A Guide to PCS-ing with Dogs to Japan: Flying on the Rotator

PCSing to Japan with Dogs

How did we get two coveted pet spots on the rotator (AMC flight)?

1) We PCS-ed in October.
2) My husband keeps a ton of leave reserved for times like this. We told them we’d prefer to leave at the beginning of October, but he had enough leave to fly anytime in the month and still have leave left over.
3) Luck. The schedule seemed to open up early for some bases because I saw posts on Facebook about people securing their spots on our target travel date. Cass went into TMO and got our second date since the first one had already booked up.

The reason we wanted the AMC flight and sacrificed some of my husband’s precious leave was because I had already stressed out enough doing their FAVN and setting up everything for the health certificates. I didn’t want the added pressure of having to fly commercial with the advanced notice, transfers, and all that goes along with international travel.

Like I said in my A Guide to PCS-ing with Dogs to Japan: First Steps post, I was living in Portland while Cass was doing a short tour in South Korea. When his tour was up, he came to me in Portland to spend a few weeks with friends and family; then we left from there.

The Health Certificate

The first step of our trip was to drive up to JBLM in Tacoma, Washington for the dogs’ health certificates. It’s SO much easier to use this office than any others because they process health certificates for international travel on a regular basis. They have the process down and at the end of our visit they neatly bundled all the necessary travel documents, as well as copies, and put all of them into manila envelopes for us.

We had a day and a half in SeaTac so we booked a room at La Quinta. The chain is super dog friendly with no pet fee so we always stay with them if we can when we travel with Lexi & Gambit. The staff at the SeaTac La Quinta LOVE dogs and if they weren’t busy, they’d come say hi and give them treats. There are some great parks to explore in the area too if you have a car and want to take your dogs out.

Angle Lake Park in SeaTac, Washington. A nice park just a short drive down the street from our hotel.

Seahurst Park
Seahurst Park in Burien, Washington. Lots of trails, beach access, and so pretty!

Checking In

If you’re facing the building and the check-in desks, the AMC desk is all the way on the left. Just keep going to the very end. The USO is awesome and there are stairs behind the check-in area as well as at the center of the building.

If you’re traveling with pets and/or children, there is a separate family line. So you don’t have to get in line at midnight. Cass dropped me and the dogs off at the curb while he returned our rental car. By the time he got back the check-in desk had opened up so we hopped into line and it moved along fairly quickly.

I did hear from some people that they arrived at 5 and AMC had already given away their pet spots. So even though you don’t need to get there super early, it’s better to be safe and be in line when the desk opens.

After check-in, we left their crates upstairs and took the dogs to walk around outside. We walked up and down the sidewalk outside the baggage claim to make sure they took care of business. There are dog relief areas on either end of the terminal, but the one at the far end is next to a big smoker’s area so we didn’t linger on that side. After the dogs got their jitters out, we found a quiet area with some benches and rested until it was time to go.

We were the last people to leave our dogs. I think everyone else had kids so they had to worry about getting them through security and set up. It’s just us and we’re seasoned travelers so we could spare the time to spend with our dogs until they were loaded up.

A tip to set up your pets’ crate:

Tape down a pee pad, then tape down a blanket or towel over it. That way if the dogs start scrambling around when their crates are picked up, they don’t shred their pee pads and everything doesn’t end up in a ball in the back of the crate. If you forgot to bring tape (like we did), the check-in desk had a roll of packing tape they let us use. They also had zip ties for the doors.


We only saw our dogs once during our journey for about 15 minutes. We deplaned and eventually someone made an announcement for pet owners. Just wait by the doors and they’ll gather everyone together to be escorted out onto flightline. They cut off everyone’s zip ties and there was a small fenced grassy area for the dogs to relieve themselves. No one took their dogs off leash because it would have been chaos.

