T minus 6 days and everything was moving along smoothly. On the docket for the week was packing, Bandit, yard sale and USDA papers for the cats. The week prior, Amy and I (one of those awesome friends I’m always telling you about) took the cats to the vet to get a checkup. The requirements for bringing them to France weren’t very strict but they were very specific. They needed a microchip, a rabies shot and a signed certificate from a certified USDA vet giving them medical clearance less than one week prior to departure that was certified by the USDA office in Albany. I will spare you my rant about the vet hospitals holding me hostage for the certificate by trying to extract a King’s ransom as their fee.
The Friday before my flight, I had my appointment with the USDA office in Albany. I of course, got lost. (I wasn’t kidding about the horrible sense of direction) I was lost for almost an hour. Not certain they would still honor my appointment, my blood pressure was through the roof. I finally found the building and made my way in to a small, empty waiting room with a locked glass door. After ringing a bell, someone came out, took my paperwork and disappeared back behind the door. Another person came out 10 minutes later, asked more questions and disappeared again. At this point, I realized I wouldn’t be seeing behind the wizard’s curtain. The waiting room was my last stop.
About 20 minutes later a man comes out and says, “We have a problem. This vet isn’t USDA certified.” I stared at him in disbelief. That wasn’t possible. I specifically asked about the certification at the vet’s office and they assured me that he was indeed certified. I relayed this to the gentleman and he responded by saying “He was, but his certification is no longer active.” I took a deep breath to steady myself. Without this paperwork, the cats couldn’t fly. If the cats couldn’t fly, I couldn’t leave. If I couldn’t leave, I had no place to live in NY (the house was rented)…ugh! My car was already en route…maybe I could change the flight but then that would screw up…You see where this is going.
I called the vet hospital while the man waited. The secretary answered the phone. I told her what was happening and she apologized profusely. She wasn’t aware that it had expired as there is apparently no notification to the doctors when the certification needs renewing (Something they obviously need to rectify sooner rather than later) so we asked the gentleman if there was a fast track process. His answer was ‘No’. His advice to me was to go back home, get the cats in to see another vet, have the paperwork redone and come back. His claim that I had ‘plenty of time’ left me seriously wondering what kind of rationale he was working with. I was flying on Thursday so I needed the appointment done by Monday in order to have enough time to drive back up to Albany on Tuesday. For all my planning and organizing, this had the potential to completely derail everything.
I paused for a moment to compose myself. I had managed to keep it together while he delivered the bad news but that façade was fading fast. Before I left the office, I needed to put something in place. I would be driving for the next few hours and time was of the essence. I immediately called my friend, Natalia, asked her to drop whatever she was doing and search for a local vet hospital with a USDA certified doctor. Through my muffled sobs, I explained to her what was happening and after agreeing on a course of action, I left the office to pick up my god-brother, Anthony.
Anthony was spending the weekend with me packing the house and preparing for the yard sale on Saturday. Since he lived in Albany, it was logical to just pick him up while I was there. I was not, as you can imagine, in a very good mood when I arrived. I had no idea of how I was going to pull this off and none of the vets I’d called thus far had any available appointments. This was a nightmare.
After fighting through a seemingly, unending bout of traffic (just what I needed to soften my mood), we stopped at a McDonalds to grab something to eat. I was ordering when Natalia called. She was talking so fast I could barely understand her. She had called the USDA department to get a list of certified vets only to be told that they had no such list (I could have spared her that conversation having had it months prior. How can they not have a list of vets that THEY certify? The stupidity of this process knows no bounds) She explained the situation and they told her that they knew all about my case and they were working with the vet to try to fix it. She told me to stay put because I might need to turn around so we sat in the parking lot at McDonald’s and waited. A few minutes later, the vet’s office called. They had been on the phone with the DC branch of the USDA the entire time (at this point a number of hours had passed) trying to get his recertification fast tracked. She told me to turn around and head back to Albany because it was being approved right then and the DC office was calling the Albany branch to tell them they must certify my papers.
I thanked her profusely. Despite it being their fault, they went above and beyond to rectify the situation. But I wasn’t getting my hopes up yet. The man at the USDA office had been less than accommodating and was adamant about there being no alternative other than finding another vet and starting the process all over again. So when I strolled back into the office and saw the sheepish look on his face, I felt a bit smug. I don’t know what strings they pulled to make it happen but eight harrowing and tear filled hours later Anthony and I arrived back home, certification papers in hand. We then spent the next 4 hours dragging stuff out of the house to prepare for the next day’s yard sale. We managed to get through the rest of the weekend unscathed. Exhausted and thoroughly sleep deprived, I put Anthony back on the bus to Albany on Sunday afternoon.
T minus 3 days. I awake to an email Monday morning from my airbnb apartment host in Chartres:
“Hello Monica, I’m writing to you, because I’ve a big trouble with your reservation. I have some personal problems, and i will need to be in my flat. Could you check if you can find an other flat for your stay?”