UK Foreign Office’s Most Photogenic Member Palmerston to Retire as Chief Mouser

On August 6, the FCO’s Chief Mouser announced that the time has come for him to retire and spend time away from the limelight. Although Palmerston did not write a valedictory despatch, he did have a nice farewell letter complete with paw marks.
This announcement comes following a report that his boss, the Foreign Office’s Permanent Under Secretary Sir Simon McDonald is also set to retire early after “the prime minister signaled he wanted someone new to head the ministry when it merges with the Department for International Development”, according to Sky News.
Farewell @DiploMog, may you enjoy your best life yet in the countryside.
Related posts:

Delta to Stop Accepting Pets as Checked Baggage With One Notable Exception (Not the Foreign Service)

Posted: 12:59 am EDT
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On November 16, Delta announced that it will no longer accept pets as checked baggage, but will continue to transport allowable pets in all cabins of service except Delta One, effective March 1, 2016. Customers may also ship pets for travel within the United States as freight through Delta Cargo. There is only one notable exception to this new policy: Members of the military with active transfer orders will be allowed to transport a pet as checked baggage. Delta says it will continue to accept service and emotional support animals that comply with federal regulations including proper documentation.  Below is part of the announcement:

“Many of us at Delta are pet lovers and we know that they are important members of the family,” said Bill Lentsch, Senior Vice President – Airport Customer Service and Cargo Operations. “This change will ultimately ensure that we have a high-quality, consistent service for pets when their owners choose to ship them with Delta Cargo.”

Pets that are transported via Delta Cargo are monitored closely by customer service teams during their travel. While at airports, pets are handled in temperature-controlled holding areas and vans. Also, Delta Cargo enlists professional kenneling services if overnight stays are required.

With the change effective March 1, customers will be able to travel with a pet as checked baggage through Feb. 29. Also, Delta will contact customers with bookings after March 1 that are known to include pets as checked bags.

Guidance for customers traveling with pets can be found at, but customers choosing to ship a pet with Delta Cargo should note that:

— A separate booking from their flight itinerary is required.  Additional fees and charges may apply.

— A pet shipped domestically via Delta Cargo cannot be booked until 14 days prior to departure.

— Pets are not guaranteed to be shipped on a customer’s same flight or flight schedule.

— Shipping a pet requires dropping it off at a Delta Cargo location at least three hours before departure time at a location separate from passenger check-in.

— Picking up a pet will also occur at a Delta Cargo location.

— Delta Cargo will only accept international pet shipments from International Pet and Animal Transportation Association members. International customers should visit to find an approved member to assist with their transportation requirements.

A member of the Foreign Service who spoke with Delta multiple times including a supervisor was told the airline will NOT extend the exception to Foreign Service or any other USG employees, only to active duty military members on orders. We’ve verified with Delta, see below:


The Fly America Act, 49 U.S.C. App. 1517, as implemented in the Comptroller General’s guidelines, Decision B-138942, March 31, 1981, requires Federal employees and their dependents, consultants, contractors, grantees, and others performing United States Government financed foreign air travel to travel by U.S. flag air carriers.

As of this writing United and American Airlines still allow travel with pet as checked baggage. Plan ahead!

UnitedU.S. military and State Department pet exceptions | Select military and government personnel and their dependents may transport their pet dog or cat as checked baggage when they are traveling on official orders.

American Airlines: Traveling With Pets


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Top Diplomatic Pooch of All?

Posted: 00:08 EST
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Several years ago, two Alsatian guard dogs owned by the Russian Embassy in the UK, were reportedly accused of savaging sheep in rural Kent. The dogs claimed diplomatic immunity to stave off farmers who want them destroyed according to the Independent.  In 2013, Australian Bennett Miller used 36 wiener dogs and their volunteer owners to create a replica of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights as a performance art installation. See more here. So we had dogs that invoked diplomatic immunity, and dogs that were art muses!

In 2012, the pooches and all U.S. diplomatic pets were at the center of a very public campaign against United Airlines for its pet travel policy. (See here, here and here). That’s probably when the pets moved over to YouTube, FB and the blogs (also see The Pets of the US Foreign Service). A related trend — these days, we’ve got diplomatic pooches with varying degrees of official presence, from an occasional snapshot or two to a more persistent online presence. Here are few high ranking pooches:


SkipJack Armbruster, U.S. Embassy Marshall Islands


Ambassador Thomas Armbruster and SkipJack enjoying their new ride in Majuro (Photo from US Embassy Majuro/FB)

Bernie Mitchell, U.S. Embassy Burma


A thank you note from Ambassador Mitchell, Min, and Bernie to the people of Myanmar for their warm hospitality in 2014.

