The Ugly American: Smuggled Puppies and Other Oddities of Airport Customs

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My friend Lary recently smuggled a puppy onboard a flight to the Caribbean. He texted me a picture just before takeoff, showing the puppy asleep in the bag at his feet. “What the hell are you doing with that puppy????????????????” I texted back. Lary is not the kind of person to put a live puppy in his bag. He is more the kind of person to put a dead prostitute in his basement.

“Smuggling him to Turks and Caicos,” Lary responded. Further demands for explanations went unanswered, probably because the plane was in the air by then. Later I learned he took the puppy to his friend, Carol, who lives there, and who, rather than face a flurry of forms and quarantines, figured it was easier for her to enlist the services of our most criminal-minded friend, pay for his round-trip ticket from Atlanta, have him drug the puppy and risk a public decapitation (or whatever they do to smugglers there), then pick them both up via privately hired yacht at the airport dock, the exit to which, according to Lary has a much more lenient customs line.

I was kind of impressed, because personally I’m a huge pussy when it comes to smuggling. I once panicked and threw an entire box of Cuban cigars into the lavatory trash an hour outside of Atlanta.

“Cigars are nothing,” said my friend Euell Montgomery.* Euell is a veteran customs agent who works out of Hartsfield International Airport. He happened to be smoking a huge Cuban cigar, hence the broaching of the subject. He then espoused the most interesting smuggling attempts he’d ever encountered or heard about during in his career, which I will now recount to you:

Veteran Customs Agent Euell Montgomery’s Top 8 Most Interesting Smuggling Attempts He has Encountered or Heard About During His Career:

1. Cocaine Leg Cast
A man in his sixties was wearing a cast on his leg that turned out to be made of cocaine. He might have gotten it past customs if not for the additional cocaine found in his luggage, which prompted further searching that led to the cast.

2. Human Head
A human head was discovered in the suitcase of a woman flying home from Haiti. She said the head helped keep away evil spirits. She was cited for bringing a decapitated human head into the country without the proper papers (this is actually an offense), transporting hazardous material and failure to declare the head.

3. A Tiger Cub
A lady tried to smuggle a sedated baby tiger in a suitcase with a bunch of stuffed tiger toys. The X-ray machine revealed the bones, though. The tiger lived and was donated to the local zoo.

4. Pygmy Monkeys
A man was busted for trying to smuggle a pair of pygmy monkeys inside his underwear. The monkeys lived and were donated to the local zoo.

5. A Corpse
A woman was found pushing a dead body in a wheelchair through Atlanta E-concourse on her way to catch a flight. The body turned out to be her deceased husband. She said she thought he was just sleeping.

6. A Female Skeleton
A monk was caught trying to board a plane with the bones of a nun in his suitcase. He claimed she was a saint, and he sought to bring her remains back to his monastery.

7. Birds in a Bra
When a lady’s breasts seemed to move on their own volition, she was sent to secondary inspection, where it was discovered that she was carrying four baby parrots in her bra.

8. Golden Retriever Puppy
On a flight to Turks and Caicos, a flight attendant admonished a business-class passenger for taking his puppy out of its carrier and allowing it to sit on his head. “I have no idea whose puppy this is,” said the passenger. “I was sound asleep and woke up with it licking my face.”

(*not even close to his real name)

Hollis Gillespie writes a weekly travel column for Paste. She is a writing instructor, travel expert and author of We Will be Crashing Shortly, coming out in June. Follow her on Twitter.

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