Posts Tagged ‘PCS’

I recently got a question from another military spouse about how I took my cats to Hawaii, so I thought I’d tell you a little about the process we undertook in order to bring the pets on our PCS. I will try my best to keep my info accurate as of this writing, but always check the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s website for the most up-to-date info!

The first thing you need to know is that Hawaii is a rabies-free (or as close to it as possible) place! This is good news for your furry family member once you’ve arrived, but it means that there will be some legwork on your behalf in the months leading up to your PCS. This can be tricky now as the DoD isn’t officially scheduling moves until 60 days in advance (again, as of this writing), but as long as you have about 5 months’ notice, you’ll be fine. It takes a little money and a little scheduling, but I can tell you that if you put in the work, you can pick your pet up at the airport (or within a few days) and it’s not at all stressful.

Have basket, will travel.

The basics of taking pets to Hawaii

Pets must undergo a 120 day quarantine to guarantee them rabies-free, but here’s the key: it can be before you move. Hawaii has a 5 Day or Less program that your pet may qualify for if you can do the legwork beforehand. If coming from somewhere else in the US, you will need to have a blood sample overnighted to one of the two rabies labs in the country and the pet must pass the blood test more than 120 days before arriving in Hawaii. The good news is the test is valid for 36 months, so you can do it at any time before the 120 day window. If you can do that, the rest is relatively easy.

Your pet must also be microchipped and you’ll need the microchip number for all your documentation.

Other things you’ll need: 

  • The form and import fee required by Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture
  • Paperwork from the previous two rabies vaccines, which must be more than 30 days apart
  • A health certificate from  your vet within 14 days prior to departure declaring your pet healthy enough for travel
  • A flea and tick treatment applied by your vet at the time of the health certificate
  • An airline-approved crate to ship your pet (more about that further down)

Double check the checklist from the HDOA’s website, of course, to make sure none of the requirements have changed, but I can tell you that we took the kitties to Hawaii in 2009 and eight years later the requirements are the same.

We knew we were going in Hawaii about 7 months in advance of the actual move, so I was able to get the bloodwork sent to Kansas State University’s Rabies Lab more than 120 days in advance. I timed the vet visits and got copies of the cats’ rabies vaccination certificates, then had my vet apply a flea and tick prevention and give us multiple copies of health certificates. The cats qualified for the 5 Day or Less program and were actually released to us in the airport as soon as they’d been processed. We took them straight to the hotel with us the day we arrived.

That military cat life.

General Tips for PCSing With Pets

Any time you’re moving to a place where you need to fly your pets, do your research to find out the best airline for them. This changes just about every time we move and the service with the best rating three years ago won’t be the best one this year. There are pet-dedicated services but know that they are charging you a service fee to still book your pet on the same exact airline that you could book yourself, so save yourself the $50-100 (or whatever the markup is) and just call the airlines yourself.

If you are sending your pet cargo (which is totally fine! this is what we do!), be sure to find out if your pet will be climate controlled the entire way. You do not want your pet sitting on a hot or cold tarmac. Climate control and temperature restrictions are the main things I look for when choosing an airline for my pets.

Crates are a good investment, even if you’re only planning to fly your pet the one time. “Airline safe” crates are usually available at the Exchange or online and while you may pay more for them, it’s like investing in a car seat for an infant: you’re keeping them safe by having the right equipment. Ideally your pet should be able to sit up without the tops of their ears brushing the top of the crate. My cats always spend their trips lying down, but at least they have the option if they want. Be sure to check with your chosen airline for the specific requirements. (Note: My cats have flown on different airlines than I have– the military often chooses our flights but I choose for the cats so they are not locked in to whatever deal the military has made.)

Some people may suggest that you give your pet a sedative when flying, but my vets have all recommended against doing that. It’s much more stressful for an animal to “wake up” in the middle of an airplane with no idea where they are or how they got there than it is for them to be aware of the process, so we’ve always opted to simply leave them be.
EDIT: I was reminded that “comfort sprays” are not sedatives and can be very helpful for animals to relieve stress! We use Feliway spray in the crates (even on road trips) and it makes a big difference for our kitties! Just a couple of spritzes in a small space is all it takes.

Kitty left behind by neighbors in military housing; I worked with a local rescue to rehome him.

Other notes about Military Pets

NEVER leave your pet behind if there is any way to avoid it. Military families are infamous in the animal rescue community for adopting and then dumping pets because of the cost/effort involved in moving them every 2-3 years. Because of this there are MANY animal groups that will not allow military families to adopt pets. Understand that if you are in the military you are VERY LIKELY to move sometime in the life of the pet, so take that pet adoption seriously. I won’t go anywhere my cats can’t go and J’s detailers all know that.

If you aren’t sure you want to commit to a pet because you know you’ll be moving in 18 months or three years or at some other random interval, maybe consider fostering a pet. This is a great way to have the experience of having a furry friend without the lifetime commitment, and many rescue groups are in constant need of good fosters.

Have you done a military move with pets? Any other tips I have forgotten? Let me know! 

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The thing about applying for orders is that you spend months and months trying to figure out how the process is going to work and where the options might be and people ask you where the options might be (and you spend a lot of time explaining that you don’t actually know until you can see) and then you CAN see the options and even if there are options you like it’s nerve wracking because THEN what happens if you don’t get the one you want, or if there’s an even better one coming next month that you can’t see yet but also you want it to just hurry up and be over.

So then you apply for orders and then it’s a whole lot of waiting.

And more waiting.

And then you either get the billet or you don’t and the process is either over or you start again next month. Either way, it marks the beginning of the end of your time at the current location.

