It was a few km to the Chilean border on a straight road, we could see the contours of the buildings already. After leaving the Salar de Uyuni and Bolivia we had a small snack on the side of the road. This appeared to be a good decision. You never know how long a border crossing is going to be. So far it usually had taken between 30 min and 3 hours, and nobody ever cared about Layla. This one was different and would take longer than we had ever imagined. And we learned how a small dog could endanger an entire nation.
Most people who see Layla usually respond; “Oh how cute!” and want to pet her. This happens so often, and this is not exaggerated, that you learn to ignore it. Although people react to her appearance, it’s like she’s world famous and everybody’s idol. Layla got used to it as well and is usually ignoring the people. At border crossings, we for sure don’t show off with her, but we are not exactly hiding her either. Before attending borders, Clara would do research for what’s needed for Layla in case we have to show her documents. Besides, in general we probably spend more money on quality food and medical care for Layla than we spend on the two of us together.
Normally when we arrived at a border we parked Grisu a little off to the side and went inside for the paperwork. At more tricky border crossings Alwin would go first, return with the paperwork, and then Clara would get her passport stamped. This way Grisu and Layla were never unattended. At safer border crossings Alwin and Clara would go together.
After the passport got stamped and the temporary import permits for Grisu are done, somebody would come and check Grisu. Layla would sit at Clara’s feet at the passenger side. Alwin would get out, show the VIN and open the sliding door on one side. This gives access to the kitchen and from there they could see the entire inner space. Apart from the passengers side in the front. At the utmost, one question would be asked and they would wave us through.
Arriving at the border
We checked out of Bolivia within minutes, no problems at all. The Chilean side was a few km down the road. And right as we crossed the border on our map, the road went from dirt to perfect asphalt. After having our snack in nowhere-land, we got to the Chilean side and as we parked Grisu. A big tourist bus was unloading for all the passengers to get the passports checked. Of course we ended up at the end of the queue, frustrated having to wait. Outside Grisu was attracting attentions from some guards with a dog. This made Layla bark to defend her territory, and therefore attract more attention.
With the frustration, we also hoped it could play in our advantage. These smaller borders often close at some point at night and by experience the officers are often less picky about certain things towards the end of their shift. Finally we got our passports stamped at ‘Migracion’ ( with the wrong date as we realised later). We went on to the next office for the TIP at the ‘Aduana’.
The lady there was probably at the end of her first shift, because she had no clue which information had to be put were on the forms. Somewhat confused she managed to complete the forms and print it, only to re-do it after realising her mistakes on paper. After checking with her supervisor, she handed us the paper. It didn’t take long for us to notice other mistakes she had made with some numbers. As Alwin mentioned this, she looked not less confused and tried to explain it didn’t matter.
Outside the inspection waited, it usually included an officer vaguely looking at our VIN and opening and closing the door without even turning the engine off. Here we were asked to fill out a form, and to keep Layla quiet at Clara her feet we thought it was best for Alwin to go outside and fill in both forms. Meanwhile on of the first questions from the lady from the SAG* was if we are had a dog. Knowing Chile is more precise about importing animals and food, Alwin first pretended to not understand the question. This had worked quite well in the past.
Unfortunately it didn’t work this time. She repeated herself in half decent English and there was nothing else we could have done than acting a little bit with: “Oh! Yes, we do have a dog, and here is her passport.”
You need to know, Layla’s passport looks almost like a human passport. It contains her personal details, almost like for us. It also is a report of all her vaccinations and treatments. It’s called a European Pet Passport, which is common in Europe. Most countries outside of Europe don’t have an equivalent and work with “certifications”, which always just states the current vaccinations but never the history. Therefore a certification holds far less information than Layla’s passport.
Leaving Layla behind
This is where the fun started. The SAG officer wasn’t very friendly. Even before she had seen all the documents we had given her, she tried to make us believe it was all wrong. All the vaccinations were up to date, but that doesn’t matter in Chile apparently. After a short discussion she said we couldn’t enter Chile. Or, as she elaborated herself, there was no issue for us and Grisu to enter Chile but Layla would need to stay behind. It doesn’t need any explaining that this wasn’t an option for us. Although we considered it for a brief moment, how exactly we’ll tell you shortly.
