Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Est ce qu'il est un joli chat?

This is Sid, known in our house as the cat who can do no wrong. 

He regularly upends the milk carton to drink the spillage, wrecked an expensive sofa with his scratching, and broke oh so many precious things in his nocturnal pursuit of geckos, yet his sheer loveliness buys him protection from our wrath.

No wonder then, that we were willing to jump through the bureaucratic hoops to bring him with us from Sri Lanka.

Importing a pet into Europe is not easy. Rightly so in the case of animals we have picked up off the streets of Asia. When Sid first arrived he could fit in the palm of my hand, had a tail like a piece of chewed string and a belly so full of worms he had rest his tum on the floor to sit down. He is still a little bandy around the back legs as a consequence.

So to prepare him for transition from street urchin to civilized house cat, we had him vaccinated, microchipped, wormed and blood tested in accordance with the minefield of EU legislation. I sought advice from all corners, fretted over the competence of the Sri Lankan vets, spent many nights imagining being confronted with the stony face of French customs refusing my beloved cat entry on account of an irregularity in his paperwork. When the certificate of rabies antibodies came back from the lab in Scotland (where the blood had been couriered at vast expense) I choked back a tear. It was an emotional rollercoaster.

When the night came around that we checked him on to the flight at Bandaranaike International Airport, I was wrung out. 

Emirates Airline were lovely. The captain of our connecting flight came to my seat to tell me the cat was well and he was keeping the hold nice and warm for him. I clutched his hand and sobbed my thanks.

At Charles de Gaulle, we waited anxiously by the carousel for Sid to appear along with the pushchairs and surf boards of our fellow passengers.

Then came the moment we had been preparing for for six months. Balanced on the top of our suitcases, Sid shivered in his cage. Checking his papers one last time, I took a deep breath and walked towards customs. Show time.

Two large Douaniers stood near the exit. Neither moved a muscle. I asked what I should do with the cat.

The reply was a gallic shrug. They waved me through.

Then, as an afterthought, one of them stepped forward and asked:

'Est ce qu'il est joli?'

Bienvenue en France Sid!

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