WANTED: BY THE BRITISH FOR WRONG PAPERS
More Adventures with the dog
We decided to leave Europe finally for the beautiful tropical beaches and rainforests of Costa Rica. Before we left, however, our oldest son, Aaron, really wanted to see his friend (girl type) in England one last time. So, we planned a trip across the channel from Germany to England. We were all looking forward to strolling around London again, even the dog.
We had crossed the channel on the surface via the ferry and under the water via the train a few times, so we knew the procedure. This time, we reserved passage on the ferry. The ferry leaves form Calais, France, and docks in Dover, England, two hours later. We prefer the ferry because the view from the decks is nice and you get a relaxing break in the drive. The ferry is a little less expensive too.
Traveling with a dog is a little more complicated (and expensive), but we are old pros at it now (or so we thought). My wife, Mish, went to the local veterinarian in Germany and got the dog the obligatory de-worming shot and the necessary health form with official signature for proof. She made hotel reservations in London and I made sure that the car was ready. Aaron primped and preened himself for his impending rendezvous with his friend while Elijah day-dreamed of British pubs. Albie just napped unaware of the problems he was about to cause.
We got up bright and early Friday morning and head north out of Frankfort to Calais. By this time, we were so familiar with Europe, that I did not even need the map (Mish made sure to navigate none the less). We arrived in Calais and boarded our vessel. Albie stayed and guarded the car while we went up to the passenger deck to get a snack and enjoy the view. The trip across was uneventful. We were getting ready to go back down to our car on the vehicle deck, when a steward announced for the owners of a dog in a blue car to please report to the purser’s office. My first thought was that Albie was making some sort of racket barking or had somehow discovered a way out of the car. As we walked to the purser’s office, I muttered, “That dog better not have…”
The captain of the ship actually met us and asked if we had the required documents to bring a dog into England because the purser was missing them. Mish, always at the ready, expediently produced the signed forms from the veterinarian. The captained examine the documents closely and concluded that the authorized signature was absent. Mish was taken back (after all, she is the “queen of preparedness” who makes a boy scout look ill-equipped). Despite putting up an impressive defense, the answer was no; the dog could not enter England (even though he lived their previously). The British are, after all, rigid sticklers to rules (no matter how stupid). Adherence to proper protocol to the bitter end lads is a must.
So, we were faced with a dilemma. Turn around and retreat from the British bureaucracy or send the expedition forward while someone stayed behind with the dog. Since we already were in England (almost) and had hotel reservations (not to mention a British lass waiting for her American heart-throb), we decided on the later. Guess who got left behind babysitting the pooch? Me!
To make matters worse, we had now delayed the off-loading of the vessel by about 20 minutes. We all went down to the car so Mish and the boys could retrieve their luggage. To our surprise (and embarrassment) ours was the only car left in the cavernous car hold. To add insult to injury, they had adorned our little car with enormous yellow and black warning signs stating “Quarantine: Unauthorized Animal” and were guarding it with animal inspection officers. You would have thought that we were smuggling in a rabid bear! There was poor (and clueless) Albie sitting in the backseat looking out at all of the commotion, unaware that it was over him.
I quickly got the luggage and kissed my wife good-bye and told the boys to behave. I was eager to get out of there. As I drove off the ship with Albie, Mish and the boys were escorted off in another fashion. They got to ride in the police wagon! Aaron even got to sit in the back lock-up where they put criminals. They were not actually in trouble; the police were being nice and giving them a ride to the ferry terminal. I am not sure who was more embarrassed. I am sure that someone watching must have been thinking, “Wow, the Brits don’t mess around with animal control!” I had to drive back on and re-cross the channel alone.
Two more hours later I drove off the ferry onto the dock back in Calais. I was left wondering where to go now. I decided that driving eight hours back to Frankfort was better than hanging around Calais for three days. I got on the motor-way and headed for Germany. By the time I got to Brussels, Belgium, I was exhausted. I pulled into a rest area to get some sleep before heading the rest of the way back. I woke up at about 4:00am needing to use the toilet. I left Albie asleep in the car while I went off to the nearby 24-hour gas station. When I returned, someone was attempting to dog-nap Albie! I could not believe my tired eyes. A young guy had pulled his car right tight against mine in an empty parking area. He was looking through my back window, which I had left partially open, trying to coax Albie over. As I walked up he quickly straightened up and looked surprised to see me (or anyone). He simply said “Nice dog” and got in his car and drove off as I stood there speechless. I am positive that Albie had no idea of the stress that he had inadvertently caused me that day. As I started the car he gave me a lick on the cheek. All was forgiven.
I decided to go back to Calais and hang out after all. Albie and I had a good time exploring the city. He enjoyed the beach and I enjoyed a little quiet time. I was very happy to reunite with the family Sunday. We both had a story to share. Aaron got to visit with his friend and Elijah got to go to another British pub one last time. Albie got to do his favorite thing, hang out.