The International Trafficking of Canines: Crime of the Comic Kind

Clearly crime runs deep in the DNA.  My dad, indicted by a number of grand juries, had his ties with the mafia, but I’ve had an experience or two with crime of another kind.

When Sara and I lived in both Haiti and Vietnam, we were blessed to have our dogs with us.

Ralph and Lucy in Hanoi, 2009

I know most folks don’t traipse the planet, canine companions in tow, but Sara and I, for whatever reason, see fit to move our mutts to whichever corner of the globe is hosting the latest in earth-shaking disasters.

However, transporting pets to unlikely international destinations sometimes devolves into canine trafficking of the comic kind.

(Yes, I’ve shared this story before, but it bears repeating in this current criminal context.)

It even started off badly—when Sara’s father dropped Ralph and I at the airport in Lexington with a crate that proved to be, after meticulous measuring by an airline employee (measuring that took over an hour, I might add) one inch too big—one inch too large for the smallish regional jet we were taking to Detroit—the first leg of our journey to Hanoi.

I wasn’t happy to hear this.  I wasn’t happy at all to wait two full days till we could be rebooked and Ralph could be re-crated in a kennel a mere sand-papering would have made small enough in the first place.  But I remained calm.  I went home, over-sized crate in tow, and waited.

Ralph, waiting in Lexington--"Will I ever get to leave?"

Forty eight hours later—

An additional hundred dollars poorer but an appropriately-sized kennel richer—we were back at the airport, Sara’s father supervising the once more meticulous measuring, me hyperventilating in the corner, afraid I’d be another two days’ waiting.

But we passed inspection.  Ralph was loaded.  I tried to relax, knowing the 27 hour flight to Hanoi can be exhausting.  But things went well, with me checking at each layover to be sure Ralph was transferred to the next plane and ready for the next leg of a very long trip.  Things continued to go well—

Until South Korea—

In Seoul, I again checked on Ralph upon arrival and was assured by a Korean Airline employee that he was well and would be transferred for the trip to Hanoi.

So I did what any American, living in a country with no western fast food besides Kentucky Fried Chicken, would do—I went to Burger King for my last supper of Whopper and fries, knowing it would be at least another 90 days and a second resurrection of Christ before I’d eat another meal with equal amounts of artery-clogging cholesterol and heart-stopping good taste.

Two hours later and that much closer to an early grave, I waited at the gate to board the flight to Hanoi.  I was exhausted, relieved to hear, “At this time we would like to begin boarding Koran Air flight . . .” and only a little alarmed when an airline representative began paging someone whose name vaguely resembled my own.

Two minutes later—

Having dragged my baggage though a maze of travel-weary passengers, I was told, “Madam, you not go on this flight.”

“Excuse me?”  Surely I had misheard.  South Koreans’ speaking English could sometimes be hard for me to understand.  “Could you repeat that?” I apologized.  I had been traveling for twenty-two hours; I wasn’t processing well.

“Dog not go on this plane.”

“I’m sorry.  I don’t understand.”

“No room for dog on this flight.”

“But we’ve had this reservation for weeks.  There must be some mistake.”

“No dog in plane.”

Eventually I understood, though I never fully understood why,

–that we could not leave that night,

–that there were no more flights to Hanoi before morning,

–that we might not be able to go even then (there were no guarantees),

–that the airline would bring Ralph to me,

–that I could go to an hotel,

–that Ralph could not.

Floating somewhere near the ceiling, looking down on this silly woman in the ridiculous Asian airport misadventure, I realized this was not a good situation.  I realized the woman might be close to losing it.

Ninety minutes later—

I still hadn’t gotten Sara on the phone and knew that by then she had already left for the airport in Hanoi (translator in tow) ready to meet the quarantine official, whose “special fee” she’d pay to compensate for our late night arrival and the overtime he’d work to process Ralph’s entry into Vietnam without incident.

To make an excruciatingly long and less-than-pleasant story a bit shorter, I should mention the follow facts:

–I ultimately did get Sara on the phone.  Sara paid the official’s special fee (since, of course, it wasn’t his fault we didn’t arrive) and arranged to meet him again the next day, when, of course, there would also be an extra fee, since it would be Tuesday and there is always a special fee on Tuesdays.

