Ground dog day, part 2

KLM saves the day

So there we were: My husband in Berlin, myself in Atlanta. Our two kids were in a hotel with my mom, the dogs in crates at our house, and I was running around getting last-minute items in boxes, going to the house closing, selling our car, cleaning up after the movers left, and hoping that we would be able to leave on Friday as scheduled.

Rosie, our amazing travel coordinator at Starwood Animal Transport, managed to pull through a miracle and book the dogs on another cargo flight, that Thursday night, on KLM. The dogs would fly into Amsterdam, not Frankfurt. But we could still fly on Friday as planned.

My husband re-scheduled his time off from work, then booked a train ticket to Amsterdam. Frankfurt is a six-hour drive from Berlin, but Amsterdam is over seven and a half hours.

Driving the dogs in one day from Frankfurt would have been difficult but doable, but seven-to-eight hours one way, crossing a border, and then coming back the same distance in 24 hours? Too much. Plus, dogs are allowed on almost all trains in both the Netherlands and Germany.

Ironically, we had originally considered flying at the same time as the dogs and taking the ICE train from Frankfurt. But the prospect of juggling luggage, plus scared dogs, plus exhausted humans was daunting.

If only we had known ..

D booked train tickets for himself and return tickets for himself and two dogs. Abe and Pinky would be getting a crash-course in canine Euro-travel.

Note: To do this, you have to go to the travel center at a transit station and book in person. You can make train reservations for humans online, but not the dog tickets. So, he waited in line at Berlin Hauptbahnhof and made the arrangements.

But Wednesday afternoon, I got another phone call.

Despite having confirmed the dogs on the Thursday flight, KLM called Starwood back to say that the flight was full and there was no room. Their system should not have allowed the booking or the confirmation.

They did have room on the flight for Friday night. The one that left two hours after our Air France flight.

I called D in Berlin and woke him up. No trip out on Thursday. He cancelled those tickets. No refund. He booked refundable train tickets again at the Reisenzentrum at Berlin’s main train station for Friday.

We made arrangements with the owner of a kennel near the airport to pick up the dogs early on Friday and keep them boarded until they could check in with KLM. Meanwhile I got cleaners in and out of our old house, and myself and the kids to the airport in time for our flight. Fingers crossed this reservation would stick and we wouldn’t be leaving the dogs behind.

Brent, the kennel owner, told me we were incredibly lucky to get any flight out for the dogs. By that time, Lufthansa had extended its embargo into September. He had pets who were boarding with him and their families weren’t sure when they would be able to travel.

This is all occurring at the same time humans were getting stranded all over the world by over-booked and understaffed airlines. We seemed to have picked the worst time to move to Germany.

Up next: We all get to Europe and the fun really begins.

Featured image caption: They made it! D messaged me this photo of the dogs just after he picked them up at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. Now, we just need to all get to our new home.

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