Prim ‘n’ Cherry Go UK

Written by on 05/04/2022

By Prim 4.4.22

Primed ‘n’ Prepped

Heading back to the Old Dart was never on the agenda… until it was. Taking a dog was equally unscripted. Unanimously it was agreed Cherry was coming. Unanimously it was agreed Dad would travel with her. Unanimously it was agreed Dad doesn’t get a choice.

Set to task as the forward recce party, man and beast stood tall. Shackled to their mantle, destiny patiently waited. The girls (mum and two girls) would follow some months later, which by my thinking the winds could’ve blown us to any part of the world by then.

Follow your nose

My thinking couldn’t have been further from the truth. Travelling with pets is a rigid procedure. More scrupulous than getting into Fort Knox, but less conspicuous than stuffing a live 25kg black and white Soi/collie/ mongrel mutt down your trousers. Nurse.

Yet, with all its red taped complications, it couldn’t have been easier. A headache, a worry, yes. The attention to detail fierce. But there is none of that dreaded ‘quarantine’ word. It really is as simple as you and your pet, in my case dog, travelling together from Thailand to UK. Cats, ferrets, fish amongst other species, it seems also reserve the same status. I also happened to transport 200 Camels.

I didn’t have a clue where to begin. Why would anyone; ‘Passport – check. Books to clog up another corner of the globe – check. Winter flip-flops – check. Universal Pet Relocation Manifesto, just in case I want to adopt a pet elephant enroute to the airport – check’. Be prepared, never assume.

Preparation must always begin with a chat with a bloke down the pub. Simon the dog man was quite simply a gift from the logistical dog Gods. Which was handy, because it was his job. Plied with booze, he offered to help. Endless messages and mundane often repeated enquiries from me thereafter, has spiraled his alcohol intake out of control. Nevertheless, convictions true to his word, echoed his assurance when pooch and I touched down on UK terrafirma; ‘I was never worried about the dog, it was you I was more concerned for.’

The Prep

So here’s the go Kiddio; First port of call is to give yourself time. Four months minimum or forget it. Acquire an IATA approved travel kennel. Not cheap. Correct size or forget it. Thanks Steve for that find. The hound needs to be micro-chipped, a rabies jab, a blood test (serology). The blood is sent overseas and takes 3months to confirm its fitness for foreign climes. All of these cost tuppence in Thailand. Though the blood test is 10.000THB

I’ve put a spell on you

Approved paperwork allows the next and final stages. Worming tablets issued by the vet no more than 74hrs before lift-off, then a visit to the DLD man at the airport. He’s the man who approves the titer test this end, the blood test-tick guy, the fella who stamps the correct anti-bodies, the paperwork man; A 4”6 dude dressed in black starched trousers and shirt, adorned with fake medals on lapels bought at the local market and matching black furry slippers. It’s a onesie.

He will send you back to the vets to fill in the time the worming tablets were issued, rather than writing in biro himself, ‘9.00am’. Two hours later back at the Vet’s, you can hear the vet mutter, ‘Kill me now’.

5, 4, 3…VROOM!!

Now you have the legal necessaries, you’re good to go. This is where the fun starts.

You’ve had the travelling kennel a few weeks at least. It’s been sitting there at her favourite spot. Her food and water are sat outside it. A few treats have been scattered inside to entice. Cherry never once gave it as much as a sideways glance. Getting her in the car on any given day is a cattle round up at best. Getting her in the cage has conjured sleepless nights.

D-Day is night time. The pounding rain is her comfort. The darkness her serenity. ‘Never dope them’, Simon the dog man says, you never know when the drug will wear off, where they’ll be and in what state. The hound is heartier than you credit. ‘Do what you like to yourself’.

She’s seen the travel bags, the kids air of excitement, their anticipation, she knows. Unenthusiastically she bolts in the dark garden, she knows she can’t get far. The night is not her familiarity, outside alone. She stops. Resolved. Almost amicably she is captured and walks to her den – home for the best part of the next 3 days.

Then without so much as a by your leave defunct of want and care in the world she steps into her home, happy as a pig in it. The cheeky bugger. Duped all along. She’s loving this.

We slot the kennel in the back seat of Dream’s car, doesn’t fit. Shit. We try another way, doesn’t fit. Shit. We turn it upside down. Inside out. Put Cherry on the top. Shit. Try the back seat. Ok, got it, just about fits. Hope the leather upholstery’s ok Dream!