–Forbidden by airport officials to remove Ralph from the crate he had already occupied for more than twenty hours, I pushed his perfectly-sized kennel around the airport all night on a luggage cart, telling myself repeatedly that if only  I got through the next ten hours, I would be able to take just about anything.

I should have known it would be challenging:  taking a 40 pound, blonde terrier to Vietnam, where the meat of medium-sized, light-skinned canines is still considered a delicacy.

Ralph, relaxing after his long trip to Vietnam

And though it ended well, concluded with Ralph arriving uneaten in Hanoi, it proved so crazy-making along the way, I “sanely” decided to take him to Haiti the following summer.

However, that trip proved less eventful—except for his traveling companions on the flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince—the 10,000 chicks he hasn’t stopped chirping about since.

That, he insists, was my truer crime against his canine kind.

42 thoughts on “The International Trafficking of Canines: Crime of the Comic Kind

  1. Hilarious. Again. Someone could do a film about all the animals being transported together on a plane. And, on another note, not only is my Dashboard completely screwed up, I couldn’t even find a way to post this morning. And the old Freshly Pressed posts are still there. And today is the Rapture. It’s all very creepy.


  2. Poor Ralph! The resigned look on his face is priceless.

    He looks identical to my childhood dog Sandy, who was mine from when I was 5 until she died near my 19th birthday. Ralph looks SO much like her that I gasped when I saw the first photo. I haven’t thought about her in a while…so thank you and thank Ralph for (1. making me laugh and (2. reminding me of my sweet puppy. xoxoxo


  3. I can just feel the impending sense of stress-doom while reading this. Good thing you had me laughing, too. I’m so glad it all turned out well for all. I had a hillarious episode at the Seoul airport myself. Mind you, it might have only seemed hillarious because of the previous long flight…


    • Gosh, Rose, I would love to hear about your hillarious Seoul experience. Pretty nice airport, isn’t it? I mean, as airports go, it’s awfully nice. You’ll have to blog about your experience or have you done that already? If so, will you leave the link?


  4. “However, that trip proved less eventful—except for his traveling companions on the flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince—the 10,000 chicks he hasn’t stopped chirping about since.”

    LOL, I can just hear him now. What a tale to tell his doggie friends.


  5. How traumatic for Ralph! Glad he got through this ordeal. Possibly you suffered more. I also would like to comment about WordPress. I think I was somehow unsubscribed to your site. I am not sure how that happened but it’s very annoying.


  6. How traumatic for Ralph! Yet, I’m under the impression that you may have suffered more than him (he?). Glad to know that you both got through that ordeal and he managed to escape being the main course on anyone’s dinner menu … I would like to comment about WordPress. I have missed your most recent posts. Somehow, I seemed to have been unsubscribed from your site. I don’t quite know how that happened, but it’s very disturbing.


    • Now WordPress is somehow also making you comment twice. I think things may not be going so well for WordPress, if last week’s less-than-fresh Freshly Pressed is any indication.

      But, yes, it likely was harder for me than it was for him. Poor guy,pretty much takes things in stride. I’m the high-maintenance freaker-outer.


  7. Poor thing! What a trip it was for Ralph!

    For long trips, it seems pets have to travel in the luggage compartment and not with the passengers, right?

    When I talked to WestJet agent in Toronto, the lady mentioned that for domestic flights I could take my pet on board with me. Don’t know if still true. Something I’ll look into when I move back to Canada.


    • It depends on the size of the dog. My smaller dog has always traveled in the cabin with me. The larger has had to go cargo. Usually the dog has to be small enough to fit under the seat. Check with your airline.


  8. Ai ai ai, what a headache! I thought my international travel was difficult (what with carrying my life possessions with me), but I didn’t have a dog or a child at the time.

    I’m glad all ended well, at least. 🙂


  9. I don’t know how you and Sara do it! This trafficking story could have turned out terribly… so glad it didn’t and that Ralph made it safely (and uneaten)!


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