Facing South on Broadway at 168th Street

Winter Storm Jonas in Washington Heights, Manhattan, NYC

My wife and I went out walking around in Winter Storm Jonas for a while, just to see what the blizzard was doing to the city. The last time there was a storm like this, we stayed indoors and by the time we went out, there was nothing left but slush and those crappy puddles on the corners that you have to wade through to cross the street.

When we went out, the snow was still coming down really hard, but it was supposed to snow well into the night, so that wasn’t surprising. It was oddly quiet outside, besides the wind. There were more people out than we expected, but the neighborhood was mostly deserted. Even Starbucks was closed. We didn’t expect anything to be open. We just wanted to have a look around. I was pretty surprised to see a few stores open and some people trying to deliver food. Gristedes was open. It looked like Famiglia was open. I saw two guys come out carrying delivery bags. They ran to a car though and drove off so I’m not sure if they were trying to do a delivery or leave for the day. One of the guys was the franchise owner. I recognized him from when they were moving and renovating the store.

Delivery man pushing his bicycle through the snow.

Delivery man pushing his bicycle through the snow.

There was a delivery guy trying to ride his bicycle through the snow in the road at 168th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, but he wasn’t really doing too well and gave up. I watched him get off his bike and then start pushing it through the snow. There were no snow plows on the roads keeping them clear, or if there were they weren’t doing the job well enough because of the rate of snow accumulation. I felt bad for the guy.

After we took some pictures we decided to go grab a few things from Gristedes. It was fun walking inside, covered in snow and I took some time to warm my hands by the rotisserie chicken display. When we left the store, we saw a dog sitting there in the snow, tied to the guard around the bottom of the tree. I was pretty concerned. The dog had a layer of snow on its fur and it was holding one paw up. The dog was obviously uncomfortable and didn’t want to stand in the snow. He was angry and barking. We couldn’t leave until we knew the dog was okay. Other people walking by kept commenting that they couldn’t believe someone left the dog like that. People inside Gristedes were looking out the window at the dog. A guy walked out of Gristedes and said he’d seen the dog sitting there when he went into the store about 10 minutes prior, so me and the guy went inside to look for the owner.

It’s too much, you know? Leaving a dog out there, tied up with snow falling on him. So, I went inside and yelled out, “Does anyone here own the dog that is tied to the tree outside? It’s been there for more than 10 minutes. That’s really inhumane! If you don’t get your dog I’m going to call the police!” When people realized a dog had been left outside in the blizzard, a few people started to comment angrily on the situation. No one acknowledged that they owned the dog, so I walked further back into the store and yelled, “If someone owns the dog that has been tied up to the tree outside for more than 10 minutes, you need to go get your dog and take him home. It’s inhumane to leave a dog outside in a blizzard and I’m going to call the police. Also, you’re an asshole!” Because really, you have to be an asshole to leave the dog tied up outside, exposed to weather conditions so severe. This was the second worst blizzard the city has ever had and the wind chill brought the temperature down to about 14° F.

While I was doing this, my wife and another woman untied the dog and brought him under the shelter of the canopy along the edge of the building. The dog was visibly relieved. By the time I got back outside, the owner had run out there to take the dog home. I hope she doesn’t do it again. I wonder if I should have just called the police and/or animal control anyway? What if this is normal for this person?

Anyhow, it was sort of a damper on the fun we were having, but we were glad we saved the dog from a bit of suffering he might have otherwise experienced if we had chosen not to go out, or not stop. We also enjoyed the adventure of walking around out in the blizzard. We were going to try to do our laundry today, but it just didn’t happen. I looked at the news about how the transit system wasn’t even up and running around noon today, so we just did some cleaning around the house and I’ll have to do the laundry tomorrow night after I get home from work. By then, shop owners should have salted the sidewalks and everything should be open. It would have been really disappointing to haul laundry through snow drifts to the laundromat only to find out it wasn’t open.

We never lost power or heat or any other service, so it was a pretty cozy, awesome kind of weekend, mostly holed up at home watching TV and staying warm. I have my snow boots ready for tomorrow.

Semi-Domestic Wild Deer in Fort Lee Historic Park, New Jersey

Wild deer in Fort Lee Historic Park

Wild deer in Fort Lee Historic Park

On Sunday, when my wife and I walked over the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, we stopped by the Fort Lee Historic Park, which is right next to the bridge and offers a great view of the Hudson River and Manhattan, which, I suppose, was the reason the fort was originally built. We didn’t really expect to see a whole lot there. We were just looking for a place to take a short break before turning around and walking back over the bridge. We were both surprised by how much of the historic fort has been restored. We want to go back sometime with real cameras and spend an afternoon there looking around.

