If you missed the first post about our Germany PCS, you can read it here.
So we got to Baltimore on May 2nd and the next day we went to pick up a rental car at BWI so we could have something to drive around after dropping our car off for shipping.
We hopped on the hotel shuttle and asked the driver to drop us off near the the Air Mobility Command counter since we wanted to check out the area to know where we needed to go on the day of our flight (May 7th) and such.
By chance there was someone at the counter and Lance said “let’s go talk to him, make sure we have everything we need. Just in case.”
The guy asks if we have or port calls (tickets), we do, we showed them to him, and he says “you’re good! Do you have pets?” “Yes we do, two spots, right here” “okay that looks good but let me double check. Just in case“.
Lance gives him ID, and he starts typing, searching… and then tries Lance’s name in a different combination, and then his social security number, and time starts ticking by and I start getting nervous. When he says the infamous “let me call my supervisor” words.
Long story short. We weren’t in system. Nowhere to be found, not even as a cancellation. We had no tickets, not even Lance, much less two of the 10 coveted pet spots.
Apparently, back in March, when I went in to add Ben to our reservation and finalize our tickets, the Fort Bliss travel office never finalized them.
The guy added Ben to the reservation, printed the port calls, but never hit the final “Submit” button that would’ve taken the reservation from the Fort Bliss system to the AMC system and finalized our tickets. Instead he just closed the window. Looking back on it I remember this moment so clearly.
I remember the guy pulling up the port calls as a PDF, saving them, printing them, and then he closed the tickets window. He just closed it and told me we were good to go. And I asked him, “so that’s it? We’re good?” “Yes! Of course. You have your port calls, you’re good.”
Except we SO were NOT good to go. The flight was absolutely full, all 300 seats taken, and so was the next flight two days later.
The AMC supervisor told us we could get there early on 7th and be added to the Space-R list and then wait for people not to show up and take those seats… but what about Pudge and Panda?
“Well, you’d have to hope two pets don’t show and then we could get them on the flight”
“What if all pets show, though?”
“Know anyone in the area that could be on standby to pick them up if they don’t get on the flight?”
“Then you’d abandon them at the airport”
That was an actual, real option given to us. To just abandon them at the airport. I almost cried on the spot, at the mere thought. What if we hadn’t stop by? Would that have truly been our only option on Sunday when we came upon this hot mess?!
So instead of getting to enjoy our extra days in Baltimore and calmly take care of the last few things, we spent three days glued to our phones and computers trying to figure out the best possible route to get all of us to Germany, Pudge and Panda included.
There was talk, long talks, of commercial flights instead of going through PE, but then there was no guarantee the Army would pay us back. There were long calls to every airline ever to try to get Pudge and Panda to Germany at the same-ish time as us. Every call imaginable, it happened.
Because that was the other thing. Pudge and Panda had international health certificates which cost a pretty penny and were only good for 10 days. After the 10 days? Boom, gone, might as well have grabbed 4 $100 bills and burned them.
So after a couple of days, I have a friend in Germany on stand-by to possibly pick us or Pudge and Panda from the airport. And another friend to possibly take Pudge and Panda for a day or two so she can then drop them off at the airport. But they both have jobs and their own kids and fur babies and I cannot possibly ask this of them. It was a mess. It was all one big mess.
Finally, Lance called his mom and asked for the biggest favor ever – please take Pudge and Panda so we can figure this out. It could be for a couple of days, it could be a few weeks, maybe a couple of months.
She says yes and we fly them from Baltimore to Spokane on Friday through United. We then made reservations for them also through United to fly from Spokane to Munich the Wednesday after our flight. We explained the whole mess and they told us, yes, of course your pets can fly internationally with us even if you’re not on the plane. Sweet, we got this. Finally.
So Sunday May 7, we make our way to BWI to get placed in Space-R and hope 5 people don’t make the flight so we can fly. After some sketchy moments and 3 hours of waiting, we’re given tickets and told to go to the gate. Then 6 hours later (and three hours delayed) we finally take off and fly across the Atlantic.
And I so wish the tale of this PCS was done here but it SO isn’t.
We land in Ramnstein Air Force Base, go through customs, get our stuff, and get on the bus. Because yes, we now have a 4-5 hour bus ride from Ramstein to Hohenfels, with a food stop halfway through and a stop at Amsberg to drop off half the bus. Except, because of course there’s an except, it turns into a 9 hour bus ride after hitting traffic on the Autobahn due to an accident.
We got to Bavaria so late that no one was waiting for the people at Amsberg. No sponsors. The hotel had no receptionist. The welcome desk was closed. So we spent an hour trying to figure out what to do with these people that included children until finally they are dropped off at Garrison CQ because there’s nowhere else to take them.
So now we’re running 4-5 hours later than we should be and as we drive the last leg to Hohenfels, all of us start to panic a little. What if we get there and no one is waiting for us? No one had cell service, because we all cancelled our phones before leaving the states. No one has sponsors phone numbers, just emails that we can’t even email because no data, no internet, nothing.
Thankfully when we got to Hohenfels around 11pm, with cranky kids and very tired everyone, all of the sponsors were waiting for us to drive us the hotel. And after 36 hours awake, we all finally get to the hotel and pass out.
And we’re done!
Just kidding, this is the PCS that kept on giving. Pudge and Panda are still in Spokane and my one of mother in law’s dogs apparently doesn’t like Pudge. He kept growling and nipping at him and it’s a mess. Again. But it’s okay! They have those United flights. Except when my in-laws go to drop them off United turns them away because “they don’t fly dogs internationally without the service member”. Nevermind the two separate hours long calls with their representatives, nevermind their website says they do, they turn them away.
And because of the time difference between Spokane and Germany, there was not a whole lot we could do. So we put our trust on my mother in law who found a company that will ship the dogs. Basically, this company (Dog Gone Taxi) picked up Pudge and Panda from her home, drove them to Seattle, and then dropped them off to fly through Lufthansa.
No one in our family slept well or could fully breathe until Lance and I picked up Pudge and Panda one week exactly after we dropped them off at BWI.
I think Joey’s reaction when he saw our two fluffs summarized what it felt to leave the whole ordeal behind us – a high pitched squeal, followed by unending giggles, and a face splitting smile that didn’t leave his face for hours.
This was without a doubt, the single most stressful PCS I never imagined. Murphy was truly out to get us and everything that could go wrong, really did go wrong. Every step of the way. BUT. We are in Germany, have been for a month now and the Kinder eggs alone have made it worth it.