It sounds like a bad joke right? Turns out, it’s the most common cause of destroyed US passports (at least, according to the passport agent I spoke to in Atlanta).
The night before leaving for our epic adventure vacation to Argentina and Chile, I pulled out my passport from it’s usual home in my nightstand to check into my flight. Once I’d finished, I thought to myself “I should leave this on top of my nightstand, that way I won’t forget it tomorrow”. First mistake.
Friday morning, I get ready to leave for work and our year and a half old puppy, Luna, hid under the bed in an effort to avoid placement in the crate. She’d developed a habit of chewing the corners of our sofa lately, and we’d gone back to crate life until the habit hopefully passes. I thought surely, she chews late in the afternoon when she’s bored, and we’ll be home early today so she won’t get into anything. So I left her out. Second mistake.
I got home around 2:30, with plans to pack up a couple last items and head to the airport at 4. I walked in the door and was greeted by shredded paperback novel, all over the living room floor. Luna got hold of the Silmarillion (sorry, Tolkein). I was frustrated, but figured it’d be a quick cleanup and off to Argentina. I let the girls out and came back to pickup the pieces of novel.
That’s when I noticed the passport cover, pocked with teethmarks and missing some edges, in the midst of the shredded pages of a paperback novel.
My heart stopped. I gingerly picked up the passport, saw the frayed edges of my photo, and went into full panic mode. I didn’t know what to do. I decided to race to the federal building downtown, and then the post office, in a last ditch effort to salvage the situation.
After failed visits to the federal building and post office, I called the US State Department’s passport office. The woman I spoke to sympathized, but said there was nothing that could be done. She set me up with an 8am appointment at the Atlanta office, and gave me a list of items to make sure I brought with me.
I got home and cried. A lot. Thomas proceeded to get on the phone with the airline and hotels to try and salvage our vacation. Once we did what we could, and I cried myself dry, I proceeded to drink an entire bottle of Chilean white wine and go to bed early.
I spent Saturday getting all my paperwork in order, and Sunday we headed to Atlanta. Even though I had an 8am appointment, I was told to get there early. We waited outside the office building doors at 7:15am, along with maybe half a dozen other people, until the doors opened at 7:30 and we were allowed up the elevator to the lobby of the passport office. Once there, we waited in another line. Passport agents walked up and down the line to check that everyone had their paperwork in order before the doors opened at 7:50.
Once through security, we were the third people to submit our paperwork for a new passport. By 8:05am, all that was left was to wait for the passport to be printed. Which took until 12:45.
Our trip started out with a pretty solid disaster, which in some countries would have meant we’d have to cancel. But we were lucky and able to salvage most of our trip.
So, what do you do if your dog ate your passport? Here are the steps we took to get a new passport quickly, and salvage our vacation.
- Have a panic attack. This step is completely optional, but I couldn’t skip it.
- Get on the phone with the passport office. You’ll be given a menu of options when you call: press the option to check on the status of your passport, that’ll allow you to connect to a person who can help you.
- Follow the instructions given to you. The agent will tell you where the closest passport agency is you can go to in-person (check out their listing here) and tell you what documents to bring. In my case, I needed an application, original birth certificate, drivers license, new passport photos, proof of imminent travel, and a letter detailing what happened to my original passport.
- Arrive early. Whether you have an appointment or not, get there early. They brought us into the agency based on where we were in line, not our appointment time. There we many people in line with no appointment who were let in along with us.
- Be aware of security. Yes, they have security. We couldn’t bring in food or drinks, as well as the usual weapons you’re not supposed to bring into a government building.
- Submit your paperwork, pay up, and wait. The paperwork process took less than five minutes. Of course, we had to pay for a new passport, as well as the various fees for expediting, which was about $240. We were told to come back at 12:30 to pick up my passport, but we had nowhere to be and were hoping it’d be ready early. Well, that was not the case for us. We did meet a man in line who had a 2pm flight to Barcelona, his passport was ready for him by 9:30. So if your case is that urgent, they may tell you to stick around to receive it early.
- Pickup your new passport and get back to your vacation.
Again, these are the steps we took. If a passport agent tells you something different, by all means do what they say, they are the real experts here. You can check out their website here for information on documents to bring, locations of different agencies and their hours, and more.