We had a carry-on dedicated to the dogs. It made it easy to whip everything out as we needed them. They had no interest in eating, but they drank the water and took a couple treats. Lexi had soiled her crate, Gambit’s was clean. Cass used our wipes to give the crate a quick wipe down and tossed the dirty towel. We replaced it with a clean one and a clean pee pad. Since we forgot the tape Cass tried his best to reuse the tape we had gotten at SeaTac, but it was trashed. By the time we got to Okinawa, everything was a jumbled ball in the back of her crate.

Our escorts had zip ties to re-secure everyone’s crates again. The worst part about this layover was that the dogs were kept in the next room and we could hear all the dogs barking and crying. They kept that room locked, but there’s a big window between the two rooms and there’s a big opening with a grated gate (like the ones they have at the mall) in the hallway that leads to the bathrooms. So we could practically see the dogs, but we couldn’t be with them.

What was in our dog bag:

A water bowl, a reusable water bottle that we filled after security, extra zip ties, two replacement towels, two pee pads, a bag of treats, a small bag of food (they didn’t touch it), and dog wipes (in case they pooped on themselves and also to clean the crate if they used the pee pad). What I wish were in there: a roll of tape to retape the pee pad and towel.

Landing at Okinawa

It was a ridiculously long journey and the dogs were so amped up when they saw us at baggage claim. We had their bark collars on us, but at first we were told not to open their crates until after we left the secure area. I think Lexi’s annoying unrelenting shrill barks made a point and they let us cut the zip ties to put on the collars.

A sweet USO volunteer filled the water bowls attached to the crate doors when they were unloaded, but the dogs trampled the bowls in excitement when they saw us and made a huge mess. If you want to give your dogs a water container, get one of those rabbit style ones so they can’t splash it everywhere.

While we waited for our baggage we filled out some paperwork with the vet workers, they checked our travel paperwork, and we got instructions for registering them on base within 72 hours. After getting our baggage, everyone had to go through a customs check.

Then the Okinawa adventure began!

Shogun Inn Outside Shogun Inn

If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them or steer you toward the right direction.

If you just got an assignment to Okinawa and don’t know where to start, part 1 of my guide might be helpful for you:

flying on the rotator

BarkBox Unboxing – March 2019

This is one of Lexi & Gambit’s last BarkBox unboxings! This month’s theme is The Spy Who Licked Me.

Lexi is LOVING the cocktail toy and we like to take out the olives, put a treat in the pocket, and put the olives back. It’s a great puzzle for her and keeps her occupied for awhile. But it’s also a puzzle for us trying to figure out where the heck the olives went after she pulls them out. The last time she lost them, they were nudged under the couch up against the wall.

I got a new camera (DJI Osmo Pocket) and this was my first time testing it out. There’s definitely a learning curve and I’m struggling a bit. I thought I had a lot more footage opening up the box and showing the papers…but it turns out I was taking pictures not videos and they were horrible.

But the dogs loved their BarkBox as always and we can’t wait to sign up for our new dog subscription box. We have it narrowed down to a few companies. If you have any recommendations, send them our way!

Book Review: I Owe You One

I Owe You One book review

I was tired, but I wasn’t sleepy so I started reading thinking I’d fall asleep part way through and finish it in the morning. I accidentally stayed up all night reading this in one sitting…lying…whatever. There was a chaotic Shakespearean quality to the story and I just had to find out how everything is sorted out in the end.

What I Loved:

» How slimy Jake (Fixie’s older brother) & Ryan (the boy she’s been in love with forever) are
They’re so easy to hate. They’re the type of guys who never really say anything, but always have something to say. They rely solely on their charm, looks, and money. They’re all flash. It was fun to be able to have someone to completely hate and root against because they really had no redeemable qualities.

» Easy to read
Like I said, I read it in one go and it didn’t feel like it. I looked down to see my progress and was shocked that I was over halfway and next thing I know I was at 90%.

» Sebastian
I’m not going to say too much because it’s fun to be introduced to him and learn more about him as you go along. But I love the name (mostly because of Sebastian Stan) and I love what he stands for and the way he runs his company.

What I Wished For:

» More of Fixie fixing things
There was mostly moments of her meddling and trying not to. I wish there were more small moments throughout the book where she’s fixing something. Don’t get me wrong, they’re there. I just wanted more.

