Friday, March 9, 2012

Why Doesn't United Airlines Want Me to Come With You?

Mom says this is from the President of AFSA. I don't know what that is but it sounds important. Mom also says that for some reason, this airline company wants to make it harder for her to take me with her. I don't know why they would do that...I am a good dog! But mom says you can help if you write to the airplane people.


AFSA Appeal to United Airlines
Include U.S. Foreign Service in New Pet Policy Waiver for U.S. Military

Dear Foreign Service Colleagues:

This is a call to collective action now on behalf of Foreign Service pets and their owners/families. See the sample e-mail letter to United at the end of this message immediately after my signature.

AFSA has engaged with the Department of State and United Airlines regarding United’s new policies on pet travel which restrict options, raise costs and pose enormous practical problems for the safe and timely transfer of pets at transit points where a change of plane and carrier is required. The likely difference to Foreign Service families would be instead of paying around $250-$400 per pet, families would have to pay much more and in many cases between $1,000 and $4,000 per pet.

United has granted a waiver to members of the military traveling on permanent change of station orders. Although all the specifics are not clear, it appears that the main elements of the waiver are (1) optional use of professional pet shipper; (2) waiving of $40 fuel and security charges; (3) flat rate* for cargo under United’s PetSafe program; and (4) United will assume responsibility for the transfer of pets to the connecting airline. Without the waiver, the traveler has to somehow accomplish this on his or her own, coping with getting to a cargo terminal, collecting a crated pet, take it to the connecting airline and do all this within the transit time allowed. (*the flat rate for cargo appears to be much higher than the rate for accompanied excess baggage.)

AFSA invites Foreign Service pet owners (and their friends) to participate in an important collective action e-mail campaign to United. If we join together we can have an impact. For maximum effect, we want as many e-mails as possible to be sent during a 48-hour window starting as soon as you receive this e-mail and ending at 5:00 pm EST on Friday, March 9. We ask that you copy AFSA at so that we have a central record of the number of participants in the action and can follow up. Otherwise, we won’t know how many of you joined in to make a difference and any needed follow up will be more difficult. 

To make our collective voice heard, if you are a pet owner, past, present or future, or you believe that civilian federal employees traveling on permanent change of station orders should be given the same waiver accorded to our colleagues in uniform, we are asking you to click on the link below and send a message to United, urging them to extend the waiver program to members of the United States Foreign Service traveling on official transfer orders. Please make sure that your message is cordial and to the point; you should identify yourself as a United States Foreign Service employee or family member.

Susan R. Johnson
AFSA President

Here is a suggested message that you may copy/paste and personalize (briefly) if you wish.

 Dear Mr. Smisek – As a [member of the Foreign Service/spouse or family member of a U.S. Foreign Service employee], I welcome your decision to grant a waiver of certain parts of the new United pet policy to members of the U.S. military on permanent change of station orders, and I urge you to grant the same waivers to America’s Foreign Service traveling with their pets when they are on official “change of station” orders.

Extending the waiver would demonstrate that United recognizes the service of those who work to advance and protect America’s interests abroad, and would modify a policy that unfairly penalizes members of a career service that requires its members to be available worldwide, who rely on and feel deep responsibility to their beloved animal companions. This policy will cause serious hardship, both financial and emotional, to members of the U.S. diplomatic service and their families when they are assigned to official stations abroad and traveling to and from their official station on government orders.

This is a fair and common sense solution and we urge you to extend the waiver to members of America’s Foreign Service, for the benefit of our animal companions who are such important members of our families and our lives.

(If the link does not work for you, please send the message to,,, and

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Thought It Was "Puss in Boots"

Some days, I am not sure what mom was thinking.

She tells me I am a Border Collie, and that my ancestors come from Scotland, which can get very cold.

But I am from North Carolina. Where it does not get cold. At least not as cold as it is here.

