Bringing 3 pets to Turkey

Bringing pets abroad was our most popular blog entry about Korea; we posted it in 2011 and it is still getting 6 views a day. We planned both moves with +6 months to prepare and figuring out everything we needed to do to bring the animals was the least clear. I can’t imagine how families do it on short notice.

Coming to Turkey was very similar to moving to Korea, but there is one very important feature about this move: it happened during the airline pet embargo which runs from May 15th to September 15th.  We traveled on August 15th with our 40 lb dog in cargo, something we had been told was impossible.

Here’s what we did, how much it cost, and how the animals are adjusting to life in Turkey. (By the time we moved to Turkey, traveling with pets was old hat for us, so we didn’t keep as much data.)

The Pets:
We have one 12 year old, deaf, 46 lb, English Springer Spaniel named Remi (friendly), a 10 lb black short haired cat named Clark (aloof), and a 11 lb black long haired cat named Ching (alluring).

Required Paperwork:
Vet visit for vaccines: 3 pets, including wellness check $238.11

Vet visit for USDA paperwork: (Professional Exam + International Health Certificate) x 3 pets $241.31. You should make an appointment for this. We didn’t and had to rely on our charm to get our certificates.

USDA Authentification of paperwork: 3 pets x $36 $108 (bring cash or check)

Travel Expenses:
Dog Water Bottle for Kennel in flight: $10

Fare to board with pets to Turkey (total):  $600

For a grand total of:  (drum roll please) $1,197.42

To get started, your pet’s  Rabies and Boretella vaccines must be up to date and their ID chip number must be on the form showing that they were chipped before they were vaccinated.   The vet will need to get some forms from the USDA for the final pre-flight visit, so make sure they know where you are taking your pet. The guy at the MN USDA is very thorough.  Make sure that the rabies document shows the ID chip number or your vet will have to fax over a new document before he will continue. The USDA only takes cash or checks, be prepared. You do not need to bring the pets, just the documents (we brought them both times to save time and they got free cuddles.)

We had been researching how to get Remi to Turkey because most of the carriers have a summer blackout on pet travel due to potentially excessive heat in the cargo holds of their jets.  By luck we discovered that Lufthansa does let pets travel in cargo during the summer. We booked our flights on Lufthansa, which meant renting a car and driving 8 hours to the hub nearest our home, Chicago.

Once you have your plane tickets, schedule a trip to the vet within 10 days of your flight.  This is because the USDA certificate is only good for ten days. Our vet insisted on 8 days to cover us in case the plane was rescheduled or our arrival was otherwise delayed, so we wouldn’t miss the window. She is a smarty pants.

About to drive to Chicago with 7 bags, 2 cats, & a dog.We also had to call the carrier that we were flying on and reserve “tickets” for our pets.  They needed each pet’s name, their weight in the carrier, and the height, width and depth of the carrier.  They said that the cats couldn’t weigh more than 10 lbs in the carrier to ride under the seat in front of us, but the cat’s weight was not checked at the airport. We flew on Lufthansa.  It took a few minutes to book the pet’s passage on Lufthansa.

At the airport and on the Plane:

The cat carriers had to be soft sided.  We brought along collapsible camping bowls for feeding in flight, and put absorbent puppy pads in their carrier.  They didn’t use it to go to the bathroom, as intended, but did make a little cave to chill in when we were between flights and people were looking at them.  The vet recommended we bring wet food to keep them hydrated.

All our luggage and pets as we check into LufthansaThey were in the carriers all through the airport, except for security. Remi went first.  TSA was friendly and thorough.  They removed Remi from the kennel and swabbed the entire thing. The people we worked with  were big pet fans and happy to help us. The kittens also had to go through security. We bought kitty collars with id tags and harnesses clipped to a leash to get through security.  Okay, so first you put all of your stuff in the security scanner.  Then take the cat/ small dog out of the carrier and pass the carrier through the x-ray scanner and walk with the cat through the metal detector.  The TSA at Chicago looked at it for several minutes, and Ching was not enjoying any of the beeping sounds. Akasha was happy Ching had a harness on so she couldn’t get away. Clark clawed through Mike’s favorite University of Minnesota (that’s right, he did the same thing in Korea) T-shirt in his excitement, but that was the worst of it.

The cats went in their carrier and were placed under the seats in front of us during take off, landing, and meals.  Otherwise they were on our laps, in their carriers, as we petted them.  We did not give any of the animals sedatives.  The flight was under booked and they gave Mike and me a row together.  If it had been a busy flight Mike and I would have been separated because Lufthansa will not let pets sit together. Sigh. The attendants  didn’t make us store the cats below the seats although they could have. This was a good thing, as Clark was a bit restless, and only calmed down on Mike’s lap.