Step into the airport and Cherry’s loving it (we keep telling ourselves). The other passengers love her. She loves that. She’s such a tart. Simon the dog man’s already given us the heads up. A well-travelled route tested a zillion times. The most direct and cost effective. Phuket to Amsterdam, stop off at Doha for a few hours, she’ll be walked and looked after. Taxi to the Hook of Holland and the ferry to Harwich (UK).

We pay her air fare in cash at Qatar’s check-in (15,060THB). Surreal. Her, and my paperwork are sound. Qatar lady’s very nice. Cherry goes to x-ray twice as oversized baggage. Both times several small people stand around and chat. It’s decided she doesn’t need to be x-rayed. On to passport control I go and Cherry is trolleyed away to a temperature controlled cargo area of the plane. I’ll see her next in Amsterdam.

Family goodbyes. Kids have a tear in their eye, Mum has a tear in her eye. Cherry has fear in her eye. Dad has a tear in his eye – he has to pay 17.500THB overstay, doh.

I know where you live… doh!

I go through Customs, who shake and re x-ray a can of dog food in my bag. It’s for my dog I say. The dog food is cleared.

I buy an utterly dodgy, never heard before brand of Thai smokes. ‘They’re for Cherry.’ I say.

Wait at Gate 14. They call my wife’s name. They say it’s not my wife, just sounds like it. Wait for Zone 2. They call her name again. They clock me rising and gesticulate it isn’t her. (It is!). Zone 2 is called, they blabber profusely it wasn’t my wife’s name. (It was!). I tell her I have a dog. She looks at me, I look at her. Boarding she says.

I think of Cherry. Cherry thinks of a tunnel.

I have an aisle seat next to a mad old skinny Frenchwoman. I read my book. I drift off, lost in Wyoming. The Frenchwoman goes to the toilet several times. I eat the French woman. No one notices.

7hours later Doha Customs. They shake and re x-ray my can of dog food. I tell them I have a dog. I’m allowed to proceed with food. I think of Cherry. Cherry shakes whittling her dog bowl into a makeshift spoon.

I find free Wi-Fi and call Cherry. She doesn’t answer. She must be busy.

I walk and ponder on the raffle. A Mercedes Maybach, a BMW 5s sc 2022 and some sort of DH batman road bike. I ponder-off, thinking I have enough on plate getting Cherry home.

Here in the middle of the world, razor cut beards mingle amidst a melee of designer flannel travel track suits holding in swathes of lumpy mid-rift flesh. A mini Grand Piano stands alone in the middle of a café. Gold drips from shops fuelling rivers of urge across a polished desert. The drinking water fountains are off. Covid. Life on hold. Water is 1pound 50 a bottle. I use my credit card, ‘tap’ no less. I’m proud how far I’ve come on this techno road. A dude in full hazmat suit sits exhausted from wearing a hazmat suite, he unzips it to the navel, relays his fight on the phone. Finishes his texting then closes himself up again. Hopefully no –one will discover him till next spring.

At the gate now and it says Amsterdam 5° on the screen. I’m the only one in shorts T-Shirt and flip-flops. Pussies.

I ponder on my extra 200 Camel Blue. Bloke in duty free said, ‘you’ll be alright.’

We board. Cherry’s already in her temperature controlled doggy compartment. She watches Born Free. I find my way out of Wyoming, burp a little je ne sais quoi and look out the window. I have a window seat, and a middle seat and an aisle seat. Amsterdam looms. She cheeses and she clogs too.

Touchdown

At the second oversized baggage station I find Cherry. Eyes bloodshot, fur like it’s been dragged through a hedge. But Cherry looks great, her tail wagging with enough vigour to generate electricity for half the city.

We bond. I take her for walkies on the trolley. I stop for a piss. ARGH, the water in the tap’s freezing. Customs tick boxes. I ask if they’d like to see my can of dog food. They don’t. But I have a dog. Yes we know.

I find a Wi-Fi man at the info desk to help set my phone. I send pics to the girls. I’m a hero.

Cherry and me have 4 or 5 hours to kill. Her lead is lost. We cannot find a-new. We chat to the family. Cherry wags her tail in Thai. People look back in Dutch and speak in English. I love this place.

