couldn't have a stamp reading May 16 because the airline only accepts the form 10 days in advance and Kirby is flying out on the 27th. Such stupid, tiny little details. And it is only the airline – the USA form is good for 30 days and the EU form is good for 4 months. But airlines get to make up their own rules, more stringent than even the accepting country!! How insane is that?!?!?

So today's agenda includes calling the Customs office to find out if there is anything else I need to do to satisfy them. I really want to be sure I can bring Kirby home right away rather than have him languish in Quarantine ... the whole reason we didn't bring him with us in the first place was we didn't want him hanging out in Quarantine so it would be stupid if he has to now.

Each day we get on step closer to actually having Kirby in our home.

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