One of the joys that goes along with being a pet parent is that eventually you will find yourself taking a trip to the veterinarian’s office. For most people this just means wrestling their critter into a carrier, or loading them safely in the car and driving down to the local office at a convenient time.
Oh how I wish that was true here… Today Sammy, our 7 month old puppy had her first visit to the vet.
Now, out here in the village, most dogs are never seen by a vet. We don’t have one in the village, and the attitude towards animals is less cuddly/family oriented than in the lower 48. Most dogs are work dogs, or strays. Overpopulation is a problem, and that was how we came to adopt Sammy. With the holidays coming, we decided that we wanted her to travel back to the East Coast with us, where we will be spending just about a month with families during the Christmas break. If you have ever flown with a pet before, you know how much goes into this. You have to have the correct carrier, a reservation, and most importantly be up to date with all shots and have a health certificate.
I had everything in place for Sammy to fly, except the vet visit. Now the vet comes once a month from Anchorage to the hub town of Bethel for 4 days. You can only call for an appointment when he is in town. Two others from our village (both teachers) are planning on flying their dogs home as well, so I talked with them, and became the point person for our little adventure. So Monday morning I called the phone number at 9am. No one answered. The voicemail said that the vet would be in at 3pm that day. So I called back, praying that I would be able to get 3 appointments this week, and all at about the same time. We all have flights before the next time the vet will be in town, so it was crucial that we were seen. Thankfully at 2:58 the receptionist took my call and was able to set up the appointment for late afternoon, so the teachers didn’t have to miss much of their day.
It’s over now right? Wrong. How are we going to get to Bethel the next day? I had been out on the frozen river the day before, but it has been warming up again, and the snow all melted. River travel is happening, but it is very dangerous. If you fall through the ice, you may not come back up- and because it isn’t a real road, no one is going to come out and help (police, EMTs, etc.) So we have to charter flights. Bethel is only 7 miles away, but without roads, you don’t really have any options. I called and set up two separate charters, and was told we had to take the 207 plane which was more expensive because it was too warm to take a 3 seater if there were 3 of us and dogs. Awesome.
So we’re all set! …except no. I wake up Tuesday morning to a phone call from the airline that they had mechanical issues and needed to cancel all 207 charters for the day. So I scramble- do I change the vet appointments and reschedule the charters with the airline that is the cheapest and I’ve always flown, or do I try another airline that is going to charge more? I ended up booking charters with another airline that was extremely accommodating. It ended up costing more, but so goes life in the Bush right? Nothing is cheap.
In the end, the flights went well, and the puppy is now vaccinated and certified to fly- thank goodness! You might wonder how much this costs? Well, like I said everything in the Bush is more expensive and this goes for vet bills too, I guess. Overall, the vet visit was about $280 and the chartered flights were $130 (per person- we split the bill 3 ways!) At least I got airline miles right?
So in the end, it’s worth it to have our puppy with us for the holidays, and we were prepared for the cost, but our ‘free’ adopted puppy sure is costing us a bunch! Be thankful next time you have to visit the vet- and don’t have to take a plane to get there!