Deckard Oreck, U.S. Embassy Finland

Ambassador Bruce Oreck’s dog, Deckard, is named after — you guess it — Rick Deckard, the protagonist of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade Runner to Hollywood). Apologies, we don’t have the text for this interview.


Deckard Oreck (Photo from US Embassy Finland)

Hapa Berry, U.S. Embassy Australia


 Fenway Hackett, U.S. Embassy The Vatican


Not all diplomatic pooches are created equal when it comes to their online presence, of course.  We’ve searched for the top dogs on social media and came up with the following:

Colt Wilczynski aka @diplomat_dog

Ambodog of Artur Wilczynski @Arturmaks, Canada’s Ambassador to Norway

“A dog excited to be going on posting to Norway with his two daddies.” Although this labrador retriever has a small number of followers on Twitter as of this writing, he has lots of pics and is marvelously entertaining. How can you not love a pooch who writes, “As a Canadian diplomat, I don’t think I’m supposed to enjoy tonight’s episode of “? Or “I don’t want to get up. It’s too dark! And what does daddy mean- “Get used to it!”?



Benjamin F. Kerry aka  @DiploMutt

(Secretary John F. Kerry’s best friend in WashDC)

In November 2013, Secretary Kerry flew to Maine to pick up his new yellow Labrador puppy, Ben from Frances Plessner of Puddleduck Boarding Kennel who spent two months training the dog. According to the Boston Globe, Ben is named in honor of Ben Franklin, also known as the “Father of the American Foreign Service.” (Also see Secretary Kerry Gets a New Dog, Now a State Dept. Dog is Tweeting, Who Needs the NSA?) Ben, whose Twitter handle says @Diplomutt has 1,943 followers but is not terribly social online. He has only tweeted four times, and followed only six people, all State Department folks.  He does not appear to entertain request for retweets even for a good cause.



If you’re looking at @Diplomutt to come to the rescue after a hashtag diplomacy debacle, you’re out of luck.  It looks like Ben F. Kerry is on a very, very short leash with no other larger purpose than being the Secretary of State’s most devoted friend and most reserved sidekick in Washington, D.C.


Grigsby Lippert aka @GrigsbyBasset

(Ambodog of Mark Lippert @mwlippert, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea)

This Basset Hound is an upcoming star among diplomatic pooches. Although he only has over 500 followers, @GrigsbyBasset has tweeted over twenty times more than the more popular top dog from Foggy Bottom. He tweets lots of pictures and even made it to the pages of the Wall Street Journal:



Scruffy Nellie aka @DiplomaticDog
(@GregQuinnFCO FCO High Commissioner designate to Guyana)

Our most favorite pooch among the lot is Scruffy Nellie, a feisty little terrier found on the street of Astana, Kazakhstan by a British diplomatic family. Her manservant is @GregQuinn, now the FCO High Commissioner designate to Guyana.  Nellie has her own blog at Diplomatic Dog, followed by over 4200 subscribers. You may subscribe to follow her blog here and get your “regular sniffs.”  She is on Facebook with regular updates on “hairy pudding adventures and occasional words of scruffy wisdom.” She’s also on Twitter (@DiplomaticDog) with 2,797 followers.

Here she is when she was newly found:

Here she is in February 2014:


Scruffy Nellie, herself, is available for interviews. See the one she did here with  By the way, when her manservant gave an interview on behalf of the British Embassy in Astana (@UKinKZ with 2,196 followers),  @DiplomaticDog was there to retweet, and amplify.


@GregQuinnFCO confirmed to us that Scruffy Nellie is moving with him to Guyana this month and her family have arrived safely in Guyana. We’re looking forward to her Caribbean adventure; maybe she’ll get to see Kaieteur Falls!

 * * *



Secretary Kerry Gets a New Dog, Now a State Dept. Dog is Tweeting, Who Needs the NSA?

— Domani Spero

In late November, Bangor Daily News reported that Secretary John Kerry flew into Maine to pick up his new yellow Labrador puppy, Ben from Frances Plessner of Puddleduck Boarding Kennel who raises Labrador retrievers and trains dogs professionally.

According to the Boston Globe, the dog is named Ben in honor of Ben Franklin, who’s known as the “Father of the American Foreign Service” and for whom the State Department’s diplomatic state dining room is named.

The State Department tweeted the photo below:

Back at Main State after another trip – my new sidekick Ben tests the elevator. #woof –JK

Of course, Purina noticed and tweeted the following. Great timing, you guys!

Screen Shot 2013-12-11

On December 11, Secretary Kerry’s birthday, we got another look at Ben, yearning politely at those cookies!

