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My dog Sophie has a European Union Pet Passport. Her passport renewal date is looming close and we have to decide if we are going to let it expire or make a trip to the “Dick Vet” in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is good to go. It is good to be connected to the people and animals who make up this global world we live in. It is these connections that help us feel at home in our global society.

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We don’t usually call the Dick Vet by its local name when we are not there. Locally the name is one of honor. In some idiomatic English the name is odd. The full name of the school is the The University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. The school is named after its founder, William Dick.

William Dick was born in the Canongate on the 6th May 1793 and grew up in the New Town, Edinburgh, Scotland. He was the second child of Jean and John Dick, a young ferrer. In the autumn of 1817, at the age of 24, Dick travelled to London to attend the lectures of Professor Edward Coleman at the Veterinary College in Camden, London. After three months of study he successfully passed his examinations and received his diploma on 27 January 1818.

Upon returning to Edinburgh he established a veterinary school. The Directors of the Highland Society of Scotland at Edinburgh to approve up to £50 to promote “public instruction in the ensuing season, in the veterinary art and the diseases of livestock.” In 1824 he gave a series of 46 lectures over a 23 week period. The content of the lectures was suited to the Scottish economy and focused on a wide range of animals from horses, sheep and cattle to dogs. His students were also expected to attend medical lectures given in the University of Edinburgh and Royal College of Surgeons. Students who successfully completed oral and a final public examination received a certificate from the Highland Society stating that they were “qualified to practice the veterinary art”.

By the time of his death in 1866, the 818 students he had taught were to be found throughout the world. In his will he left his estate in trust, the interest to be used to maintain his college. In 1906, the College was named the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College. “The School is now part of the University’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and continues in be world leader in veterinary education providing a high quality and innovative learning experience for our students within a “family” setting as did William Dick 175 years ago.” extracted from William Dick, a pioneer of veterinary education

Sophie travels with us a lot and having the passport makes our lives immeasurably easier. Traveling with an animal, particularly internationally, requires knowledge, patience and the ability to listen and accept being wrong sometimes even when you are not. Each country has different regulations. Nowadays most countries have a mechanism through witch you can verify the health of your animal at arrival so the animal does not have to be quarantined and watched to see if there are health problems.

The process is straightforward if you think of it in baby steps. It gets snarled up somewhere along the way if you don’t keep your eyes on the big picture. First, you have to microchip your animal so they can be positively identified as yours and with the official paperwork. The second step is a rabies vaccination which is documented and matched through the microchip number. The third action is to have a rabies titer a test to verify a sufficient level of the vaccination in their blood stream. Along the way you have to administer and document a host of other vaccines but none so important as rabies, particularly in countries like the UK where no rabies exist.

When we do travel internationally, we have the Passport as well as documentation signed by the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) Area Veterinarian-in-Charge. Getting the letter and form takes 2 trips to the Vet, after the microchip/vaccine/titer stage. The forms have to be signed by your local vet and sent to the appropraite one of the 40 Area Veterinarian in Charge across the US. On top of all this, we have a letter with her vaccination history from our Vet. Poor dogie has no chance of getting sick from about anything out there other than too many treats.

When we travel to the UK, we can only enter in certain ports in order to have your paperwork reviewed and your animal examined. In the past we have flown to Gatwick Airport outside of London. Sophie actually has a file there so we don’t have to start from scratch each visit. We arrange in advance to have an approved inspector meet us when the flight lands and clear her. When she is cleared she gets a BIG orange sticker on her lead and we march out of the airport with grins just as big as the sticker.

We have the UK process down. The same process can be daunting in other countries where we have not visited. Last week we were on our cruise and visited in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. We have been to Medico with Sophie so we knew that drill. The key to this whole thing is that each country has its own regulations and you have to follow them precisely. When we travel wDog on rocky trail peering down the hill toward a tarm with mountains in backgrounde are always prepared to be turned back at a border. Before we left on the cruise Holland America kindly helped us make the initial arrangements and shepherded the paperwork for each country. One country wanted to physically inspect Sophie; two did not. When we came back into the United States US Customs asked for more paperwork than is typical but since I had everything in the world we were fine. Curiously, the most common thing I use for reentry to the US is Sophie’s European Union PETS passport issued by the United Kingdom and at the Dick Vet.

So, here we are at the crossroads. Shall we duck out of house stuff for 10 days to jet off to Scotland or shall we let Sophie’s passport expire. I think we are going to jet off. All of the document preparation to meet the requirements to get the passport cost more than the airplane tickets. Besides we like Scotland.

As much as anywhere else in the world, Scotland feels like home to us. It will be good to spend some time in our home across the sea. It will be good to wander amid the remnants of the lives of people who lived hundreds or even a thousand of years ago. It will be good to be connected to the line of animals and humans who live on this earth and make it what it is.