This is where I write about Honey the BoatCat. I have failed to mention, thus far, that on the Friday before leaving Australia I took her for the final vet-check that had to be done within the seven days before departure. All was going well, at the wonderful Happy Paws Veterniary Clinic – when there was a pause (sorry) in proceedings.
The vet was able sign Part A of the health certificate required for Honey to go to New Caledonia, but not, it seemed, Part B. That needed to be signed by a GOVERNMENT VET. I paled. I had no idea this was required. In an effort not to sound too nuffy, I must point out that Australian law changed in January; normal vets are now able to prepare pets for export – prior to that it was official government vets only. Thusly, I had assumed that my vet would be able to sign the lot and that New Caledonia had simply not updated their paperwork to reflect the new changes.
The Happy Paws vet was beyond accommodating. She let me call the export-vet people in Brisbane and spoke to them for me. They confirmed that they would need to sight and sign the documents, but they would not, thankfully, need to eyeball Honey. If, at this point, I had not had the use of Sam’s car, I think I would have collapsed in a heap.
“Send us through all the documents,” they said, “And we will email you to let you know when you can come in.”
“We’re leaving on Wednesday,” I squeaked down the phone line.
“We usually require at least ten days notice.”
Small DB, Honey and I waited patiently while all the paperwork was filled out by the vet nurse. My insides were churning. This was exactly what M had dreaded would happen. He had made me promise I would be totally on top of all this shit, and I thought that I was. But I was not. And he COULD NOT KNOW.
Back at the boat, I told M I would be taking the car back to Sam on Monday – and that I had to drop in to the government vet on the way to have a few documents signed. I was given a 1pm appointment. The weekend passed in an ongoing haze of provisioning / planning / cooking… First thing on Monday morning, M left to use the car for an hour or so before I was due to leave.
I checked my email. There was another one from the export vet. My bowels turned to water.
“We do not have your New Caledonia import permit,” it read. “We can’t sign your documents unless you have one.”
An import permit. What even WAS an import permit? How could I, in all the reading and research I’d done, fail to know about an import permit? I called the export vet and literally wittered at her. She was calm in the way people are calm when they are accustomed to dealing with idiots. She gave me a few phone numbers to New Caledonia and wished me well.
By the time I figured out the country codes and had managed to “parlez vous Anglais?” my way to an actual government vet, I was pretty much a wet, squishy version of my former self. I spoke to Dr Coralie – an angel and saviour – who said that if I could email her copies of all the relevant paperwork – she would expedite me an import permit and waive the requirement for original documentation. By this time I was weeping down the phone line.
“And the quarantine? Is that OK? Will Honey be happy there?”
“Ohhhh, oui,” she said comfortingly, “The quarantine centre – it is very cool. We can send you pictures of your little cat – she will be fine.”
I was able to pull myself into a version of fine as M returned to drop me off at the dock, giving me the addresses of two different places I had to go on the way to the export vet in order to pick up Essential Boating Items; spark plugs and epoxy hardener… He texted me the details as well, in case they fell out of my brain…
I got into Sam’s car, did some seriously deep breathing. I decided that Everything Was Going To Be Okay – as long as I retained my calm. I would go through the motions and achieve what was necessary. My only option was to continue to my 1pm appointment with the export vet at Brisbane Airport as if it was all going to go to plan.
If I didn’t get the import permit from Dr Coralie by then, it would all go to hell, but I had to presume it would not. I drove past the spark plug place. Check. I drove past the epoxy place. Check. I checked my email. A query from Dr Coralie. I did not seem to have included evidence of Honey’s second Fevac booster.[cue: me banging head on steering wheel, gathering myself to send through a picture of the signed document relating to the booster….reassembling my zen]
I then sat on the motorway for about 40km, swinging between sweating freely and zenlike focus. Car park. Export Drive. Brisbane Airport. 12.55pm. I check my email before heading inside. Nothing. I walk in through the automatic doors to my doom. M’s doom. Bella Luna’s doom. Gah.
The export vets were not unsympathetic. I was told that I needed to email export authorities in whatever country I might have ideas about visiting – instead of googling wildly and assuming I’d done due diligence. I explained that I was waiting on a return email from Dr Coralie with an attached import permit. They were very kind, suggested I might be exhibiting signs of PTSD and recommended I go and find some lunch – to return when the elusive email came through.
“We’re here until at least 4pm,” they told me.
After the security guy on the door had given me directions to something that sounded like a food court in the airport lounge, I pointed Sam’s car toward somewhere called Clayfields, where I found HOLY GRAIL a gluten free fish and chip shop. I felt this boded well. I sat, with chips, calamari rings and a cup of tea. Plugged into free wifi. And began pressing ‘reload’ on my inbox.
Meanwhile, in Sandgate, Sam and K were packing Bronte the Bus (their new mobile tiny home) for her first trip out into the world. They would be heading to Southport for the their first night away – Sam would depart for Bella Luna the following day (in an ideal, non-BoatCat world).
“We’ll be leaving around 3.30pm,” she texted me, with admirable positivity.
I clung to my zen. If the email came through, the paperwork got done and I made it to Sandgate by then, I’d have a lift back in the bus. And not just any bus – but Bronte the Bus on her Maiden Journey! It was 2.25pm. I sat there feeling irresolute. Should I telephone New Caledonia pet quarantine office for a fourth time that day? I was beginning to feel like a stalker.
Four more chips. A calamari ring. The end of the tea. Refresh the inbox. Nothing. I would have to call. As I fumbled my phone free of my bag I looked again at my iPad screen. And there it was. An import permit for Honey to go to New Caledonia. With a ninja-like hand movement I forwarded the email to the export vet at Brisbane Airport – and was sitting at their desk seven minutes later.
It was then I really started feeling thankful that my bureaucratic dealings were with animal people. Vets. They were so kind to me. They did not skimp or skip a thing, but sat and went through all the paperwork in triplicate, stamped it, queried a few things, signed off, and sent through a copy to New Caledonia.
I had kept my zen. All was well. Big exhale.
I fanged over to Sandgate, where Sam and K were still loading stuff into Bronte, assisted by their two little adorables. K was admirably calm, for someone who was about to take months of his handiwork out on to the motorway. There were no issues. We cruised from Brisbane to the Gold Coast feeling like touring rockstars, while the littlest conked out in his carseat…
I left them at their very first campsite, sorting themselves out for the night, and walked back to the dock, where M collected me in Foamy. I did not divulge my day. And such was my zen that when M, seeing the epoxy hardener stuff I had picked up for him, ran up on deck and screamed at the sky (because I’d got the wrong thing), I said little, breathed deep, and poured another glass of red. And when Small DB accidentally washed her hands on top of my dinner that M had kept for me, my blood pressure did not alter. I had a cat import permit; my care factor was zero.
Honey and I had the same experience on the passage to Noumea. It was stressful and nauseating with occasional pockets of calm. By the time the quarantine guy came to take her off the boat and to her ten days in quarantine, I was pretty happy that she got to go and chill out in a place that was not rolling up and down. There she remains until this Friday. I have received a picture of her being cuddled by Stanley – Quarantine Man – while still incarcerated.