Every morning, when we go outside to potty, I try to hold my feet up because the ground is so cold, but you can't get all of your feet off the ground unless you sit. And it is too cold to sit.

So I try to convince my mom I can just hold it. Like until spring.

This morning, our routine changed, and she put these things on my feet. They make me walk funny and I do not like them not one bit. She said they are boots just like her boots, but I think they are some kind of evil torture device. You can see what I mean from the picture!

I succeeded in getting all four back off my feet before we finished our walk. Well, okay, three. Mom gave up and took the fourth one off.

But then we came inside and she put them back on!

Though this time, we would walk a few steps and then I'd get some cheese. A few more steps, and more cheese.

I like the boots better with cheese.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Finding Your Perfect Canine Companion

Friends Fur-Ever - Finding Your Perfect Canine Companion

Our culture is really going to the dogs these days! More and more pups are showing up in the media, both as playthings of the rich and famous and as the stars of their own reality shows, but loyal pet owners everywhere know that dogs are much more than fashion accessories or popular TV subjects. They truly can be your best friend and are incredibly intelligent, compassionate, hardworking, and loyal. All breeds are not the same, however, and choosing the right dog can make all the difference in the relationship you have with your pooch. Keep reading to see how astrology helps to guide you to your ultimate canine companion!

The American Staffordshire Terrier (Amstaff for short) is a confident dog that makes a very loyal and devoted companion for the Ram. They have a rep for being slightly aggressive - something you can relate to! - but your dedication to training them correctly will make all the difference in their demeanor. Amstaffs are very trusting and amiable but can be stubborn at times; however, if you assert yourself like a true Aries can, they'll be your compliant companions.

Your ideal dog companion is the German Shepherd. This loyal and very intelligent breed is obedient and learns quickly, making them extremely easy to train; they also have a regal air about them that you admire. Some German Shepherds can be quite aloof and serious, like a lot of Taureans, but they are also known for being highly effective watchdogs, which helps put your security-conscious mind at ease.

The quick and agile Border Collie fits your personality perfectly. Highly intelligent and trainable, the Border Collie has lots of stamina and determination. They're also eager to please and very quick to learn, which makes them easily trainable and adaptable to your ever-changing world. Border Collies need a high level of mental and physical stimulation, just like you do, which is why they make a great companion for on-the-go Gemini.

The Labrador Retriever is your ideal dog, not only for its sweet-natured, loving, and loyal ways but also because they are wonderful family pets. Labs are extremely friendly and sociable with a mild manner and laid-back attitude, and because they love to join in a wide range of activities and have lots of love and affection to shower upon their family, they're the perfect companion to the family-centric Crab.

Grand in stature, the loyal and honorable Bullmastiff is your type of dog. This dog is huge, so you are sure to turn heads wherever you go, giving you both the attention you crave. But beyond their superficial appeal, they also have a great amount of loyalty and devotion and are cheerful, confident, and attentive pets - all characteristics that would make any Leo dog owner swell with pride.

The noble-looking Weimaraner is perfect for the Virgo with discerning taste. Weimaraners are very strong-minded and independent dogs, and because they have boundless energy, they can really benefit from the punctual walks that most Virgo natives are willing to give them. Sticking to a precise schedule also helps keep these dogs away from destructive behaviors they are sometimes prone to; once they know that they can depend on you, you will be able to depend on them to reach their full potential.

Affectionate, gentle, and sweet, the Whippet is a charming dog with a peaceful demeanor. Whippets do like to run around and play, but they are also happy enjoying the creature comforts of home; this adaptability makes them more comfortable with your indecisiveness than other breeds may be. These dogs love the attention of their owners, enjoy interactive play, and will be sure to appreciate your creativity when it comes to finding activities you can enjoy together.

Perhaps, as a strong and powerful Scorpio, you don't picture yourself with any of the toy breeds, especially a Chihuahua, but you may be surprised to find that they are quite a good fit with the Scorpio personality. These little dogs are curious, full of confidence for their size, and they are very loyal to their families, demonstrating quite a jealous streak if another pet or person is getting more attention than they are. Sound familiar?

