Wednesday 8 July, 2020

World's first ever 'Noah's Ark flight' was not easy to coordinate

Some of the passengers on the flight

Some of the passengers on the flight

Susan Gabruch, a Canadian living in the Cayman islands, left Cayman in late March, just before the borders closed, thinking that she would not be gone for long. Toby, her dog, was left safely at home under the care of the grandson of Kenneth Morgan, the owner of Cayman Canine Training Services. At the time, everything seemed like it was under control.

As the situation with COVID-19 escalated, Susan tried desperately to have Toby returned to her. 

Unfortunately, her research into flights revealed that the Canadian government was not allowing “non-essential cargo,” including pets. And Susan was not alone in her plight; there were other Canadian pet owners, living in Cayman, who were also trying to return to Canada but did not want to leave their pets behind.

Susan and Toby

Thanks to the hard work of locally-based Canadian, Nikole Poirier, the world's first Noah's Ark flight aboard a 737-800 Sunwing aircraft carrying 117 human and pet passengers was organized. The charter was able to transport scores of pets and their owners to Toronto Pearson Airport, as well as reunite Susan with her dog, Toby.

What Poirier managed to "pull off" on Friday, "without even a hitch" was not only unprecedented but quite a feat.

The privately chartered plane allowed Toby and other pets to be returned to Canada, thanks to the hard work done by Aimee McKie of Must Love Dogs, who brought Toby and other pets to Cayman Mobile Vets, processed DOA permits and took care of all the flight's pee pads, and muzzles. 

Once in Toronto, 'Paw Enroute' picked up Toby and ensured his transfer to Saskatchewan where Susan and Toby were reunited.

This is but one of many happy pet repatriation stories that were made possible by the combined efforts of committed individuals, under the leadership of Nikole Poirier, Aimee McKie of Must Love Dogs, Maria Lang from the Governor's office and Jeff Boucher, Honorary Consul for Canada.

L-R: Aimee McKie and Nikole Poirier

"There were so many considerations, and so many ways things could have gone horribly wrong," explained Poirier. For one, Sunwing, from which the group chartered the flight, warned of a $1500 fine for pet-related 'accidents' and required that all dogs wear basket muzzles. The Canadian Honorary Consul was required to vet all non-Canadians embarking the flight, as there would not be a return flight to bring them back should there be issues with immigration. There were also six people whose travel arrangments on the $140,000 flight were approved for coverage by the Canadian repatriation fund.

No small feat to be sure and no big surprise, this feel-good Cayman story has since been covered by CBC, The Star and other major media companies.

Noah's Ark part 2 is currently being organized for July 13, but this date is 'fluid'. Those who are interested in returning to Canada with their pets should contact Nikole Poirier at nikolepoirier@yahoo.com .

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