The best part of the pit stop, though, was when we saw wild deer snacking on the underbrush in the middle of the park. Even when I lived in Georgia, it was rare to see deer in high traffic areas, and it was especially bizarre for me to look one way and see the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and then to look the other and see a little family of deer hanging out like they were special guests in a petting zoo. It reminded me of a snapshot I’d seen on instagram a few weeks ago (I think) of a deer eating flowers from a planter in the middle of an outdoor, strip mall.

I first spotted them when we were a good distance away and I snapped a few photos, because I expected them to bolt the moment they realized we were there. We kept walking closer though, and they didn’t seem to mind at all. The mother deer kept looking up at us, but she decided we weren’t going to bother her and went back to eating. Later, a large Chinese family with loud kids showed up and the deer just kept grazing. I got the impression that these deer live there and people are used to seeing them in the park. I stood about arm’s length from the mother deer and she ignored me. They’re almost domesticated.

In a way, it’s a great bonus to have wild deer hanging around the park. It helped take me completely out of the city and let me better enjoy the trees around me, the open space, the smell of foliage and dirt, and the lack of crowds.

A Day at the Bronx Zoo

Last June, my wife and I took a trip up to the Bronx Zoo. Prior to moving back to New York City in 2010, I’d lived here as a kid, or visited numerous times, but I don’t know that I had ever been to the Bronx Zoo before. Anyway, we showed up about two hours after opening and, after some deliberation, went ahead and put out the extra money for the all-access passes instead of paying a-la-carte as we went through the zoo. The zoo has a large amount of free “content” but if you want the “premium” experience, you have to pay a heftier fee.

I think it was worth the money. We almost exclusively visited the premium areas, but ran out of time before seeing everything. Of course, some of the stuff we wouldn’t want to see anyway, because it was geared towards kids, but basically the Bronx Zoo is a two day experience, at least. There’s so much left that we didn’t see that we’re definitely going to have to go back again.

My favorite photos from our trip:

If you’re thinking of visiting the zoo, my only suggestions are to bring water, food (inside prices are out of control), a hat for shade and comfortable shoes for standing in lines for access to some of the premium areas like the Asia Monorail and the Dinosaur Safari, which we didn’t ride, but saw the line for while walking towards the butterfly garden.

National Night Out (Against Crime) 2011

Well, it happened yesterday so this isn’t so much a post about looking forward to observing it as it is about, “Oh look. Llamas and donkeys. Why are those in Campos Plaza?”

Farm animals in New York City.

Farm animals in New York City.

Farm animals in New York City.

Farm animals in New York City.

Farm animals in New York City.

This immediately reminded me of a joke I heard about Singaporeans.  A teacher (in Singapore, with Singaporean students) asks her young students (think, 8 years old) to draw pictures of farm animals.  So, the students happily sit around drawing for awhile and then present their work to the teacher.  One boy walks up and proudly shows her his drawing of a chicken, and it looks really good, except the chicken he draws has no feathers on it.  She asks him why he drew the chicken without feathers, and he asks, “Chickens have feathers?”

This is funny, but I completely understand the reality behind the joke.  In a place like Singapore, which is highly metropolitan, it would be very rare for kids to see any chickens other than the plucked and cooked ones hanging on hooks at the hawker centers.  Even when I lived in Georgia, I would get excited at seeing horses or cows or other farm animals.

A hawker center in Tampines, Singapore.

Anyway, when I was heading home yesterday, I smelled animals and I saw a lot of people in the square between a set of buildings so I went to investigate and these guys in the photos above were the first thing that pulled my attention.  It was fun!

National Night Out Against Crime 2011, New York City.

National Night Out Against Crime 2011, New York City.

I didn’t investigate all of the booths, but the one to the right in the second picture above had face painting, which is why the line was so long.  I imagine the table on the left in the above picture had something to do with distributing literature regarding crime prevention, since it was manned by NYPD officers.

US Army Recruiters at National Night Out Against Crime 2011, New York City.

