James and I were back on the East Coast during the past month while he went to a school for his upcoming job. While there we were visiting some friends when someone asked us whether it was very difficult for us to move. We thought about it and realized that no, it actually was not too hard. The military provides you with a checklist of things to do and they move all your stuff. So as long as you are on top of things then you are fine. Getting a pet to Japan though… that was quite the obstacle.
Pets, especially small dog breeds, are extremely popular in Japan. In fact, there are actually more registered family pets (dogs and cats) than children under the age of 16 in this country (a shrinking Japanese population is very interesting to read about, but that is a topic for another time). So, the difficulty in bringing a dog to this country is not due to a general dislike for small, cute wiener dogs. Rather, it is due to preventing rabies. Japan, has been rabies free since 1957 largely due to compulsory vaccination of family pets as well as elimination of stray dogs. There is a multi step process that must be followed exactly or else you risk a 180 day quarantine upon trying to enter the country.
We had to prepare for our trip starting last winter while we were still living in Newport. Our dog, Lily, loved living in Newport. She liked that we were home so much, I was working from home, and she loved sitting in front of the fireplace when it was cold out and soaking up the warmth. She also had a nice backyard with lots of little places to stick her nose into and lots of good smells.
The first step to get her ready to move was to get an international microchip put in. Dogs in the US usually have a nine digit chip, but to enter Japan you need a fifteen digit chip. After getting the microchip we had to get a series of two rabies shots, thirty days apart. After the second shot dogs have to get a blood sample that is sent to a lab that then reports the results to the Japanese government. All of this must be done at least 180 days before attempting to bring the pet in, so we had to get this all done by the end of February.
Once you have the results of the blood test you must contact the Japanese quarantine service for import permission. This must be done at least 40 days prior to entering the country. I went back and forth with them a few times sending all of our paperwork and ensuring that we had, so far, done things correctly. We were just about ready to go!
While we were in Japan during June and July Lily stayed with both sets of her grandparents (our parents). At the end of August I stopped in California to pick her up and take her to our new house! The final thing you have to do before you travel is to get a health certificate. This must be done within ten days of travel. If you are a civilian you must also get the health certificate endorsed by the USDA, but since we are military we were allowed to skip this step and just use a military veterinarian to get the final health exam. We were ready to go!
Although Lily has criss crossed the US numerous times on airplanes, she had always been able to travel in the cabin with us. This would be her first time traveling as checked baggage, and her first time on an eleven hour flight. We were all a little nervous about the upcoming trip.
Time to say goodbye!
I swear I heard a dog barking right before takeoff (might have been my imagination), but upon landing Lily was still alive, albeit pretty mad and doing her angry barks. Dogs must still pass through customs after landing and there was a quarantine office at Narita Airport that gave her an exam. This took about half an hour to do, and even though there was a minor mistake on her health exam, she passed and we were allowed to leave the airport! Hooray!
Lily is still getting used to her new home and isn’t too crazy about our house right now. We just got out furniture delivered so everything is all over the place, and our backyard is kind of small and doesn’t have many interesting smells for her. But she will adjust and be fine soon. We still have to get final confirmation from the Yokosuka base veterinarian that we have completed all of the requirements, but once we have that we will be allowed to leave the base and go for walks out in town. Just like us, Lily is eager to explore her new hometown more and experience Japan!