On advice of Richard the animal taxi man who is to take us to the Hook of Holland, he says hang around there. Enjoy it. Just up the road is a small park she can walk and stretch, right by the designated pick up place. He’s right. How does he know!

It’s balmy hot. Just gone 2pm. Amsterdam airport is awesome. You get the impression folk come to hang out the bars, cafes and shops even if not travelling. Even better is strutting about with a dog in a cage on a trolley. The park is magic. Cherry, the most timid dog in Phuket is an old-hand traveller. I use my holdall strap and belt for a lead. Cherry laps up her freedom. Walks. Sits. Willingly jumps back in her kennel. Struts round the airport. And repeats for 4 hrs. She then lies down and sleeps with her eyes open.

Cherry-holdall strap-belt

Richard and his wife Esther, the animal taxi people are super cool. Simon the dog man put me on to them back in Phuket. He knows stuff. We’ve been in contact months prior, via WhatsApp. Meeting instructions are clear. I run out of phone battery and wait. They’re there at said time. Old school.

We hop in the Merc Sprinter, Cherry kenneled in the back, us three up front. Esther drives. We chat, as Holland’s flats roll past the windmills and setting sun. Beautiful, lovely people. The hour zips by. We chat. Dogs. Energy prices. Cats. Log fires. Dogs. I reminisce my times there before. I love Holland.

I pay using his card reader. My card. He’s happy it works. So am I. Only the second time he’s used it (Usually bank transfer prior). Me too. I’m happy he’s a tech-no-geek like me. They give me a lead for Cherry. Quite simply lovely people with an awesome service.

Esther says toodlepip, Richard stays behind the camera

All Aboard the Skylark

There’s a customs check. A man gives me lots of info, a green card and isn’t interested in my dog food. Me n Cherry take the long gang plank walk aboard the massive Stena Line. I have a cabin. Cherry has a doggie cabin. It’s down a flight of stairs. I carry her. Cherry doesn’t do stairs.

I give her food – the can of dog food. She doesn’t eat. Git. I strut to the restaurant, in my T-Shirt, shorts and flip-flops. A Big fella looks at me in utter disbelief. I tell him Cherry doesn’t want to eat. He moves on. I have minestrone soup of the day and fish n chips.

I retire to my cabin. There’s a camera in there to check on the kennels. I spy on her and fall into a deep sleep and dream of dog food. Cherry smokes a pipe.

I’m awake before my alarm and the ships piping for breakie. I could have been the piper’s piper. I have a pre-booked full English. Cherry doesn’t eat. Git. I carried that hunk of metal up my arse for 3 years…

I carry her back up the stairs and we go down to the long gang plank by lift. She’s as good as gold.

British customs are stunned we’ve come back to Blighty, after such a long stint in paradise. I tell them I have a dog. They can see. I tell them I no longer have a can of dog food. But if they were ever in Phuket they should look up Chow Pet Foods, a wonderful company that makes homemade, hearty and wholesome dog food. They are excellent. I explain the dog food I no longer have was not Chow’s though, as theirs comes in glass jars and are returned, like the milkman, and that would be too hard to do here. They ask me to leave.

I wait in the car park. It’s 06:30a.m. 24 March. It’s fresh. Roy, my brother-in-law bowls from out of a lift. We’re in Basildon in an hour. Cherry’s a travelling veteran and blinks not a blot. We have a cup of tea. Cherry has a cognac. We embark on the final leg. Mum n Dad’s in Kent.

Walk this way

Cherry has survived. It was easy. She loved it. I loved it and it has been one of my favourite trips.

Cherry has taken to the weather, the parks, the walks and on the Friday did her first steamy pooh on UK soil since leaving Phuket Tuesday. Mr. Bouncy’s owner, a horsey lady with unnerving control of her black lab pup and the world, gave me a shit bag. I did my duty, not the same as Cherry, but then I managed to go on the ferry. We have been indoctrinated. Cherry is off the lead… we like to live dangerously… Cherry…Cherry, heel Cherry, stay Cherry… there’s a good girl… CH-E-R-ReeeeeeY!

Next – Prim n Cherry go North

This journey was brought to us by Durban’s Bread

We love Animal Taxi Amsterdam

And Chow Pet Foods Phuket

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