Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bonjour mes amies

I made it. I'm here! The trip with Milo was sort of crazy, sort of funny, physically exhausting, but in the end, not as horrible as dreaded.

After all my mindful planning, I did run out of time on Wednesday and couldn’t get to everything I wanted (sorry the bathroom’s not spic and span, subletter). But after talking to Adam, it occurred to me that I should book a car service, which was the best decision of the day. The driver I had knew exactly where the USDA office was and was really nice and sweet, despite the demonic meows coming from the back seat.

I guess I should back up: in order to bring Milo to Paris, I had to have a microchip implanted under his skin and he had to get a couple vaccinations. That was right before the holidays. Then I had to go back to the vet right before departing to get a Certificate of Good Health, which basically says he’s healthy, not carrying any parasites, and not being used as a mini drug mule. Then that certificate has to be stamped by the USDA. It’s quite the process. Or at least it seems so when every visit entails carting an unhappy cat and paying a lot of cash.

Since I didn’t have time to send the certificate to the USDA (I got it on Sunday; was leaving on Wednesday), I had to make a pit-stop at their offices near JFK. They were surprisingly quick and friendly. My first good experience with a government office in quite awhile.

But the trip from the apartment to their JFK offices was heinous. Milo was squawking the whole way, despite the half the pill to sedate him I had given him a few hours prior. And when he freaks out in his carrier, he either pees, poops or vomits. This time, he pooped. So the whole ride there, I had him in his carrier on my lap, so I was basically sitting with the lovely smell and thoughts of cat crap in my lap. Amplified by his meows.

I scooped most of the turds out of the carrier at the USDA office (and, importantly, gave him another half-pill to sedate him). But one remained. Or he crapped again between the office and the airport. In any case, by the time I got to the security checkpoint, there was another turd in his carrier.

But this I did not know.

So after the mini-triumph of getting him past the Air France weigh-in at check-in (another back-story: Air France sets the limit at six kilos, or about 13 pounds, for carry-on pets. And that’s with the carrier. I lied to the agent’s face and said Milo was 13 pounds. She asked me to put him on the scale and I nonchalantly put the carrier on the scale. Either she didn’t have the heart to send him to cargo, she didn’t want to deal, or the scale was broken, but my fat cat passed! We were cleared for boarding.)

I had to take Milo out of his carrier and walk through the metal detector with him in my arms (for which he wore a snazzy purple harness and leash, just in case he tried to bolt. And I wore a crummy old sweater since I knew I was going to get cat crud all over). The carrier had to go through the x-ray machine.

Imagine the chaos of the security line from the last time you traveled. People are all rushed, the TSA employees can’t be bothered with you, they’re too busy gabbing with one another, and you’re on the grungy floor in your socks. Now imagine doing that with a terrified cat in your arms. Not fun.

I was trying to get my boots back on after walking through the metal detector, they were asking to look through my purse, and I noticed the carrier coming through the x-ray machine, turned upside down. And then, as I was bent over, trying to wrangle my boots on, Milo still clinging to me, I saw a turd on the floor! Oh, the horror. Everything was so frantic and in disarray, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to just bolt. But all these innocent people in their socks! I couldn’t let them step in cat crap and then have to sit on a plane for six or eight hours. Nasty. I grabbed one of the wee wee pads from Milo’s bag (just because I’m moving to Paris doesn’t make me instantly chic) and cleaned it up. Got him in the bag, got my boots on, and got the hell out of there.

After I washed my hands and cat scratches (twice), I made my way to the gate, set Milo’s carrier down gently, collapsed into a seat, and just started laughing. Ridiculous.

From then on, Milo was a champ. Thanks to the sedative, he was pretty placid the entire flight and even the taxi ride from Charles de Gaulle to the hotel. Permanently scarred, for sure, but doing okay.

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