Pets, Vets & International Travel ~ 100 Days to Ocean Living:

by Patrick

An Example Of Not Fitting in a Box – aka – Trying to Explain to Your Vet that You are Travelling Abroad with your Pet and Don’t Have a Schedule – aka – Why I Find Confused People Amusing

(A brief note on microchips and international travel)

Those of you following along know that at the moment our schedule is, at best, tentative. We’re not exactly sure when we are leaving on our adventure, though we think it will be in November. Or December. Possibly in October, but most likely not in September or January. Maybe. We think.

We also don’t really have an itinerary. We know that at some point we will travel to Florida, where we will spend some time finishing refit projects, performing shakedown day sails, and generally getting to know our boat and what she’s capable of.

We will then on some unspecified date travel in a general Easterly direction towards the Bahamas. Our intention is to check into the Bahamas at Spanish Cay. Or Chub Cay. We think. This will be followed by a leisurely cruise in a general southwardlyish kind of direction as the wind permits and our desires and needs of the moment dictate.

In addition to all that, we will also be somewhat dependent upon the weather. You can’t just say, “We are leaving the United States on November 19th,” when it’s the middle of August and you have no idea what the weather will be like on November 19th.

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In short, our schedule will quite literally be blowing in the wind.

While we are perfectly comfortable with this situation, getting others to understand it can often leave them as confused as a blind lesbian in a fish market.

Witness my experience yesterday. I took Tiberius to the Vet to have bloodwork done so that he can be imported into the Bahamas and destinations elsewhere. The visit that I expected to take an hour turned into a nearly three hour long process, not because of lengthy procedures that had to be performed but because we don’t fit into the box.

The primary issue revolved around filling out the forms for the FAVN Titre certification. It went something like this:

Vet: Mr Always, when will you be departing for the Bahamas?

Me: I don’t know.

Vet: Well, when are your reservations?

Me: We don’t have reservations. We’re sailing there. On our boat.

Vet: Oh. So, you’re going to… what? A marina?

Me: Maybe sometimes. Usually just anchorages though.

Vet: Oh. On what island?

Me: Um. A whole bunch of them.

Vet: Aren’t there just a couple of islands in the Bahamas? It’s either Freeport or Nassau, right?

Me: Um. No. There are about 700 islands there. Plus a bunch of Cays.

Vet: Oh. What’s a Cay?

Me: It’s like a small island.

Vet: Are there a lot of those?

Me: Yes. Nearly 2500 of them.

Vet: Oh. I see. Hang on a minute please.

After this particular exchange, which left the poor girl looking rather confused, she retreated into the back room to consult with her colleagues. To be fair, I imagine that this would be a lot easier if we lived in, say, Miami or West Palm, where veterinarians probably deal with this a little more often. We don’t have the luxury of waiting until we’re there to get the titre certificate though, because the process takes many weeks once the bloodwork is sent in. I suppose it’s not every day that someone landlocked in Oklahoma makes plans like ours.

Vet: OK, Mr Always. I spoke with my colleagues and we’re going to need the day and location that you expect to check into the Bahamas so that USDA can forward the paperwork to the correct port of entry.

Me: I don’t know that information. I can make an educated guess, but the best I can do is come within about a couple of months.

Vet: Months?

Me: Yes. We’re really not sure when we’re leaving. Probably sometime in November or December.

Vet: Oh. Hang on a second.

She really wasn’t getting it, and looked even more confused than Tiberius did when the vet stuck a thermometer up his ass. She apparently gave up, because the next person who came in was a new face.

Vet2: Mr Always, I think we’re having some communication issues. In order for us to fill out the forms correctly we will need to know when you are leaving and where you are going. We don’t need exact dates, but within a few days at least so that we can get the form filled out as accurately as possible.

Me: I don’t have that information. My understanding is that I need to get the titre certificate and take it with me for when I check into whatever country I happen to be visiting.

Vet2: Oh. I thought you were going to the Bahamas?

Me: We are, at first. But then we will eventually leave there and go somewhere else.

Vet2: So where are you going then?

Me: Um. I don’t know.

Vet2: You don’t know?

Me: That’s correct.