You need a dog that will roll with the waves, one who is as happy at home as they are on a road trip with you, and that dog is a Golden Retriever. This breed is popular for many reasons, among them being their social personalities and real passion for life. If you're up for doing it, so are they! Just make sure to enroll them in doggie daycare or get them a human or canine companion if you are gone a lot and can't take them with you as these pups do not like to be left alone.

The Pug is tenacious and devoted but also has a cheerful way about him, much like the typical Capricorn. These dogs do not need a lot of grooming or maintenance and can get along fairly well without a big yard in which to frolic, which allows you to be a responsible dog owner and still keep your hectic work schedule. Although Pugs can be quite willful at times, they will respond well to your methodical training methods.

OK, so you aren't the most likely of all the Sun Signs to own a dog, but those of you who crave a dog to call your own will want to consider the gracious Rhodesian Ridgeback. This is a breed of intelligence, which you can appreciate, and is also very independent and willing to follow the road less traveled with you. Just keep in mind that they have very intense sight and sound triggers, so they will wander off if something stirs their curiosity.

Faithful, affectionate, and maybe just a little lazy, the Saint Bernard is a huge dog with a huge heart - in other words, your perfect pooch. Saint Bernards are typically very calm, quiet, patient, docile, and loyal, traits with which Fish can identify. These dogs do need the companionship of their owners and are not suited to people with hectic, busy schedules, but compassionate Pisces is more willing than any other sign to accommodate the Saint Bernard's needs.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Arushka: The traveling dog story

I know I haven't written in a long time. My moms and I have moved to Estonia, so I will be telling you more about that soon.

But today I wanted to share a piece with you that my mom found about a puppy that was rescued by a Foreign Service Officer, travelled the world with him, and then retired to Beaufort, South Carolina.

Arushka: The traveling dog story

By Tess Malijenovsky

Meet Arushka: the sweet, world-traveled dog that’s new to town and responds to Polish, Albanian, a little Spanish and Urdu. Arushka, or “little bear cub” in Albanian, was a young puppy when she was found in a snow bank near an “instant cemetery” in Kosovo in 2001. Her mother was killed, as there was a war going on in the country at the time.

Bill Ballard was working as a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department in Kosovo when he was handed the tiny pup. Bill explained that in war territories, when the electricity goes out and food becomes sparse, pets are turned loose to the streets. About 50,000 dogs, he said, ran wild in the city where he was working. Raising a puppy in turbulent territory is no ordinary feat. Bill imported dog food from Germany and actually had a doctor who was looking for surgery practice spay Arushka while in Kosovo.

For most families working in American embassies and consulates, having a pet is out of the question because of the hassle of travel, but that didn’t stop Bill. Arushka came with him to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Lahore, Pakistan, and Bogotá, Columbia, throughout his career. Kids of the consulate families got a special kick out of playing with Arushka, the that became their Little League team mascot.

After Kosovo, Bill was relocated to Jeddah, but to bring Arushka to the Saudi Arabia he’d have to prove that she was purebred and either a guard dog, hunting dog or Seeing Eye dog. Bill listed Arushka as a Miniature German Shepherd, a “new breed,” and a guard dog. “I don’t know whether it was my diplomatic passport or the cash inside the passport but he only made a cursory examination and signed off on her,” Bill said.

Bill and Arushka lived in a nine-bedroom house all to themselves. She was not welcomed in the presence of the Saudis because dogs are unclean by Islamic standards and only allowed to work (not to touch); so Arushka stayed at home in her garden among the date trees with her own gardener.

In Pakistan, Arushka picked up Urdu from her private house keeper, which is the same way she picked up a little Spanish in Bogotá. But the multi-lingual dog doesn’t like responding to English, so Bill usually speaks to her in Polish or Albanian.

