Adventure #1 – Our trip here

ad·ven·ture
/adˈvenCHər/
Noun
An unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.

Well, I can’t say that the above definition is inaccurate… the last few days of travel have been an adventure, if not something slightly more traumatizing. But that story can wait a minute because WE ARE IN ENGLAND!!! We are finally FINALLY here. We might be almost too tired to truly enjoy it right now, but we are here nonetheless. Right now, we’re just trying to stay awake. And we are deliriously tired. For example, when we finally checked into our temporary housing, I went to go change and “freshen up.” And I realized a bit too late that I had just applied a nice thick coat of hair conditioner to my legs instead of lotion. The sad thing is, it was my own bottle. And it was labeled. But the entire time I was thinking, “Wow, this smells great. When did I buy lotion that smells like this?? . . . Is this lotion pink?”  Sad…

But we’ve caffeined up, and we’re staying awake okay. So, I will try to tell you our travel saga. To be honest, I had it all typed out, and my laptop refreshed and erased it. I was mad. So, here is a slightly less detailed explanation…  Forgive the bullet points. I’m going on 2 hours of sleep.

  • First of all, we show up at the airport 4 hours early, as suggested. We pile all of our stuff onto a cart that we snagged from a very kind and very patient airport employee.

"Oh, so you're moving I take it??"

“Oh, so you’re moving I take it??”

  • We go to check in, and the United counter tells us that our plane ticket had never actually been paid for by the appropriate travel office. And they hadn’t secured the price either. We called said office and they said that they tried to charge it to our travel card but it didn’t go through, so they emailed us. 2 days before we took off. To Sam’s work email. And then that’s all they did.  Sooooo, we tried to pay again and the card still did not work. Many calls and about an hour later, we finally got the card to work.  
  • We go back up to the counter to check in, and they say that they don’t have our pet reservations, even though we had an email with a reservation confirmation number for each pet. The United desk said we’d have to call the United PetSafe office that handles that. I called them and they said that they updated their system since we booked in April and not all of those previous reservations were carried over.  They said they could see our data in their computer, including the pet’s information and our flight number, but that we weren’t actually booked. I still don’t understand how those things are different.   Hey, should we do anything about these old reservations? This could cause serious travel snags for someone… NAH!   We ended up having to rebook the pets then and there while we waited.  After about an hour on hold and rebooking, the lady said that the pets were booked but that we’d have to get Toby to the cargo area ASAP if we wanted him to make the flight which was now 2 hours away. “You know, he’s really supposed to be there four hours before.”  BUT WE WERE HERE 4 HOURS EARLY AND THEN ASDFAHSDAFOIWEHFIG!!!
  • So, we FINALLY have everything booked/checked in but we’re trying to figure out how to get Toby to the miles away cargo area since we don’t actually have a vehicle… and then Toby turns into a stress volcano. He begins clawing at his kennel and whining, which he only does if he really has to go.  As Sam is running him outside, Toby’s stress makes an ugly appearance in the form of #2 and vomit all over United’s arrival drop-off sidewalk. Poor guy.
"Thank you, custodians, for cleaning up the nasty evidence of my stress!" - Toby

“Thank you, custodians, for cleaning up the nasty evidence of my stress!” – Toby

  • But then, the biggest praise of the day came… Our flight was CANCELLED! This might not seem like good news, but stick with me…  We were booked on two flights with a lengthy layover to get us to England, but United rescheduled us on a shorter, direct flight to England at another airport. And they paid for our taxi to get us there. This was the one thing all day that made us thankful for United. So we hopped in our taxi and drove to the other airport. We stopped first at the cargo area to drop off the pets at the PetSafe counter… and nightmare part 2 began.
  • Don’t use United’s PetSafe to fly your pets. Ever. Ever, ever, ever. The people we came into contact with were rude, short tempered, and sadly, misinformed. First of all, they told us Toby’s kennel wasn’t up to international travel certifications, even though it is IATA certified (which they list as the standard on their site). It says that 3 walls need vents, which Toby’s kennel had, but apparently the door doesn’t count as a wall. (THEN WHY DON’T YOU SAY ALL 4 WALLS?!) So, we had to drill holes in the back of Toby’s kennel. He was terrified. Next, they inform us that our paperwork is all wrong! All of it! Wrong! And whenever we asked a question, the man cut us off with “No! No!” He didn’t seem to really know what he was talking about, and he said  that our pets’ international travel certificate (signed by their vet and the USDA) wasn’t good enough and that London wouldn’t accept our pets, when in fact we had the exact certificate that the UK requires, downloaded from their website. After we got him to call in his supervisor we finally got it approved. We got the pets all situated, and attached the paperwork to the pets’ kennels. As we were leaving, he told us to take the original paperwork from the top of Toby’s kennel and replace it with a copy. Okay, sure. Thanks. Bye.  (We had been there for about 1.5 hours, with our taxi driver waiting the entire time.)
  • We finally check in at the airport, drop off our 5 checked bags and go grab some dinner. At that point I asked Sam, “What state are we in???”  “Hysteria.”
  • About 20 minutes before boarding, we get a call from the United PetSafe office informing us that Toby has had an accident in his kennel. End of sentence. After Sam asked several more questions, we finally realize that they haven’t done anything for him except call us. We obviously can’t go take care of him because we’d miss our flight, we have no car, and it is fairly far from the terminal. So, we have to call an outside boarding kennel and pay them extra out of pocket to come get Toby, clean him and his kennel up, and return him to the cargo area. You mean for the hundreds thousands of dollars we’re paying you to fly our pets, you can’t even take him out of the kennel, throw away his bed and put down some new newspaper? The thought of my stressed out pup sitting in his own mess for an hour while waiting for the other kennel place to come breaks my heart… How can these PetSafe people even pretend to live up to the poster they had on their door about caring for pets to the point of “perfection.” Ugh. Lies. Toby got cleaned up and they put him and the cats on a later flight, since he missed our flight. We have a British kennel scheduled to pick the pets up and keep them until we get a house.
  • We landed in London without a hitch, breezed through customs and picked up all of our baggage – what a praise! We were picked up at the airport by someone from Sam’s new squadron and we made our way back to base.
  • Just about an hour ago, we get a call from the customs people saying that the pets have landed but they can’t release the pets to the kennel because they need the original paperwork… the original paperwork that the United PetSafe man told us not to include with the pets. Wooooowwww. So, the man from the kennel had to drive all the way back here. Now we have to meet up with him tonight and give him the paperwork so he can drive back tomorrow morning to get the pets. Thankfully the airport here really takes care of their pets and they are boarded safely until the morning. Please pray that our pets aren’t too traumatized by this.  It’s really been a horrible trip for them. Whenever we move back to the states, we will be hiring a private company to ship them. I will never fly pets with United again.

So, that was our ordeal.  If you made it through that you must 1) really care about us or 2) be really bored.   🙂   The good news is, everyone here has been so kind. We were shown around the area, we got a rental car, and we’re really excited to venture out and look at houses. I’ll keep you posted with more info and pictures later.  God really did provide, even through the mess of chaos and human fault we ran into. I can still see his hand at work.

Please continue to pray for us as we get settled!

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