The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2022

40 JULY-AUGUST 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Melissa Mathews, a Foreign Service family member, is the founder of Spring Green Communications and a former journalist. Her family includes husband George; three human children; a diplo-dog, Evie; and a Jordanian street cat, Olive. A nail-biter pet shipping experience is an increasingly common part of Foreign Service life. Here are some tips on the process. BY ME L I SSA MATHEWS FOCUS ON FS TRANSITIONS THE COMPLEX CHALLENGEOF Transporting Pets A sk just about any member of the Foreign Service community to name the most difficult, stressful part of a permanent-change-of-station move, and one answer is bound to bubble up: transporting pets. Flying cats and dogs is expensive, difficult to arrange and risky. In recent years, it’s only become harder. At the height of COVID-19 in 2020, one Foreign Service family paid $14,000 to get three pets to the United States for home leave. It’s more than they’d ever paid before, primarily because of limited pandemic flight schedules from their post. When home leave ended, the family headed back to the airport with confirmed pet reservations, regulation carriers and required health certificates destined for their next overseas assignment. To their surprise, the airline refused to board some of the animals. “The resultant scramble to get my big dog off the plane as cargo, rent cars, pack the animals into said cars, and drive back to our home drained us of any reserves we may have been running on [during the pandemic],” they say. “We curtailed the next day.” A nail-biter pet shipping experience is an increasingly com- mon part of Foreign Service life. “For a number of years, there have been some challenges,” says Maureen Johnston, of the Foreign Service Institute’s Overseas Briefing Center, who is widely regarded as the State Department guru on pet transportation. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of changes impacting the preparation time and costs involved for many pet owners has increased dramatically.”