Let's just say I was a little more than worried about Ranger-the-Wonder-Dog, aka Menace-to-Society, making the trip to Tokyo. Nothing else concerned me. Heck I agreed to come to Tokyo sight unseen. I had no problem finding an apartment, grocery shopping, navigating the subway alone, even opening a bank account. But getting my dog over to Tokyo safely was my number one concern, and for the past six months, obsession.
If you read Menace Meets Microchip, posted July 2nd, you know how it all began.
When Ranger became USDA approved, (I know, sounds like a piece of meat) ten days before we departed, a thin veil of duress was lifted temporarily. Maybe it had something to do with meeting a young Japanese girl who was in line with me at the USDA. She was trying to bring four dogs into Japan and her flight was leaving in two hours. Her dogs were already at the airport while she was trying to secure approval. Holy schnikies!!!
It took me two trips to get Ranger stamped APPROVED. Even though Russell had gone to the quarantine office at Narita airport twice and literally sat with the quarantine officer for an hour reviewing the paperwork and procedures, it was not enough. I was revoked when my rabies certificates were not signed by the veterinarian who administered them. The doctor's stamp was not sufficient.
And the twenty-something community college office girl at the animal hospital, where I was trying to secure the signatures, was not helpful. My businesslike approach did not sway her to demonstrate one ounce of concern much less sense of urgency. "Yeah, (bubble gum snap) I'm not sure this is going to get done tomorrow." Only bursting into desperate tears helped. I should try having an emotional outburst more often - it works.
Course it didn't help either when an American girl behind me, the second time I was at the USDA, told me she didn't have to observe the six month quarantine because her husband is in the military. Apparently you can come over with just two weeks notice if you're enlisted, can prove your dog has been properly vaccinated and promise to keep the dog on the base. WTF?
I tried to crate train Ranger before we left. He had never even seen a crate much less rode in one before. After three months I was able to feed him in the crate with no problem but it wasn't like he was going in there on his own and reading Dog Fancy.
The day finally came and we packed up our three suitcases, case of wine, Ranger and dog crate. My whole family showed up to see us off. My sister and niece took a second car and escorted us to the airport. I was a nervous wreck. Ranger was curious. I think he thought he was going to daycare.
Ranger and I waited outside Tom Bradley International Terminal while Russell checked in. My sister and niece stayed a safe 20 feet away and shouted encouragement. Ranger watched the throngs of people walk by and eyed them suspiciously. Then we switched and I went into the terminal to check in. The woman at the gate exclaimed how much my husband cares about our dog. "He's so concerned; he really loves that dog doesn't he." I almost burst into tears. God, I love that man. The past few weeks he'd been very stoic and exacting. Ha - the truth revealed.
Then the time came to put him in the crate and close the door - a first. I held my breath. He went right in. Then the time came to take him through TSA. The crate had been sealed shut with plastic stays but they made Russell cut it open again to ensure it was free of explosives. I'm surprised they didn't give Ranger a body cavity search, or Russell, for that matter. Russell was pissed. He had to take Ranger out again and get him back in again and reseal the whole thing. The second time wasn't as easy. Ranger didn't want any part of it. Finally Russell had to pick him up and shove him in. Then the Wonder Dog was rolled off into the underbelly of the airport.
If I could have I would have flown in cargo with Ranger. Heck I napped in the crate to show Ranger how it's done. I could do it. It was excruciating not knowing if he was OK. But he was great. He didn't bark, or growl. He didn't even bite.
But I did. The flight was long, especially when you're sitting next to the commode. It really pisses me off (pun intended) when you pay over $4,000 for a business class seat only to be seated next to a lavatory that reeks of urine. When I asked the flight attendant if it was going to smell like that the entire time she acted like she couldn't understand what I was saying. The next minute she was offering the NY Times and USA Today, orange juice or champagne in perfect English. Uh Huh.
Turns out she was the head flight attendant in our section. She ended up serving us, probably because my growling. Needless to say my wine glass was always full. Hey, it was medicinal. But even the heavy doses weren't calming me.
In spite of the stench, JAL was great about Ranger. At the gate they insisted we sit in the priority waiting section and the manager personally checked below to see that Ranger had been loaded on the plane and came and told us herself. Ranger was the only animal on the flight. Well, besides the German guys sitting behind us. When we landed several flight attendants waited for us to get through customs so they could tell us Ranger had made it safely, had in fact already been unloaded, and we could pick him up at the animal quarantine desk after we retrieved our luggage. How nice is that?
