Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Our Journey from Taiwan with 13 Dogs

On December 11th, we had the most memorable flight of our lifetime. We brought back 13 dogs (in 10 crates) from Taiwan to their forever homes in the US with us across the Pacific Ocean.

It all started with a post by the House of Two Bows of M.C.'s journey back to the Bay Area with 9 dogs. Before reading her post, I didn't even know there's a need for this kind of volunteers. I kept the idea in mind, and contacted AHAN as soon as we booked our tickets. AHAN then forwarded our information to a lady in Taiwan, Mary, and I've been exchanging emails with her since then.

At first, I thought there will be like one or two dogs, but then she told me there will be 10, then it increased to 20 something! However, when we got to the airport, we were told that our airline, EVA, wouldn't allow that many. Luckily there's another volunteer traveling with China Airlines the same night, and would be taking the remaining dogs. Since EVA charges more for transporting dogs, we were afraid that we would be adding extra burden, but it actually turned out nicely. As neither airline would be able to take all the dogs, having volunteers on both made it possible to accommodate for all. No dogs were left behind!

The entire trip went pretty smoothly. We showed up at the airport around 8:00pm, 3.5 hours before our flight took off, and waited for all the dogs to gather in the lobby. The airline weighted and sealed up each and every crate, which took about two hours. Then we sent them off to x-ray and into the tunnel. I was really afraid that the foster parents may start crying as they waved goodbye, but they kept it light spirited. From then on, it's out of our hands. I did check with the flight attendant before boarding the plane, and she ensured us all dogs are all safely on board.

Dogs and their foster parents showing up at Taipei airport.

Dressed up for the long flight.

Oops! Potty accident!

Puppies from the same litter.

Anxious but calm.

Foster parents saying goodbye as the dogs go through x-ray.

The crates that went to the other airline were standing by after us.

At the other end of the globe, the crates were already waiting for us when we got through the immigration line. Because there were too many crates for us to handle ourselves, we had to hire some porters from the airport to help us. The volunteers in Taiwan had already prepared for it and had given us some money to pay as tips. Well, the only bad experience of the entire trip came from these porters. They bargained for more money on top of what was already a pretty generous tip. We ended up paying a few extra dollars out of our own pocket just to get things moving and be sure they wouldn't mistreat the dogs. I'm totally fine with help paying some of the expenses, but along the way, there were many people that deserve that money more than them. For the amount of money they made with that little time they spent, it just seems greedy. Next time, I'll know to start with a much lower price and let them talk their way up. I'll also be more specific of the number of porters I need, instead of letting them all gather up on their own.

All the crates waiting for us in the baggage area.

After a bit of hassle going through Customs (mostly because we brought food ourselves, nothing to do with the dogs), we finally got to the lobby of San Francisco Airport. A local volunteer came to meet with us and took over from there on. We actually arrived a bit earlier than expected, but there were many new families already waiting desperately for their new members. As the crates left one by one, we felt a little bit empty inside. (So we rushed back to pick up Maya!)

In SFO lobby waiting for the new families.

A family brought their dog to meet his new family member.

Before the trip, I though we will be dealing with a rescue organization, but to our surprise, all the volunteers were actually individuals who adopted or captured the dogs, nursed them back to health, and paid for all the bills on their own. For each dog, they would probably need to spend more than $500 for vet bills, spay/neuter, government documents, a crate, and oversea transportation. It may not sound much from the US standard, but do note that the average salary for a fresh college graduate is around $750 per month. Besides, after spending so much time, effort and money, they may never see or even heard from the dog ever again. They did it all in the faith that the dogs will find a better life here in the US. It was shocking for me to learn that none of rehoming fees from the dogs' new families ever get back to the foster parents. Even though I understand the local rescue here needs the money they collected to run the organization as well, I do hope the foster parents can somehow be compensated, so they can have more resource to help more dogs. We felt humbled when they thanked us for transporting the dogs, cause we knew we really did nothing comparing to their devotion.

All in all, it has been a great journey and we will definitely do it again in the future. Wish each and every dog a wonderful new life!


  1. 20 dogs!! Wow!! Even 1 or 3 or 13 is a job well done. I'm so happy you were able to help those pups to a better life.

    Did those puppies look like possible Shiba mixes to you? Or more lab/goldie/etc.? And those pups in those outfits are just adorable.

    I was impressed by the group of the fosters I met in Taiwan -- all different ages and all very humble and sincere. I agree, it WOULD be very difficult for most individuals to foot the bill for every foster on their own, and no doubt it's easy to burn out at rescue if you're not working with groups of people. AHAN's adoption fee, if I recall, is about enough to cover transport but not that much above, when all is said and done. Vetting would be a big one.

    Sorry to hear about the porter difficulties. But yes, now you know -- we all know! -- for next time.

    Hope our paths can cross with some of these guys someday!

    1. Those puppies are lab or lab mixes. So cute! They kept drinking and drinking even before we took off. Of course, 10 hours later their crate was a mess. But, we still stuck our fingers in there to let them lick us goodbye.

      There were a few of our family members who didn't quite agree with us about bringing the dogs. Mostly worried that we could get into trouble. However, they were all touched after seeing the pictures and especially hearing the stories of those foster parents. I hope the new families will give them some updates, I know I would be desperate to know how the dogs are adjusting to their new lives.

      And yes, hope our paths can cross with some of these guys someday!