We made it! It was stressful – possibly more for me, the owner, but both my Boston Terrier and I arrived in Athens, Greece on June 6th, 2019 after a long 9 1/2 hour flight from Toronto.
The funny thing is that upon arrival in Greece, all the pre-trip paperwork that I had done in Canada in order to “officially” allow Beans to come to Greece was never checked. I’m still not sure how that happened – but the nice thing is that he is laying at my feet in Nea Ionia as I write this. He’s happy and content although he did have a hard time with a walk yesterday – the heat and the sunshine got to him. More than a little, but the Warrior Dog survived the ordeal. And I know better for next time not to take him on an exploratory walk in the middle of the afternoon here. Mornings and evenings will be better.
I had thought that taking him with me to Greece might be a bit of an ordeal; on the other hand, the fact that I will be here for an extended time meant that the ordeal for Beans to get him here would probably be better than leaving him at home without me. When I’ve been away in the past for a couple or more weeks, my son has looked after him for me, but tells me that Beans would often spend time looking out the door window, waiting for me to return. In addition, I did not really want to burden David this time with a request to babysit my dog as David is now very busy with a job and a University course.
So about six weeks ago, the research began on how I could manage have Beans travel with me.
Pre-Travel Plans With A Boston Terrier
Back in April, I had booked a flight on Air Canada to Greece, departing on the 29th of May. I had read that Air Canada was “pet friendly” and that I could take a “small dog” in the cabin with me. I had read that the total weight of dog and crate could not exceed 22 lbs, and Beans only weighs about 16 lbs so I figured everything was fine.
I should have done more research on this!
My next step was to find out what I needed to do before I could approved to have Beans enter the country, and it turned out I needed to do a few things including getting my dog micro-chipped and ensured his rabies shot was current. The rabies shot had to be administered more than 21 days before his arrival in Greece, and also had to be done after he was micro-chipped.
Now, Beans was supposed to be micro-chipped while being neutered when he was still a puppy, about 8 years ago, but neither happened. When the veterinarian tried to deliver anesthesia to him, his heart rate drastically and dangerously dropped. The vet tried a few times, with the same result and determined that she just did not want to carry though with the procedures as she felt it was too dangerous for him. It was recommended that I take Beans to a pet cardiologist but the appointment just to get in to see the specialist was going to cost me over $500.00, so we just did not do that.
As a result, he’s never been neutered (and another reason to bring him with me – most boarding kennels require that your pet be neutered/spayed before they will even accept them, along with a host of vaccinations).
But, I could get the micro-chipping covered without any anesthesia required and a quick call to the vet was made – for two appointments on subsequent days. The first day to have the micro-chip done, and the next to have the rabies shot. This was done in order to meet the requirement of the microchipping before the rabies shot, without any confusion.
Greek European Union Health Certificate
The next requirement was obtaining a health certificate required by the EU, but specific to Greece. This turned out to be more challenging than it seems, as although I could download the necessary form from the Government of Canada’s Food Inspection Agency website, I needed to also cross out all the sentences and paragraphs that did not apply. Quite a number of copies of the printed paper form went into the recycling bin.
The other issue was that this EU health cerficate needed to be signed by the Vet along with a certified copy of Beans’ rabies vaccination, within ten days of him arriving in Greece. His arrival was due to be the 30th of May. Seemed like I had lots of time…. and my vet at the Orangeville Animal Hospital did a great job working with me on trying to get everything done that needed to be done.
But things were to get even more complicated…
Air Canada Flight Cancelled
Sadly, on May 16th, my mom passed away. This event was an extremely sad time for my family – my siblings and I had to both grieve and spend time working on funeral arrangements and other needed things, all with only 13 days to my scheduled flight to Greece. I had initially hoped there was a way to manage to still fly on the 29th of May and continued to plan for it. But it would not happen.
Originally, I had been lead to believe, as mentioned above, that “small dogs” could be taken in the cabin on Air Canada. But after I purchased the ticket for Beans, I was advised by the airline that the pet had to be able to stand in a height of 10″. I was pretty sure I could find something large enough that Beans could curl up in and fall asleep (hopefully), but there was no way he would be able to stand in a crate that stood only 10″ high.