The dog traveled under the plane.  His carrier had to be hard-sided, with a door that was secure, but could be opened and have a water bottle mounted in it.  We sent him with his dog bed, a puppy pad, his favorite stuffed duck, and a t-shirt that smelled like me.  We were not able to visit him between flights, but Lufthansa guest services called pet care and they informed us that Remi had been fed, walked, played, and was napping.  We took the cats to the spacious nursing rooms (there were a ton of them) and rested for a l o n g time. We had a 9 hour layover in Frankfurt.

In our carry-on we brought dry kibble for the dog, cat food, leashes for everyone, their travel documents, and  wipes in case we had we had to clean up after an “accident.”  They all chose to hold it for the entire trip. The cats were given boarding passes on their carriers.  Remi was given a luggage sticker.  It took 1 1/2 hours to check in to the flight.  So, get to the airport super early, hope for long layovers, and stay patient. Also, if your dog isn’t kennel trained, get him/her a kennel a few months before you fly and get them used to hanging out in there. It should be a happy hangout spot, not a punishment.

Everyone on the flights was wonderful to the animals.  After the flights, attendants ran to get Remi and bring him to us.  They helped us get through immigration quickly so he could go to the bathroom.  They asked if the cats were comfortable on the flight.  Really, people went out of their way to help us (again).

My employer had an agent meet us at the airport at 2:30 AM. After collecting our luggage and animals, loading the items into the van, and driving across Ankara, we got home and in bed at 4 AM.  Mid-flight we had realized that we had forgotten litter and the cats hadn’t gone in a long time.  In the morning I met a colleague who drove us to the pet shop to pick up pet supplies. The cats held it until they had a proper litter box.

If you learn anything from this entry it should be to bring some cat litter with you.  Your cats will thank you.


We have 3 balconies.  The cats are very happy in their huge new home.  They love the balconies. Remi absolutely loves all the hikes we get to take. He also loves that taxis flag us down and try to give him a ride home.  He has scratched his cornea on a hike and gotten an ear infection.  Mike has taken him to the vet and found that she speaks comprehensible English and has a good demeanor with him.  She has groomed him and he still likes her.  We are very content.  We will be going on a long winter vacation and Remi will be staying Ankara Canine College. He stayed there this week and  came back happy, tired, and content after 9 hours of running with rescue training dogs. Having good facilities for our pets makes international teaching easier.

If we did it differently we would have brought more pet stuff with us.  Pets are a luxury here and pet stuff is really really expensive.  Catnip is impossible to find and a simple scratching post costs about $100. P.S. The cats would like catnip toys for Hanukkah.

kittens on the patio

Iyi Bayramlar 2013

One advantage to living overseas is learning new holidays, and taking advantage of the time off. Kurban Bayram is an Islamic holiday that commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son.

rams for the slaughter

rams for the slaughter

During this festival, which lasts a whole week in Turkey, people head home to have plenty of family time. People who can afford it make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime which ends in the sacrifice in commemoration of Ibrahim and Ishmael. For everyone though, the sacrifice is important. Families who can afford to sacrifice animals.  They distribute meat to those who can’t afford it, their neighbors, and their family.

For us, Bayram meant renting a car from a local family company and hitting the road. It’s our first time outside Ankara, so we decided to keep it simple.

We left on a Sunday morning, heading out around noon, leaving Remi with a neighbor. Our first stop was a dried salt lake about 25 miles south. At a roadside pull-off, we parked and walked out into the flats with many other families hiking. One family was even flying a kite. Typical of roadsides here (and in Korea when we were there), vendors sold melons and nuts and dried fruit. Free enterprise flourishes on the open road.

Writing in the dried lake bed

Writing in the dried lake bed

A bit down the road we stopped for lunch in a small town just outside Nevsehir, where a friendly family cooked up some chicken doner and salad, and then it was on to one of the great highlights of Turkey and the world: Cappadocia.

Carved from soft volcanic tuft, the Cappadocia valley covers about twenty square miles of central Turkey. Over the years erosion has carved out huge cones of soft rock that generations of humans have carved into churches and villages. Currently no one lives in the cave cities, though they are filled with shops and hotels. We stayed in the Guven cave hotel in Goreme. It was fabulous, very clean and romantic.