» More of the late Mr. Farr
They talk a bit about him. Mostly that he was charming, level-headed, and put family first. But I wanted more anecdotes and fond memories of him in the store and with them as children.

» A bit of a longer ending
The ending felt rushed through and I had to reread a few sections because I was a little lost in all the flurry of the windup.

Fun chick lit with some infuriating chaos. Easy to read; I read it in one sitting.

Book Review: Always Never Yours

Always Never Yours book review

The cover has some To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before vibes which threw me off a bit at first. But Megan is very different from Lara Jean so I stopped comparing them right away.

What I Loved:

» Megan embraces her high school role
She knows she’s not the girl these guys will choose for a long-term relationship (or as best as high school can get) so she leans into it. She flirts with all the cute single boys because why not have fun? She also knows she wants to go into directing and everything she does is to improve her résumé for college. She knows exactly where she wants to go and she knows what she needs to do to get in. I hate it when “ambitious high schoolers” are taken by surprise by admissions requirements.

» The authors are married
How cute is that!? This is their first book together and they’re releasing a The Taming of the Shrew retelling soon! I love the play and I’m curious to see their take on it.

» The book is set in Oregon
It never fails to make me happy to find out that a book I’m reading is set in Oregon. Bonus, I’ve been to a play at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival where Megan’s theater program puts on their big show and Ashland is ADORABLE!

What I Wished For:

» More of Megan’s flirtiness
There was some of her overt flirting, but not as much as I was expecting. She’s the school flirt and I wanted to see a lot more of it.

» More of Megan’s exes and where they are now
She’s the one before the one and I only got a real sense of one of the couples and I have questions about the others. How quickly did these guys find their ultimate high school loves after breaking up with Megan? How many of them did she have real feelings for? Where does she find these guys? Does she know/like all the girls they ended up with?

» Megan’s assertiveness
There were several times I was screaming at Megan to speak up. She’s so confident in who she is in school and in the theater, I hate that she doesn’t always stand up for herself or express her feelings in her personal life. Don’t get me started on her theater teacher.

Super cute high school love story with Shakespeare connections.

Fantasy AdventureAThon TBR

I was browsing through Twitter and came across the Fantasy AdventureAThon. I loved the idea of a choose your own adventure challenge and it’s been a while since I’ve read fantasy so this sounded like fun!

I came up with my path and team fairly quickly.

My TBR took more time because all my books are still packed in boxes. I dug through them to find as many of my fantasy books as I could without taking every single book out. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but the only books I’m buying are graphic novels to complete collections. Everything I read is either books I already own or books I borrow.

I was hoping more of my holds at the library would come through, but they didn’t. I picked some popular books and new releases, so they were long shots. But I still have a week so fingers crossed.

If you want to join, it’s not too late! Go here for the details.

Book Review: The Heirs

The Heirs book review

This got a lot of comparisons to The Nest, which I enjoyed, so I was excited about this. I also have a weird fascination with inheritance and how people have a strong sense of entitlement to someone else’s money.

Personally, I would be grateful if my parents left me anything, but I’m not going to demand it or hire a lawyer because I don’t feel like their money is my money. So when legal battles get ugly over money because someone feels like they deserve it, even if they weren’t included in the will, I’m like, “Get the popcorn!” Because greed is ugly and it’s a curse and if you’re going to create a spectacle over it, you deserve to be watched like the drama you are.

What I Loved:

» The Writing
I couldn’t stop reading. I could have easily read this in one sitting if I didn’t have life happening…or two needy dogs. I loved Rupert and Eleanor and their sons and all their friends and their sons’ friends and their sons’ families.

» The Characters
I feel like I know these people. Like they’re real people and I know them. Even though the book introduces a ton of different characters, the story really revolves around Rupert and Eleanor and how each person relates to them.

» All the Different Perspectives
With each new person and chapter, more little anecdotes and memories were released. Sometimes with this kind of story telling I get lost and frustrated because I want to stick with a particular story line. But this was masterfully done and I went along with whatever piece of the story Susan Rieger wanted to tell me.