After 10 years of world travel, Arushka is happier than ever that she and Bill are officially retired in beautiful Beaufort where they spend all their time together. She especially likes her water bowl at Common Ground and taking walks with her best friend Bill by the waterfront

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Flying is for the Birds

My name is Cayenne, and I am an African Grey parrot.

I have lived with my mother since I was only four months old. I was 15 years old in April.

My mother joined the Foreign Service when I was 8, and since then, I have had to get used to this travelling thing. Mostly I have had to get used to my mother's fretting about the travelling thing.

When we went to Jerusalem, no one told my mom that I needed something called a CITES certificate. The officials at the airports in Tel Aviv didn't seem to know that either. They never asked for one. Of course, they also didn't ask for the USDA form that is also required. So maybe they just don't know.

Anyway, this CITES certificate is something about importing and exporting exotic species. I'm not sure why this applies to me, since I was born in Mississippi. I guess Mississippi is sort of exotic....

Anyway, mom didn't know this was a problem until we were coming back from Jerusalem. That is when someone told her that she was not allowed to import me from Israel because they had bird flu.

She told them she wasn't importing me, that like her, I am a native Southerner. And that the bird flu was only in Gaza, and that I was never allowed to leave our apartment in Jerusalem.

They didn't seem to care. They said she had to get a CITES permit or I would be put down when we got to the States.

Not sure why that is a big holds me and then puts me down every day. But she seemed really upset. I got a lot of hugs during that period.

Anyway, it all worked out. They accepted my hatch certificate from Mississippi and she got the permit. I did have to stay at this fancy hotel in New York for 30 days, but mom was more upset about that than I was. This nice lady talked to me every day and gave me some medicine she said was just in case I brought anything nasty back with me. She even let me have some of my toys and my own food with me.

The point of all of this is that this time, mom is making sure she gets that CITES permit so I can both go overseas with her and come home again at the end of the tour. Because you know, we Greys live 25 to 50 years on average, so I am still pretty young. I bet I'll get to see mom retire.

So if you are travelling with your bird, you should check and see if they need that permit too. Just in case. You can find the info about it here and here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pet Air Travel Tips: More Safety - Less Stress

Sorry I haven't written you in a while...I have been adjusting to my new brother. And now I am adjusting to the idea that we are moving soon.

So in the spirit of moving, my mom got this email from PetLink the other day and I thought I would steal it and share it with you.

Dear DiploDoggie's mom,
Taking flight with DiploDoggie? Make it safe and relaxing for both of you with a few tips from your friends at PetLink.

Many thousands of animals travel safely aboard aircraft every year. How do they travel? You may transport your pet as accompanied baggage, if you are a passenger on the same flight as your pet. On flights of less than 6 hours most airlines will allow pets to be taken with the passenger in the cabin (except when flying to the UK). The container for the pet must fit under the seat in front of you and must have a waterproof bottom. The other way that pets can travel by plane is in the pressurized cargo hold (if they cannot be accompanied or if they are too large to fly in the cabin). Whether the pet is flying as checked baggage or as cargo they will arrive in the same special area of the cargo department, which is pressurized and temperature controlled. Airline personnel make every effort to handle pets with the care they deserve.

If you are thinking of flying with your pet, how should you prepare?


•Visit and update your contact information, including adding temporary contact information where you can be reached during your vacation.

•Animals traveling internationally need to have a 15 digit microchip that should appear on all Veterinary and Vaccination Certificates. This microchip will also be read at security.

•Purchase an IATA compliant pet carrier crate in which your pet can comfortably stand, lie down and turn around. Remember to cover the bottom of the pet carrier with a cozy towel or other absorbent material and give your pet at least one month to become familiar with the carrier.

•During the winter months, the airlines may require documentation called an 'acclimation certificate' stating that your pet is acclimated to temperatures lower than 45 degrees.