Vet2: *awkward silence*…*looks down at the form in her hands with all the empty blanks*… Just a minute, please. *retreats to the back room*

I decided at this point that a fuller explanation of our plans was in order. Something a little more specific so that I was sure to leave with everything done that needed to be done. Apparently the consultation in the back room this time ended with, “Maybe if we both try, he’ll understand that we need this information to fill out the blanks in the form,” because they both came back into the room together.

Me: OK, before we go any further I should probably explain more thoroughly what our plans are so that we get the right things done today. We bought a sailboat, and we’re leaving the US for an indefinite period of time beginning sometime towards the end of this year. When and where we go will be completely dependent upon weather, provisioning needs, maintenance needs, and what we feel like doing at any particular time. We know that the first stop will be in the Bahamas, but at some point we will leave the Bahamas and go to a different country in the Caribbean, probably Turks and Caicos next. We don’t have any idea when that will be. Probably sometime between December and February. We will also at some point in there probably be travelling to Puerto Rico to meet up with some friends and family who are flying down and we’re going to stay in a villa that we have already paid for a week stay at but don’t have actual reservations for. Then, depending on what we thought of the Bahamas and whether we think that we saw everything there that we wanted to see, we will either return north and check back into the Bahamas or travel onward to other destinations in the Caribbean. All of this will be dependent upon weather, of course.

Vet1 and Vet2: *turn to look at each other, simultaneously look down at the still blank form in their hands, and retreat into the back room without saying a word*.

This time they were gone for quite a while. Long enough for Tiberius to relax after having his ass violated by a thermometer, decide that everything was indeed going to be OK, climb up onto the bench next to me, and fall soundly asleep. Vet2 came back in, this time with a determined look, a pen, and a blank sheet of paper instead of a form.

Vet2: OK, Patrick, since you have nonstandard travel plans we’re going to just need to list all the countries that you are likely to visit during your trip.

Me: Um. All of them?

Vet2: Yes.

Me: That’s likely to be a pretty long list.

Vet2: *hands me the paper and pen*

Me: Hang on a second. *pull out my phone, Google “List of countries of the world”, and show her the resulting alphabetical list of 195 independent sovereignties that currently exist.* Could you just print this out for me please?

Again with the look of utter confusion, she retreated to the back room. I was starting to feel a little sorry for them.

I did finally get through to them that we don’t have an itinerary, schedule, or solid list of destinations in chronological order. I supplied them with my current ‘best guess’, and a list of countries we’re likely to stop at in the next 12 months. This consisted of me again pulling out my phone, bringing up Google maps, and listing everything South of Florida, North of Venezuela, East of Mexico, And West of Barbados. I even included Cuba.

Me: Here you go. This is the list of likely ports of call over the next twelve months. I sincerely doubt that we will go to even a fourth of these in that time, but it is possible that we will visit any of them.

Vet2: Wow. That’s a long list. Are all these places in the Caribbean?

Me: Yes. The Caribbean has somewhere around 7,000 islands, but it’s really only about 25 or so countries.

Vet2: Oh. How long are you going to be on vacation?

Me: You’re still not getting it. This isn’t vacation. It’s more like we’re moving. We won’t have an address. We will be living on board a mobile platform that we will take with us when we decide to visit somewhere new. It’s kind of like vacation, but instead of packing your bags to fly there you take your entire house.

Vet2: Oh. *turns and retreats into the back room with my list*

It’s possible that I just may have been starting to enjoy their confusion. A little. OK, OK, OK. Maybe more than just a little. I’ve found that it’s a whole lot easier to be humored by people who don’t understand you than to be frustrated. Our family hasn’t done anything in the ‘normal’ way for a VERY long time, so this is something that I’ve gotten used to.

After nearly three hours, during which Tiberius was incredibly patient and well behaved, we finally left with the necessary items checked off our list. Bloodwork is on it’s way to be done, all his vaccination records are on file, he has an updated ISO compliant microchip, and we have $314 less in the bank.

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I felt so bad for Tiberius and all the poking and prodding that I stopped at the Sonic next door and bought him a plain double cheeseburger to make amends. He appears to have forgiven me for letting the vet stick uncomfortable things in his nether regions. Such a good boy.

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