From a spouse’s perspective this is frustrating beyond reason and you feel like you have even less control over it because it’s not actually your job. We have the kind of relationship where choosing orders is a joint endeavor but there are a lot of cases where it’s not, or where for whatever reason there’s no negotiation window and you wind up just going wherever the Navy says you’re going to go. That’s stressful, too, but in a different way. But I refer to this process with a “we” because for us it’s a discussion and a thing that affects both our lives. “We” do this.

Anyway, my point is there’s a whole lot of anxiety leading up to applying for orders and waiting to get results.

And then the fun stuff begins. In our house we say that anything from the military is “written in Jello.” That is to say it could change at any time and with little or no warning.

So in our case, for instance, J got selected for a certain set of orders. Yay! But that set of orders is for someone his current rank. If he gets promoted in the next six months, he might not be able to fill that billet after all and we may find out in, say, September or October that we aren’t going to the place we thought we were going, but are going to another place entirely.

A whole new level of anxiety unfolds.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the whole process is only the best guess we have at any given time and until the time when we arrive at the next location and J checks into his command is anything finalized. Or at least as finalized as anything is in military life.

But yes: we got orders and, if nothing changes between now and December, we’re headed back to the west coast. Wooo!

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grand canyon, J and J

As I’ve mentioned previously, we’re moving this month. And next. And maybe for part of December, too, I’m not really solid on that front at the moment. Basically the Navy is sending us to a new place (again) and the never-ending adventure continues. We just figured this time, as it’s our first move that doesn’t involve crossing an ocean and water-tight shipping crates, that we’d make the journey into an epic. This is the beginning of that journey.

We left San Diego on Monday, October 20. As of now it’s Wednesday, October 22, in Mountain Time-zone. I’m in Colorado. I’ve never been to Colorado before yesterday. It’s rather beautiful. But how did we get here in two days? All. Of. The. Driving. There have been plenty of amazing stops along the way; we try for at least one big Thing a day. Monday we stopped for lunch in Temecula before driving late into the night to reach…

grand canyon, under a tree

The Grand Canyon. It’s…. well, huge doesn’t quite do it justice. Monumental? Humongous? It doesn’t look real, I will say that. At least, not without hiking down into it I’m sure, and we didn’t have an entire week to tackle that. Suffice to say we’ve seen it and it is large and beautiful. As one of the US’s signature natural features, Grand Canyon National Park has been on my life-list for years.

Point of interest: We had lunch at El Tovar Hotel’s dining room and scored one of the best tables in the house overlooking the canyon. The hotel itself opened in 1905 and still has the old style and grandeur, plus the food was tasty and reasonable. I had the Navajo frybread taco, definitely recommend. Of course, I’d recommend anything with Navajo frybread… ~_^

From there, we drove on to Colorado and…

mesa verde, cliff palace

Mesa Verde. I’ve been fascinated by Native American culture since I was a kid, and it was amazing to actually get to visit these adobe cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in person. For some size perspective, you can see an archaeologist surveying the site in the above photo. This is Cliff Palace, one of the biggest sites in the area. The cliff dwellings were built by the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived in the area between 1500 and 800 years ago. There are over 20 tribes descended from them today.

mesa verde, climbing out of cliff palace

Point of note: Getting in and out of the sites is tricky, and involves climbing wooden ladders. Between the steepness and the high altitude, this is rated as a “strenuous” climb and not for people who aren’t in at least descent physical shape. If you can make it down and back up again, though, it’s very much worth the trip.

mesa verde, spruce house

The other major site we visited was Spruce House, which is the best preserved of all the dwellings because it sits so far back into the crevice that it’s protected from the elements a bit more. Though access also involved hiking down and back up, there is a paved trail with benches along the way for catching your breath, and not a ladder in sight, which makes it a bit easier. I still got more winded on this one, though, simply because it was a longer trek. Altitude is rough when you’re not used to it.

mesa verde, trail to spruce house

It’s gorgeously autumn here, with the leaves changing and all, and I’m actually enjoying the cooler weather. Cooler. Not cold. This is important, as I’ve got a whole heap of cold waiting for me at the other end of this trip… But that’s not for today. Instead I’ll leave you with this really cool monumental tower we passed today. Tomorrow we head south again, toward Petraglyph National Park. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) More when I have internet again.

mesa verde, nearby monumental view

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Today I learned some important things.

1. When J has to be at his ship at 6am, and isn’t coming back until Friday night, and we only have one car, I have to drive.

2. Getting to the ship is easy! Go through gate, turn left.

3. Getting back from the ship at 5:30am is NOT easy. Drive toward gate, run into cones, get redirected back to the middle of base, drive around Pearl Harbor for a long time, find that people won’t let you merge and get forced in yet another unknown direction.

4. Pearl Harbor has a tiny little “porter’s gate” that connects to Hickam Air Force Base.

5. Hickan AFB has housing on-base, which means that if you drive through the little gate, it looks like you’re leaving base and getting into housing, and might mistake the area for “home.”

6. Hickam AFB has lots of roads and at least one traffic circle and they don’t all have street signs.

7. The “Caution Explosive Area” of a base is apparently not off-limits. It’s entirely possible to drive into it, at any rate.

8. Airmen who are out jogging are good sources of information. They can usually direct you back to the main gate. This is more helpful than the Navy squadron PTing in the AFB in one huge group.

9. There are a LOT of planes on an AFB, and not all of them are in places you expect.

10. My house is about 3 blocks from the AFB main gate. Turns out in the middle of all this, I was almost home.

So that was my Adventure of the day. I have now seen more of Hickam than I have of Pearl Harbor. Fun stuff. I get to go back for J on Friday night and we’ll have the weekend, then he’ll be back on the ship from Monday to Friday next week. They have a lot of training since they’ve been in dry dock for a year and a half. Feel free to call me if you want to keep me company! ^_^

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