First the SAG officer wasn’t going to recognise Layla’s rabies vaccination that is valid for 3 years, and was only 1.5 years old. Then she didn’t recognise Layla’s internal and external parasite treatment which was 32 days old and is only allowed to be 30 days old, although the medicine is valid for 90 days!**. So the lady from the SAG required that Layla’s vaccinations would need to be re-done. Besides, our European Pet Passport wasn’t enough proof of Layla’s health, and she required also a “Health Certificate”.*** from a veterinary.
According to the officer, everything in Chile works with documents and certificates, which we later learned isn’t quite true. Clara argued a fair bit with the lady officer. It turned out that paperwork actually mattered more than a healthy little dog. Layla’s health was at risk!
Living at the border line
Once the pointless discussion with the SAG department was over, night had fallen and the border was about to close. We refused to turn around and go back to Bolivia, and we spent the night at the border. We had stayed at places with less luxe facilities before: Wifi, bathroom, water, power, everything we needed. With the modern technologies, Clara successfully contacted a vet who was willing to write a statement that Layla was perfectly healthy and that there was no reason to refuse her entry to Chile. Clara also found out that, some of the things the SAG lady had stated were incorrect according to Chilean law.
While all this, we were talking about other ways to cross the border, like all those things you see in movies. And we joked about letting Layla loose, entering Chile with Grisu, Layla would for sure follow Grisu, and on the other side of the border barrier we would pick her up again and drive on..
The next morning we presented Health Certificate the vet had sent us, and were packing up our Grisu for leaving. It was the same SAG officer in charge as the night before and she wasn’t in a better mood. It took all day, and at the end she didn’t accept the certificate, because the veterinary has not been at the border to see Layla in person. When we responded that the day before only the paperwork mattered, and why things had changed overnight? She looked annoyed knowing we were right but didn’t give in. The sun was already setting and night time was close.
“Your dog will endanger the entire nation of Chile”
What could we do? Not a lot, except for making another coffee and restarting our research for a veterinary that was available and willing to come to the border. If only the next proper town wouldn’t be 200km away. Not long after refusing Layla’s entry again, the SAG lady told us we had to leave the border area because a little dog like Layla would endanger the nation of Chile. It took us a moment, but we couldn’t hold back and laughed and refused to leave. She repeated herself and said she was scared Layla would escape and she would threaten Chile. The conversation ended with us saying that we not only didn’t want to leave, but that we also couldn’t because we didn’t have enough petrol.
Not long after, two police officers approached us asking for a clarification. Since we hadn’t had a bad experience with those two, we were nicer to them. Alwin explained that our dog was in perfect health and would never endanger their nation. And also that we couldn’t reach the nearest petrol station in Bolivia and that therefore returning was out of the question. The officers replied that the nearest petrol station on either end was about 200km. Alwin explained the Bolivia situation where we could only pay cash, which we didn’t have and the nearest ATM was about 450km. So the nearest petrol station where we could get petrol was a lot further in Bolivia.
Although this was entirely correct, the statement was just an excuse. Of course we would have had enough petrol, but the excuse worked. Not sure if they actually understood what we said, but the officers left and returned shortly after saying we could stay until the next day.
The vet threatening Layla’s health
We finally found a vet willing and able to come to the border. For sure a brave lady, willing to encounter an dangerous animal like Layla. After all, she’s the dog that would endanger the nation of Chile. She inspected Layla briefly. Additionally she was required to give Layla two vaccinations for parasites, one pill and one kind off shampoo. Just an utter waste of money, effort and time.
While Clara stayed with the vet and the officers for the paperwork to complete, Alwin went outside with Layla. To protect Layla against an overdoses, we made her puke and washed her with shampoo right away. This way most of the medicine never did anything. Despite our efforts, Layla still had diarrhoea for a few days. Luckily, it wasn’t any worse.
We spend a total of 46 hours at the border, wasted two full days and almost €300 for nothing. Nothing but to learn how a small dog would endanger an entire nation. Not the warmest welcome.. but at least we were in Chile and Layla was safe and sound with us.
*SAG is the “Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero”
**Chile recognises the 3 year rabies vaccine in combination with a Titer test with according results.
***Also called “Certificate de Salut” which can’t be older than 10 days when entering Chile.