•Check your pet's collar tag to make sure it won't become caught in the carrier doors. Get a durable collar tag that shows your pet's microchip number and the PetLink toll-free number. As a precaution, also attach a separate collar tag with destination address & contact information.

•Clearly identify your pet on the outside of the crate including his or her photo, name, and contact information for your pet's destination point. Carry a photo of your pet.


•Within 10 days of your trip, obtain a health certificate from your vet, including an update of vaccinations. •Bring your pet's medical records.

•Bring your first aid kit.

•Bring DiploDoggie's medications - especially anti-diarrheal and motion sickness meds.

•Take prescriptions with you.

•Take along fresh water - freeze it the night before.

•Choose direct flights where possible to minimize exposure to extreme temperatures or stress of sitting in the cargo hold.

•For longer flights or layovers, attach a small pouch of dry food to the outside of the carrier.

•Keep in mind that each airline has its own guidelines: let airline personnel know that you're traveling with a pet.

•Always remain on the same flight as your pet.

Remember, the number one stress-relieving tip is to prepare well enough in advance of your trip - beginning with a visit to your vet and another one on to learn more about pet travel! Relax! Thousands of furry travelers fly safely every year.

Most importantly... have fun!

Sincerely,Your PetLink Team

PS The ASPCA does not recommend flying your pet in the cargo hold. If it is unavoidable, the above tips can help ensure your pet's safety and well-being.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pets in Cairo

This post is from Life After Jerusalem. I wanted other pets to know about this and tell their parents to help if they can!


AFSA has started a new Facebook page for Foreign Affairs Friends of Animals Network. They have sent a couple of emails recently that about the pets of the folks evacuated from Cairo that I wanted to share with you. The second is the more important, because they are looking for your help. They are having a couple meetings for people here in DC who can help, especially those who are in a position to foster some pets.

Here is the first:

Colleagues –

Per the U.S.U.S. Embassy Egypt evacuation status, non-emergency Embassy personnel and families have been ordered to depart Egypt, and some 2,000 U.S. citizens and family members have been evacuated since January 31 – but evacuation flights are not able to accommodate pets. Meanwhile, reports have been trickling out about the paucity of pet options for evacuating USG staff and families – and indeed, for all US citizens.

We have established contact with animal welfare organizations in the U.S. and in Egypt, to evaluate what if anything we can do to assist U.S. pets and pet owners involved in the current evacuation.

Additionally, through AFSA, we have started a dialogue with the DOS Director General’s office, with the goal of developing an SOP for handling pets in future evacuations. We are looking at the model of the U.S. domestic Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006 – an Act passed and signed into law by President Bush in the aftermath of Katrina, in response to evidence that human lives were put at risk when people were ordered to evacuate without their pets.

Are you a pet owner who has been involved in the Egypt evacuation yourself, or do you have close contact with a pet owner who has been involved?

Do you have ideas about what our network might do to help U.S. pets and pet owners involved in the evacuation?

Do you have suggestions for the proposed SOP to cover handling pets in future evacuations?

The Foreign Affairs Friends of Animals Network can help advocate for better evacuation plans that incorporate elements of domestic legislation. We want to hear from you!

Here is the second:

The FLO has started a blog to gather detailed information about pets remaining in Cairo, and to coordinate their care and transport as appropriate. The URL is

While the FLO works on that end, they have asked AFSA and the Foreign Affairs Friends of Animals Network to help with contingency planning on the DC end. We don’t know how the situation will evolve in the coming days, but one scenario may possibly involve flying the pets to the DC area, in which case a network of volunteers would potentially be needed to provide short-term care for some of these cats and dogs.

Are you in the DC area and interested in lending a hand?
- Let us know if you can meet at the AFSA office, 2101 E Street NW in DC this Saturday or Sunday Feb. 5 or 6 at 2 pm.
- If you can’t come to a meeting this weekend, but are potentially available to provide short-term fostering in the DC area for a USG dog or cat, please let us know that too.