When I finally saw him, sitting lopsided in his crate, wearily leaning against its side, he looked tired and his eyes drooped as if he were drugged. Our veterinarian and the USDA do not recommend drugging an animal during flight, especially a twelve hour one. We agreed. The number one cause of death in dogs during air travel is sedation. He was not sedated. I was. He didn't bark. Not even in the hour and a half taxi cab ride, or in quarantine. All my worrying that he would be rejected at the airport and have to spend days, maybe weeks, or worst of all - be sent back to America, was thankfully unwarranted. It only took thirty minutes to get him out of quarantine. The biggest challenge Russell had was getting Ranger back into the crate after he took him out to read his microchip.
And then we were finally home. We were all exhausted. I tried to take him for a quick walk so he could relieve himself. He didn't. In fact he didn't pee or defecate the fourteen hours in the crate either. He'd been holding it for more than fifteen hours. He didn't drink any water either. A few minutes later Russell took him for a walk. He went.
The next day I took him on a tour of the neighborhood. I could practically hear him sniffing his way through the environs. "Hmmmm, interesting, interesting, very interesting, WTF is that!" The first couple of days he wouldn't eat his food, unless offered a treat (of course - hypocrite). He wouldn't leave my side. He wouldn't go into the backyard unless I accompanied him.
At first I took him on a different route every day trying to acclimate him to the neighborhood. But he didn't seem to be getting any less apprehensive. Last week he tried to sample the local fare - an apologetic Japanese man who had the audacity to ask if he could touch my dog. "Please to touch your dog?" I tried to tell him no, the dog is not friendly, but unfortunately he didn't understand and kept approaching. Ranger lunged at him and snarled, which sent the poor guy into a frenzy of bows as he tried to back up frantically while muttering what I think must have been apologies. I wanted to run after him. I should be the one to apologize for Ranger's bad manners. I felt bad.
So now I take Ranger on the same route so he can familiarize himself with the smells and way. We basically circle the large park near our home. There are lots of parks in Tokyo but many of them don't allow dogs. He's still very anxious but doing better than I thought he would. In L.A. we would take him to Marine Stadium near our house which has a large open green space and throw the ball for him to fetch. As long as the ball was in play Ranger wouldn't pay attention to anything else. Well, except for little white fluffy (aka punt kick) dogs. For some reason he hates them (that's funny so do I) and did try to attack one once. It was rather comic really, the owner literally twirled the dog in the air, like a tetherball, to get it away from Ranger-it-looks-like-a-snack-can-I-eat it?
In LA people would walk by and he would pay them no mind but they were ten yards away. In Tokyo the propinquity is intense. People are walking right next to you. I find if I walk him fast enough he can't fixate on any perceived threat. He has literally walked within inches of people in Tokyo. My California neighbors would never believe this. He's reformed! Don't count on it.
There is an open field (unbelievable) near our apartment. On the weekends Russell and Ranger jump the four feet retaining wall, Ok, Ranger jumps Russell labors up it, and Russell throws the ball for Ranger. Strangers wall by and eye them suspiciously. It's just a matter of time before they build something or we get busted. I'm not sure what getting busted means but I'm anxious.
Ranger is clearly starting to feel comfortable at home now because he's getting bossy. When he thinks I've spent too much time on the computer he paws at me. When this doesn't work he starts barking at me. Hey, I'm the boss here!!! I think.
The dog bed I bought for Ranger's new home finally arrived two weeks after we did. The bed only cost me $617.00. Actually the bed cost $165.00 plus shipping to Tokyo. $600.00 was a steal compared to the $1,079 UPS or Mail Boxes etc, was going to charge me. It was too large for JAL; they only accept 62 linear inches. You see it's larger than 90 linear inches. The United States Postal Service wouldn't even delivery it. Oh yeah, I know all about this crap now. Height plus width plus depth equals linear inches. After exhaustive investigation we went with Nippon Express. They offered door to door service which was actually quite convenient. So if you ever need to get something large to Tokyo, try them first.
Next challenge, finding a bag of dog food larger than 5 lbs. At Tokyo Hands, the Target equivalent, they can order it for about $200.00. And I thought people food was expensive in Tokyo. Ret-row.