I was, of course, drawn to the set up in the photo above.  I was curious to see what the recruiters were up to, having been in the Army myself.  I wound up spending about half an hour chatting with Sergeant First Class Chen.  He’s a pretty nice guy.  We traded a few stories.  I told him about my time in service and he talked mostly about the benefits and stability of joining the Army Reserves after leaving Active Duty, but that’s his job after all.  We did talk a bit about some of the things that make you say, ‘WTF?’ while you’re in service.  It was nice to reminisce for a while, about the time I spent in the military.  It wasn’t all good, but it definitely wasn’t all bad either.

It was a pretty nice event overall, and it was good to see something positive taking place in the square for a change.  The area is known for violence and drug related shootings.  Ironically, the ‘Night Out Against Crime’ booths started shutting down and wrapping up as the sun set.

Exporting Cats From the Philippines to the USA (via Delta Airlines)

Meet Marble.  Marble was born in Singapore, has lived in the Philippines and is sleeping in an armchair in Manhattan, New York City, in the above picture.  She’s an international cat and probably has more Sky Miles than most human beings.  She’s also a lucky cat, having started out her life as a stray under a building near the train station in Pasir Ris, Singapore.  Now she lives a life of relative luxury on the other side of the world with canned food every day, lots of attention and love and a safe environment.

So, how did she get here?  Well, it’s a long story, but first we exported her from Singapore to the Philippines and then when it was time to move on, we exported her again from the Philippines to the US.  (If you want to read about how to get your cats from Singapore the Philippines, click here.)  Compared to the process of getting Marble from Singapore the Philippines, bringing her to the US was relatively painless.

U.S. Requirements:

Just to give you an idea, the requirements set forth by the CDC (Center for Disease Control, which regulates animal imports) for bringing your pet cat into the US are that the cat has to be in apparent good health and, depending on the state of entry, updated on rabies shots.  That’s it.  Here’s the exact quote from the CDC’s page on cat importation:

A general certificate of health is not required by CDC for entry of pet cats into the United States, although some airlines or states may require them. However, pet cats are subject to inspection at ports of entry and may be denied entry into the United States if they have evidence of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans. If a cat appears to be ill, further examination by a licensed veterinarian at the owner’s expense might be required at the port of entry.

Cats are not required to have proof of rabies vaccination for importation into the United States. However, some states require vaccination of cats for rabies, so it is a good idea to check with state and local health authorities at your final destination.

All pet cats arriving in the state of HawaiiExternal Web Site Icon and the territory of GuamExternal Web Site Icon, even from the U.S. mainland, are subject to locally imposed quarantine requirements.

Delta Requirements:

An additional requirement from Delta (the airline I used) was that she needed a government health certificate and to get her out of the country we had to get an export permit.  In the Philippines, you’ll get your export permit and government health certificate at the same time.  They’re the same form in fact.

Philippines Bureau of Animal Industry - Image provided by commenter Lou Cep (1/26/2017)

Philippines Bureau of Animal Industry – Image provided by commenter Lou Cep (1/26/2017)

So, here’s a step-by-step for what you’ll need to get your pet cat out of the Philippines:

  1. When you book your flight, do it with a live person and inform them that you’ll be taking a pet cat with you on the flight.  This is necessary, because not all planes are equipped to carry live animals.  The fee for carrying pet cats is 200 USD each, flat rate.  You pay this later.  I’m not aware of any limit to the number of cats you can bring at one time, but I’m sure there is one.
  2. Within 10 days of your flight, take your cat to a vet and have her updated on all shots.  Depending on what state you go to, your cat may need a rabies shot.  Also, regardless of US requirements, the BAI staff asked to see proof of rabies vaccination.  Get your cat the other shots he or she should have anyway, because it’s just healthier that way and will help your cat avoid disease and live longer.  Depending on what vet you use, costs may vary.  Our cat had her rabies shot in Singapore in May, so it was still valid.  Her feline leukopenia booster was 750 pesos.
  3. Request a Veterinary Health Certificate.  You may need to explain what this is and what it’s for and what it needs to say.  The vet we went to didn’t seem to know, which isn’t surprising.  Cats aren’t popular pets in the Philippines and I imagine exporting them to other countries by owners is rare.  We paid 500 pesos for our Health Certificate at Our Lady of Assumption Dog and Cat Clinic – Antipolo:
    • Contact Person: Oscar Macenas
    • Address: Joren Building, Circumferential Road, Marville Park Subdivision, Antipolo, Rizal
    • Contact Numbers: (02) 697-1896, (02) 697-3378
    • Accreditation: Philippine Animal Hospital Association (PAHA)
  4. Take your Veterinary Health Certificate (within 3 days of issue!!!) and your cat’s shot record, showing the valid rabies vaccination, to the BAI building on Visaya’s Avenue in Quezon City, Manila. Please note that BAI will only consider your veterinary health certificate valid for three days after issue. You must bring it to them within that timeframe.  They’ll process your combo export permit/government health certificate in an hour or less.  Take the form they give you and go around to the back of that building (to the left as you exit the door).  Go into the building there on your left (there’s only one) and up to the 3rd floor to the records unit.  They’ll put a ‘dry seal’ (raised notary seal) on your export permit.  All of this is free. The forms you receive from the BAI will be valid for 10 days. (Confirmation that the veterinary health certificate is still only valid for 3 days after being issued and updated information on the length of time that the BAI documents are valid provided by commenter Lou Cep 1/26/2017).
    • Contact Person: Virgie Tiong or Maynard Lagmy
    • Address: National Veterinary Quarantine Services, Bureau of Animal Industry, Visayas Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Manila
    • Contact Numbers: Phone: (632) 920-0816; Fax: (632) 920-0815
    • UPDATE (1/15/2017): BAI now has a Facebook page with up-to-date contact information in the About section. Click Here.
  5. When you get to the airport, check in as usual at Delta’s ticket counter.  They’ll ask to see the documentation, make photocopies, and collect your pet there after you make your payment of 200 USD, which can be made in cash or by credit card.  Delta doesn’t accept carry on pets on international flights.
  6. Collect your pet in the baggage claim area at your destination airport.

Timeline for Rabies Vaccination (Updated 4/20/2017):

According to the CDC in the United States:

An animal can be considered immunized within 28 days after initial vaccination, when a peak rabies virus antibody titer is reached. An animal is considered currently vaccinated and immunized if the initial vaccination was administered at least 28 days previously or booster vaccinations have been administered in accordance with recommendations. Because a rapid anamnestic response is expected, an animal is considered currently vaccinated immediately after a booster vaccination.

So, what does that mean? If your pet is receiving its initial rabies vaccination, the pet won’t be considered inoculated until 28 days have passed. If your pet is receiving a booster shot, the CDC says the inoculation is considered valid immediately.

When I went through the export process, I remember there being some confusion about how much time had to pass between the vaccination and the export permit being issued. My cats had all been previously vaccinated and the vaccination was still considered valid.

Some rabies vaccinations are valid for one year, while others are valid for three. It depends on the type of vaccine used. Please check with your veterinarian to determine whether or not your pet(s’) vaccination against rabies is still valid. Please get the vaccination at least 30 days before your trip.

During the Flight:

You won’t see your pet during the flight at all, even if you have a layover.  What comfort you will have comes in the form of little cards:

Delta provides this card to you on the plane to let you know your pet is onboard.

These cards come off of a form that is stuck to the side of your pet cat’s carrier.  You’ll be given one by a flight attendant prior to the plane leaving the gate area.  If you have a layover, you’ll be given another one before the plane takes off again.  My flight was from Manila to Tokyo to New York, so I received two of them.  The fact that it comes from the sticker form stuck to the carrier at the check in counter is what gives you the assurance that your pet is in fact on the plane.

If you’re wondering how a cat holds up under a plane for 20 hours, I would tell you that it depends on your cat’s temperament.  Each cat is different and some are more skittish than others, but Marble was just fine.  She was a little nervous and hid under the blanket I put in there for her, but that was about it.  Please do leave a blanket in the carrier.  Despite being air conditioned, the plane gets cold.  My advice to anyone, though, is to not drug your cat prior to the flight.  Besides the fact that it’s not healthy for the cat, if he or she looks dopey or messed up on arrival you may wind up with your cat being quarantined to make sure it’s not sick with some disease.

On Arrival at JFK International in New York City:

If you’re flying this exact route, you can collect your cat in JFK’s baggage claim area.  Just past the baggage carousels, there is a locked door with a keypad.  Above it, there is a light with a yellow cover.  When a pet shows up on a flight, it’s taken to this room and the warning light is turned on to alert the owner that the cat (or dog) is available for pick-up.  When I picked up my cat I wasn’t required to show any documentation at all, because Delta had copies that were likely handed over when the cat was unloaded.

I hope this guide gives you some insight into the process of getting your cat from the Philippines to the US!  Below is a map showing the location of the BAI office on Visaya’s Avenue.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask and I will answer to the best of my ability.