A few more calls were made to Air Canada, and it turned out that they would not even fly a Boston Terrier in cargo (they will not take any short nose breeds due to possible breathing problems in flight). So now what to do?
I managed to speak with a sympathetic supervisor at Air Canada, and when advised of the issues that had come up, offered to fully refund my fare along with the ticket price that I had paid for Beans to fly with me in cabin.
At that point, it seemed almost hopeless that I would be able to take my dog with me to Greece.
Air Transat To The Rescue!
I still really wanted to be able to arrive in Greece before June 7th, if it was possible, for personal reasons. On a hunch, I decided to check out Air Transat’s pet polices, and discovered that while I could not take him in the cabin with me (their crate height restrictions were the same as Air Canada’s), and that they also refused to fly most short nosed dogs, they did make an exception for Boston Terriers!
It was a bit confusing though, to book the flight as I could not do it online, and Air Transat switched me back and forth between their passenger ticket agents and cargo departments, before I could finally get the trip finalized – for June 5th.
This meant though that I had to get an updated signature from my vet in order to meet the “within 10 days of travel requirement” on the EU Health Certificate. More running around before I could finally head to a Canada Food Inspection Agency office that also had Animal Veterinarians that would be able to certify the certificate. And I had to find a suitable crate; none seemed available at any local or within driving distance pet shops.
Amazon and two day delivery solved that problem.
And with most problems solved, it was off to Guelph to have the EU Health Certificate certified by friendly and helpful people at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. After some time going over the documents, including proof of flight date, and a $20.00 fee, everything was set!
Beans Enters Greece
I had a few days to get Beans acclimatized to his new crate – he is used to a wired crate so he was not too thrilled with one that is mostly solid with some vents on each side. But after a while, he decided everything was okay and snored the night away, as Boston Terriers tend to do. However, the day of our flight, he was not thrilled being in the crate for the ride to the airport, and wasn’t comfortable at all being wheeled around on a cart. The Air Transat staff were amazing though, gave him lots of attention, and one even tried to calm my own worries by saying, “Mr. Scott, we treat our pet passengers even better than our human passengers,” with a smile. To be honest, it was nice to hear, but I had some worries throughout the flight duration.
Now, according to the EU rules, I was supposed to present the EU Health Certificate to an official Veterinarian at the Athens airport before I could take possession of him. But, I was not even sure where I would even find Beans.
When we arrived in Greece, we landed quite a distance from the terminal and there were buses waiting for the airplane passengers to be bused to the terminal. This of course meant that all the cargo (including Beans) would also be transported quite a distance. When the passengers arrived, the lineup through the Greek Passport Control was enormous (in all my previous trips here, I’d never seen such a long lineup before) and it took over 30 minutes to get through that. I then headed over to the luggage area, found my suitcases, and went about trying to figure out where I’d find my dog.
There was nothing obvious to me, so I asked an airport employee if he knew. He asked me to follow him, and then pointed to a crate on the floor and asked, “Is that your dog?”
It was! There was Beans, sitting in his crate, peering through the wired door, as if to say, “Okay, what the heck is going on here?” expression on his face. But there was no officials around, or anyone that I would need to show any paperwork too. I just picked up the crate, put it on luggage cart and we walked through customs without being asked a single question. I walked outside of the airport terminal, right to Kiriaki who had been waiting for us, and no inspection of any documents!
Kiriaki called the airport Veterinarians phone number and they seemed as puzzled as we were that somehow, Beans was simply left available to be picked up inside the terminal. It was not supposed to happen that way, but after a conversation, they told us that considering that both Beans and I were now outside the terminal, to not worry about anything, and we were free to just leave!
What an interesting adventure it was, and what a life Beans has had so far! He even understands a couple of Greek commands like “Mila!” (Speak) and “Katse!” (Sit).
Now, to work on improving my Greek! Beans though seems to be able to make friends here with just about anyone – and also loves the Greek food!