May 4, 2021
COVID-19 and travel at SEA Airport
In this series, we check in with people (and pets) using Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) for essential travel. The pandemic paused leisure travel for the last year, and rightly so. Now, travelers are more comfortable booking trips with the right planning and precautions to stay healthy. We know some of you need to travel for work, family, emergencies, and other reasons that can’t wait. We are here for you now and whenever you are ready to return.
Meet Lil Stevie, a four-legged globetrotter, who made her essential international travel journey last fall, flying from Qatar to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to find her fur-ever home in Seattle.
The Arabian Village Dog had been living on the streets in Qatar when she was brought into an animal shelter in Doha. Enter Fur Bae Rescue, which connects rescue dogs from Qatar with loving homes in the Pacific Northwest. Through Fur Bae Rescue, Stevie flew with a travel buddy volunteer and two other dogs from Qatar, “paws-ing” for a layover in Dallas, Texas before arriving in Seattle.
Michelle Michaels, a Seattle volunteer with Fur Bae, met Stevie and the other dogs and their future families at SEA to facilitate the adoptions. When Stevie’s adoption later fell through, Michaels ended up fostering her for a couple weeks. It didn’t take long for Michaels to fall in love, and Stevie found a new permanent home with Michaels.
Through her work with Fur Bae, Michaels meets a variety of arriving dogs at SEA, helping to facilitate dog adoptions. She picks up the dogs and families at the baggage claim cargo hold area, helping with paperwork and getting the dogs on their way to their new homes. Depending on the needs of the new adoptive families, Michaels also can deliver pets directly to homes if needed.
The process came with added challenges during COVID-19, and Michaels and the rest of Fur Bae volunteers made sure to mask up and follow physical distancing procedures while at SEA. Michaels felt safe at SEA — travelers and employees wore masks and people were following physical distancing requirements. Signage throughout the terminal and loudspeaker announcements reinforced regulations. Foot traffic at the airport was also very low.
“That made us feel safer about continuing operations and having families come to the airport as well,” she said.
She said during COVID, dog adoptions slowed down, and it was much harder to get flights from Qatar to the United States. Some families are waiting more than six months for their dogs to arrive.
“Rescue groups are being flooded with adoption requests,” she said. “People’s time at home has increased their desire to have a pet, but we haven’t been able to source animals as quickly as before.”
Fur Bae was started by two sisters — Laura Elliott, a pilot for Qatar Airways and Jenni Baynham, a video producer living in Vancouver, British Columbia. After volunteering at an animal rescue in Qatar, Elliott saw how many animals needed help, so she developed a plan to bring dogs who did not have homes from Qatar to the Pacific Northwest. In the past two years, the organization has helped rehome 130 to 150 dogs from Qatar. Before the dogs are brought to their new homes in the Pacific Northwest, they are vaccinated, checked out by a veterinarian, and issued puppy passports.
“A lot of animals are not cut out for living in the desert,” Michaels said. “Families will adopt huskies, German Shepherds, and labs, when they are puppies, and when they become adults they abandon them. We discovered that the Pacific Northwest is the perfect spot for these dogs.”
Michaels estimates that Stevie was likely six to eight months old when she came to Seattle. She said working from home during the pandemic has allowed her more time to train and bond with Stevie.
Michaels and her roommate, who also adopted a rescue dog from Fur Bae, recently moved into a new house with a yard, allowing more space for the dogs to run around and adjust to their new Pacific Northwest life. Michaels said the pandemic has made dog-related outings a little more challenging.
“Anything dog related is a lot busier right now,” she said. “In general, there are so many places that we used to go with my roommate’s dog that aren’t open. It’s affected a lot of things we would do with our dogs."
Like many people, Michaels put travel plans on pause during COVID. The first COVID-related travel restrictions for the United States were announced when Michaels was traveling in France last spring.
“My flight home was scheduled for the next day,” she said. “Luckily I was fine and able to get home."
She put plans for any future international travel on hold as well and swapped virtual visits with annual trips home to visit her family in Michigan.
She said she’s also looking forward to operations returning to normal on the Fur Bae front.
“I can’t wait to travel freely and safely again and am excited to celebrate holidays with close family members,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to when small businesses are up and running and the community is looking normal again.”
May 4, 2021
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