From Atlanta to Freetown – Tears and Sheba.

Leaving Atlanta was really hard because I left my husband and kids – they will join me once school ends in May. I had never been away from my kids for 2 months before. How would they cope? Would they have enough food to eat? How would my husband cope with everything alone? What about my baby boy who isn’t really old enough to fully grasp the concept of me being gone for so long? I was already going to miss my oldest daughter’s birthday the following week! I was sick with worry about my husband and kids and how they would cope without me!

I was also very anxious about how my dog Sheba would handle the trip. Would she be ok in her kennel – ok cooped up in a dark place for 2 flights lasting close to 8 hours each with a 3 hour layover in Paris? Would she have enough water in the puny water bowl attached to her kennel? Will they remember to give her water, give her food? Will she be scared, hot? I was sick with worry over how she would handle this trip!

With all this – I barely had time to think about myself and the tremendous journey I was about to embark on.

Of course, there was drama at the airport – we arrived with Sheba after doing all our necessary homework – vet visits, updated shots, microchip, double-checking of pet travel criteria, traveling to the boondocks of Georgia to get official paperwork signed by the state veterinarian – only to be told at the airport that Sheba could not board because she needed “import authorization” from the Veterinary department in Sierra Leone.

OK Delta agent – I can guarantee you that no such office exists in Freetown – we barely have one veterinarian! The agent did not budge and called her supervisor who confirmed this.

I dissolved into a massive pool of tears – and unloaded all the stress, anxiety, and fear about my upcoming trip. I called to wake up my mom in Freetown, and obtained phone numbers of every Sierra Leonean diplomat in the US to try to get some official document assuring Delta that Sheba would be admitted into the country.

In the end, it was my tears that softened the heart of the supervisor and allowed him to take a second look at my email correspondence with the state veterinarian and let Sheba get on the flight! We wheeled her through Hartsfield-Jackson airport to the “oohs” and “ahs” and “she’s so cute” of the other passengers. We wheeled her to the tears of the kids, to that special room where pets disappear down an elevator that somehow leads to the dark belly of the plane’s cargo hold.

I bid tearful goodbyes to my kids and husband and cried all the way through the security line, oblivious to the pity of my fellow passengers. I finally calmed down and got on the plane in the nick of time – given the Sheba delay.

The flights were uneventful and I was happy that I got to take her out to pee in Paris. I was so proud of her – she pranced through the airport like the Princess that she was and was well behaved like those other bourgeois European dogs – she didn’t snap or try to jump on anyone! We got to Freetown and she arrived on the luggage carousel seemingly fed and watered and so happy to see me. She of course caused quite a commotion inside and outside the airport with crowds gathering to see her and take pictures!

She got to walk on the beach by the airport before being carried to the water taxi to Freetown in her kennel. We arrived and met my waiting mum and we were quickly whisked home in the car, with Sheba ditching the kennel and sitting in the front seat of the car all the way home.

Twenty-four hours after we left Atlanta, we arrived home safely!


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