Our first view of Cappadocia

Our first view of Cappadocia

All Monday, we walked up the Cappadocian valleys. We found orchards filled with apples and grapes, quince, plums, and pears. We found a kind couple selling some of the sweetest dried fruit we’ve ever had – we bought a mixed box for 2.50 tl (about US 1.25). Later, there was a small cafe in the valley where we rested with a glass of wine.

Then we hiked up into one of the churches carved into the mountainside. These churches were built during the Byzantine era; some have beautiful frescoes painted into the walls and domes. I have no idea how these churches functioned, being so remote and relatively hard to access, but they are an amazing accomplishment.

Byzantine church, the red was ochre painted on the walls

Byzantine church, the red was ochre painted on the walls

We left Goreme and headed out to Konya on Tuesday morning.  Along the way we stopped at a small city that has an amazing wealth of well preserved, functioning architecture from the 1,100’s, Nigde. This was Akasha’s favorite spot.

Our kind host and his amazing home

Our kind host and his amazing home

There was no sign of tourism, the town is beautiful and the people were so warm and kind.  We were taking a picture of an amazing Seljuk home when the owner, Bekir, came out.  He didn’t speak English, but he spoke slow, patient Turkish and offered to take us on a tour of Seljuk buildings, especially mosques.

He took us to his mosque and introduced us to his imam, Yusuf. Yusuf spoke English and explained various features of a typical mosque and told us what we should see in the region. Bekir took us to the Aladin Mosque and the  Hittite castle that dates back to 8 B.C. It was a major holiday and most of the castle was closed, but they opened it up and showed us around. It gets very cold here in the winter and many people come to the castle to socialize and keep warm.  Ali showed us the brazer that they fill with coals to keep everyone warm and the cafeteria where folks hang out. A soldier on military duty joined us and translated for a bit. I think we were all exhausted after an hour of speaking Turkish or speaking to foreigners with limited Turkish.  Everyone was so warm and kind, we were sad to leave.

We went on to Konya. In the 13th century, Konya was home to the Sufi mystic known in the west as Rumi. He was also a poet and philosopher, and is credited for founding the mevlevi order, also known as the whirling dervishes. His tomb, which also houses the Mevlani museum, is near the center of town. Konya remains one of the most religious cities in Turkey, and you can feel this when you walk down the street. We spent an evening strolling down to and around the Aladin hill, exploring side streets and passing mosque after mosque, hearing calls to prayer that went on for minutes. You could also see evidence (as in, remains) of the lambs and cows sacrificed for the ceremony on many street corners, or being wheeled down the street in carts.


We can say Konya is a beautiful city, but unfortunately our dog sitter got sick, so we had to cut our visit short and head back to Ankara the next morning. We never got to the museum, but we got to see Remi a day early, and we still had a car. So: day trip!

The next day, we went out to another great historical sight, the tomb of (not mythical) King Midas.

A view in king Midas' tomb

A view into king Midas’ tomb

Minnesota has a beautiful history and many great locations to explore. Some have a long history, but nothing like this.  It seems like, if you keep your eyes open you will see history everywhere you look here.

The Midas tomb is an hour from Ankara, near the current town of Polatli. His tomb was built in 670 BC as a tribute to the Phrygian king immortalized by legend as the king with the ‘golden touch.’ It seems he survived that curse and lived a long life, dying after a war. When they opened his tomb they found evidence of a huge feast that was held there.  It’s a log cabin that was filled with relics from his life, and his body, and then covered in a 50 foot mound called a tumulus. There are dozens of these mounds in the Gordia region, but Midas’s is the largest. It lay undisturbed for thousands of years before being excavated in the 1950’s.

It was sobering to walk down the long narrow tunnel, perhaps a hundred yards long, that led deep into the heart of the mound. There we saw the tomb itself, made of ancient logs still a deep rich red, and the chamber that used to hold the King’s remains. The museum nearby holds many items from the region, which was an important crossroads for hundreds of years and several empires, from the Phrygians to the Romans, the Byzantines and Ottomans. Turkey has seen it all.

Korea was also rich

The road from Nigde to Konya

The road from Nigde to Konya

with history, but they did so much in wood that burned in the many invasions and wars they have suffered. Here, the stone construction has endured.  One exhibit at Gordia showed an ancient mosaic tile floor a local villager found while working on the foundation for his house. You can’t dig ten feet without finding history here, it seems.

One other thing that struck us was how much central Anatolia reminds us of home.  We could have been driving in Western Minnesota or the Dakotas. It was beautiful to see the golden rolling hills, farms, and fields. It made us miss Minnesota.

Here is a gallery with a bit more of our tip.

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