The Heirs quote

What I Wished For:

» More of the Sons
Did I miss chapters on Tom and Jack? They seemed skipped over. Maybe that was the point since they were the youngest. Aren’t kids more and more overlooked the more that you have? I don’t know, I don’t have kids and I’m the oldest so I have no idea.

» More Eleanor
I don’t know what more I could want of her, but I do! She’s fascinating and I couldn’t get enough of her.

» A Glossary of Characters
You don’t even know how many characters are introduced. I really needed a list of all the characters and how they’re related to the family. At the end, there were some people that were touched on that I still can’t remember who they were or how they knew Eleanor.

Loved it, great writing, couldn’t get enough of Eleanor.

Misato Park | Okinawa City

Cass and I felt like getting out of the house. We didn’t want to go too far because it was getting dark so we ended up at Misato Park in Okinawa City.

Misato ParkMisato Park

It’s a little, but busy park. There are multiple play structures (which we stayed off of because the runners would curiously watch us as they passed by and I wasn’t trying to look like an idiot in front of an audience), a small skate park, a full basketball court (one side was missing a rim though), a big grassy area, a very well-used walking/running path around the perimeter, nice looking bathrooms, vending machines, and small parking lot.

Misato ParkMisato ParkMisato Park

Since it had just stormed earlier in the day, there were no kids playing. But there were lots of walkers and runners. There aren’t a lot of benches though, but there are some covered sitting areas.

Misato Park

We almost brought Gambit, but I’m glad we didn’t because he would’ve been in the way of the runners and there was only one other path straight through the middle of the park that he could’ve walked on. I also saw signs saying to take pet feces home to dispose of. They do a lot of trash sorting so I guess that’s why.

Misato Park

Pin: https://goo.gl/maps/QRwVr17BkYu

Book Review: The Dreamers

The Dreamers book review

I’ve had this on hold at the library for awhile so I can’t remember what first drew me to it, but WOW I’m glad for it. This is my favorite book of 2019 so far.

What I Loved:

» The Reading Experience
I tried to explain this to my husband, but it’s so hard. Here’s my best shot: at the beginning of the book, I felt clear headed and present and sure of what was happening. By the end of the book, I felt a little fuzzy and like I had just woken up from a vivid dream. Like I was in that fuzzy confusing space between the dream world and the real world so I wasn’t sure what was real and what was a dream. The writing style and the story telling really did a number on me.

» The Rising Sense of Panic
Okay, so when I read The Long Walk I felt chronically exhausted. And when I read Station Eleven, I kept wanting to wash my hands or bathe in hand sanitizer. When I read this, I felt a rising sense of panic and an increasing need to stay awake. Part of the staying awake part was because I didn’t want to not wake up and part of it was because I couldn’t stop reading and I stayed up most of the night to find out the ending.

» All the Different Perspectives
A lot of times I really hate more than two perspectives because I get lost so easily and I don’t bond with any character. In this instance, I appreciated jumping into so many perspectives to get a better sense of WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON AND WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE FALLING ASLEEP AND WHO IS NEXT?

» Karen Thompson Walker Lives in Portland
If you’re new here, I’m from Portland so I love it when little things like reading a book by an author living in Portland pop into my life.

The Dreamers quote

What I Wished For:

» More of the Dreamers
I wanted to see more of what was going on with them, especially the original sleepers.

» A Little Deeper Dive into Each Character
I have a pretty good sense of each character, but I wanted just a little more of a connection. A little more action from each of them and a little more of their thoughts and theories of what was happening in their town. I think Sarah and Libby were the most rounded out. I loved seeing them active with their own agendas and plan of action.

» More of and Ending
The ending was great, but I wanted more. There were a lot of snapshots of how everyone moved on, but I wanted a lot more details. We spend so much time with certain individuals, I wanted each of their stories to have a chapter’s worth of a conclusion.

The Dreamers quote

Amazing story telling, amazing writing. My favorite read of 2019 so far.