Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Crossing the Line

I speak fluent Canadian. Even in this blog you will notice the occasional "colour" vs "color". I can drive in KPH just as easily as MPH, and I'm better than most of my Canadian friends at knowing that 20 degrees is shorts weather. While I am still floored at the bizarre Northern pronunciations of "decal" and "asphault" (which are just wrong, by the way), I completely comprehend what is meant by "zed" and "elastic".

The familiarity with things North traces to my former proximity to the international border, and the 1998 discovery that the closest whippets to me lived 20 minutes and one Customs & Immigration agent away. Since that revelation, I have trekked across the border approximately a kazillion times for dog shows, race meets, lure courses, vet appointments, eye surgery, flights to Cancun, and to purchase items only available in civilized countries - good tea, tripe, and alcoholic cider.

Crossing the border gave me anxiety attacks at first. Even with a clear conscience, interacting with authority can be intimidating. Plus, having gone to University in that same small town, my previous experiences with border authorities consisted of "let me in to your country where the drinking age is 19 so I can imbibe massive amounts of legal cocktails". Eventually, I learned how to get myself and the dogs across the border without being detained for questioning.

1. You need rabies certificates for your dogs. It doesn't matter if they actually are up to date, accurate, or if said cert even belongs to the dog in your car, you need to have one. I used Kayla's cert (female German Short-haired Pointer) to get Carson (male Whippet) across at one time. In my kazillion crossings, I've been asked for my rabies certs exactly twice.

2. Do not say anything about "racing". References to "dog racing" make Immigration officials think you might be running a sighthound Kentucky Derby, wherein you will accept wagers on the race outcomes illegally. One of the two times I needed to produce a rabies cert was when I made mention of "racing". Say "field trial". "Field trial" doesn't apparently fit any canine-owner profiling.

3. If you cross at a remote location enough times, the personnel in the little hut get to know you. At one point I pulled up to the window and the very bored guard looked at my license plate, raised his eyebrows and asked "another dog show"? I nodded, and he waved me through.

4. Occasionally you will get an agent who just loves dogs. One very proper English fellow on the north-bound morning shift nearly crawled into the car with me when he saw Carson. His educated accent morphed into a delightful Cockney drawl - "Iss a whippet! Alllooo whippet"!

5. If you're traveling to a dog event sans the dog, have another reason for traveling. I once made the mistake of trying to explain that I was attending a "field trial" without my dog, just to help out. Apparently, the Newbie Border Dude thought that anyone who would stand out in the rain and mud freezing their a$$ off for fun should have a sanity check. Unfortunately for Newbie Border Dude, the agent that questioned me inside was Labrador Retriever Guy. Lab Guy just rolled his eyes, told me not to be late, and advised Newbie Dude to not pick on the dog people. Gotta love Canadian National Security.

6. Do not attempt, under any circumstances to bring beef or chicken from Canada into the U.S. Canadian Cows are all Mad, you know. And we mustn't infect the poultry population with bird flu. Resist the urge to point out that there is no Customs and Immigrations check for a bird that happens to fly across the border. This applies to dogfood too. I would guess (I wouldn't know, of course) that more elaborate clandestine operations have been developed for smuggling dogfood than for good old BC wacky tobacky.

7. "How much is your child worth to you"? is NOT the appropriate response to "What is the value of your dog". Trust me on this one.

My favorite border crossing story though, isn't even my own. After Carson's ACL surgery, I rehabbed him for 12 weeks. Twice a week, I drove across the border to see the closest vet with a therapy pool. The last week of therapy I was out of town and couldn't take him, so my ex-husband got stuck with whippet taxi duty. On his first trip across he starts to explain himself to the agent on duty. "Well, I'm bringing the dog up for swim therapy for his knee...." The agent frowned and replied "Yes, we recognize the dog. Who the heck are you?"

Happy Trails!


Linda said...

I'll have you know that our cows are no longer mad - must have been a miracle cure or a whole lot of counselling, but Can. beef is now allowed across the border. The issue is now Canadian lamb - better watch out for those darling little lambs you see frolicking on Canadian soil because they must be mad.

(another person that deals with the border on a weekly basis, only I'm heading from north to south and US Customs agents take National Security a whole lot more serious than do their Canadian counterparts!)

Patience-please said...

I want to get me some of that flying dog food!!! GREAT post - still laughing!

Anonymous said...


Fabulous blog entry!!!! I just love it!

(and I've never been asked yet for a rabies certificate in many dog-related crossings. The US customs fellows at the Truck crossing really enjoyed when I went through for Tazio's weekly agility classes as they'd be just giggling after I'd explained dog agility.


Anonymous said...

You will always be an honourary Canadian in my mind no matter how far South you move!

Keep up the wonderful blog postings.
- Janet J.

Vanessa said...

Don't even think about trying to explain doggie visitation with the ex-husband to said agents...who will repeated ask you about your "daughter" visiting. Illegal dog food = more probing than your annual female examine.

Jenn and the City

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