Monday, 10 March 2014

RETURN TO INDIA, NOT WHAT I EXPECTED



OUR NEW BABIES, RESHMA AND SHERA



We are back in India safe and sound with our new family members, Reshma and Shera, Toy Fox Terriers. Not a fun or easy trip to book or make.  We did not know we were going to have puppies again but after Katie and Nanhki’s death, we found we missed having the joy of dogs in our lives. 

United airlines has a Pet Safe program.  They told me no problem taking the pups as excess baggage in their environmentally controlled pet cargo area but had to change our ticket to allow more time in Newark for the comfort of the dogs to potty and make the India connection.  They made the change for me at an additional $160.00 for the change.  However I had to book their tickets through the United reservation desk.  When I did they said the plane was too small for them to travel in the pet cargo, but they could go under the seat to Newark in a soft pet carrier.  I was told to bind their hard pet carriers and send it as baggage.  Ram and I were allowed a total of 4 cargo bags so I would not have an extra cost there, but would have to pay an additional $125.00 for the dogs to go under the seat.  This turned out to be not true.  We had to pay and additional $100.00 to take the crates as excess baggage.  When we got to Newark Pet Safe told me we should have had the carriers sent to them and they could not retrieve them.  They were nice enough to give me a set of used carriers they had.  I was fearful the pups would be stressed.  At home they sleep in their crates and feel very secure.  We did have time to walk the pups in order for them to do their business. They do have a nice dog run.  
  
When we arrived at the baggage claim in Delhi, no pups.  Dr. Chiro Mitra our Indian pet relocation liaison informed us that somehow they were transported as unaccompanied pets and sent to the cargo hold.  There, they would be fed and watered.  Ram could pay-bribe the person on duty 8,000 rupees - $132.00 USD to get them that night or wait until the AM.  Dr. Mitra first said he would help us.  He suggested he drop me and the luggage at the hotel and then take Ram to the cargo holding area.  When we got to his car he demanded payment.  This seemed reasonable because he explained when we contracted with him that there were fees that he would need to pay.  When we got to the hotel he said that it was late and the paperwork would take several hours.  He gave us the contact person’s name and phone number and there would be no problem with Ram getting the dogs and left.  Ram immediately had a bad feeling.  He went to the cargo area.  The person in charge demanded money.  Ram said, “Not until I have my dogs.”  The dogs had not been fed or given water.  We had sent food secured to their carriers. Ram was permitted to feed and water and play a bit with them, but was not permitted to take them even though we had all the documentation and the required No Objection Certificate.  He could get them tomorrow, Friday at 10:00 AM.  If he did not get them then, we would have to wait until Monday.  Upon hearing this he was frantic thinking the dogs would be stolen.  There are no Toy Fox Terriers here in India that I could find as it would have been easier to get them here.  The dogs started howling when they were put back in their crates.  We did not sleep that night.
Ram went back to the cargo alone 9 AM Friday.  He said the bribe would go up if they saw my white face.  At 1 PM I was told to join him as some of the documents had my name and they needed to see me and my passport.  Upon my arrival a stern looking woman and four men demanded my ID.  I handed over my Passport and PIO Indian visa.  I demanded to see my pups.  After much conversation in Hindi I was taken to a large nonclimate controlled cargo area.  I realized my pups had had a cold night.  They were brought up closer but we were separated by a rope and guard.  I asked to go closer.  He reluctantly agreed.  They immediately started crying and jumping around.  Their doors were locked with a plastic fastener.  I asked to hold them.  The answer was no.  I could only stick my fingers in to touch them.  I broke down and sobbed.  By now, except for the time Ram was allowed to take them out, they had been their crates for over 33 hours.   A larger crowd of cargo employees gathered.  I am sure this was to insure Ram would pay top rupee to get them out I heard more conversation in Hindi.  Later Ram told me that we were leaving.  They wanted more money than he had.  I told him and them and I would not leave my dogs.  I am sobbing hysterically.  I pulled off all my jewelry including my diamond wedding band and handed it to Ram.  I told him to give it to them.  A guard told me to calm down. He handed my jewelry back to me and told me I would get my dogs but it would “take some time”.  Then they wanted the original NOC.  We told them we were only given copies.  I was finally allowed to hold my pups.  They went nuts licking my face and wagging their tails uncontrollably.  Ram called Dr.  Mitra.  Forty Five minutes later he arrived with the original NOC and left quickly.   I was asked to sign several documents.  Finally at 4 PM exhausted, Reshma, Shera and I were allowed to go back to the hotel.  Ram said that he was going to wait for Dr. Mitra return to the cargo.  He owed the customs officer unpaid fees.  While waiting for Ram, I let my pups out of their urine and feces soaked crates.  I put together their own crates, knowing I would put them in until our trip home to Ghorakhal and only for their safety.  They did run in and out of their own crates.  This has always been a place of security for them.  Later Ram came back to the hotel.  Dr. Mitra never showed.  Ram will wire the fees owed.   Ram said the stern lady had asked him why he married a white woman saying he should have married an Indian.  He explained that after his first Indian wife died, he at the age of thirty did not want to marry an eighteen year old Indian who would also want children.  The guard had remarked that our dogs have a better life than his sons.  “Your dogs get to ride in planes and go to foreign countries.”  I think we are very lucky we now have our pups. 

We are now home in Ghorakhal.  This event has given us both second thoughts about making India our home.  I will never leave this country thinking I can get our dogs back in.  I know here the bribe is the expected way of doing business and business men are often corrupt.  Dr. Mitra sure left us high and dry.  This has put a different face on everything.