Celebrating Secretary Kerry's 70th Birthday With Cookies In honor of his 70th birthday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by his dog Ben, receives a box of Kilvert and Forbes Bakeshop cookies from his staff at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on December 11, 2013. In 1976, the Secretary, a chocolate lover, and his friend and business partner K. Dunn Gifford founded the Boston bakery and named it after their mothers. Though the Secretary is no longer at Kilvert and Forbes, he still loves chocolate. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Celebrating Secretary Kerry’s 70th Birthday With Cookies
In honor of his 70th birthday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by his dog Ben, receives a box of Kilvert and Forbes Bakeshop cookies from his staff at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on December 11, 2013. In 1976, the Secretary, a chocolate lover, and his friend and business partner K. Dunn Gifford founded the Boston bakery and named it after their mothers. Though the Secretary is no longer at Kilvert and Forbes, he still loves chocolate. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Of course, you know what’s going to happen next, right? The State Department forgot to get Ben his own Twitter account. And now a State Dept.Dog @DogDiplomat parody account is up and running.  The Twitter account started tweeting 12 hours ago and already one reporter @JPecquetTheHill  “concludes, “he’s not nearly as well behaved as Bo.” Uh-oh.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11

@DogDiplomat’s first tweet dished WaPo’s In The Loop’s suggestion of “Undersecretary for Biscuits.” Nope, did not like that. And he wasn’t very diplomatic either.  There are early indications that the State Dept Dog has a colorful vocabulary, too.  Hopefully his tweets won’t be all about pee and Castro’s dog’s balls.  For a newcomer on Twitter, he has been busy:

Screen Shot 2013-12-11
According to his tweets, he already ate Jen Psaki’s hand moisturizer, did something bad to Greta Van Susteren’s handbag. And he did this:
Screen Shot 2013-12-11

Too early to tell how long @DogDiplomat can stay entertaining.  We hope he stays nice and funny; sad to say but we need some more nice and funny.

Of course, in the spirit of being nice, when @DogDiplomat tweets, “I’m going over to Bo’s place tomorrow and we’re going to rip the place apart. If I see Keith Alexander I’m going to bite him,” we thought we probably should warn that Keith fellow.  But then we realized who that guy is, and figure, since his NSA shop knows everything already, they’ll know when to expect  @DogDiplomat’s bite.

* * *

@United – Amb Gary Locke Goes to Bat for FS Pets and All Mission Employees in China

Foreign service pets and United are still hot. Most recently, our US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke (previously Commerce Secretary) went to bat for the FS pets on behalf of his mission employees and wrote to United’s Beijing office on this issue. He is the only chief of mission, as far as we know who has done this. Excerpt below from the Locke letter to United via AFSA. Read in full here.

Click on image for larger view

US Ambassador to China Gary Locke
(Photo from US Embassy Beijing/Flickr)

You rock, Ambassador Locke!

Domani Spero

@United on FS Pet Waiver Requests: Emails Read, Now You Can Drop Dead

Via Government Executive | Diplomats demand pet parity

“We have a strong relationship with the military and it was not our intention to put a financial burden on them,” United spokeswoman Mary Ryan told Government Executive. “But the exception for military families is a ‘one-off.’ ”
United spokeswoman Ryan said the carrier’s pet-shipping rates seem high because they include the third-party fee for the freight forwarder. United’s own pet fees are competitive, she said. The emailed letters from the Foreign Service Association, she added, “are not being ignored, but we have no intention of extending” the waiver beyond the military.

Read  in full here.

If you tweet about United Airlines, do use the new Twitter handle @United – this is the new handle used after the merger with Continental.  @UnitedAirlines is still up but no longer current.

In any case, like I said before, the Foreign Service, even with AFSA’s full membership just does not have the number. The airlines recognize that and is not at all shaking in its boots.  The only way this issue will probably get the appropriate attention is if some real smart and witty social media user can create a video of pets mocking this policy and it goes viral.  No corporate entity wants to be laugh at by millions of folks, but it can tolerate a few hundreds unhappy clients as part of doing business.

Domani Spero




@United – these poor diplomatic pets, did the merger gut your heart out?

@United – how can you do this to Felix rescued in Kuala Lumpur after his mom was eaten by a python? Did the merger gut your heart out?

From Pets of the U.S. Foreign Service

Last month, we wrote about United Airlines’ new pet travel policy, the AFSA-organized email appeal to exempt FS personnel on official travel from said policy, and United’s suckingly insulting response. The fight is slowly moving online:

United Airlines Screws the Pooch

United Airlines Screws the Pooch by L Po: “United Airlines has changed its pet shipping policy to make it 10x more expensive to ship a pet overseas. Within days, they granted a special waiver to military members “based on their service” to alleviate the financial burden imposed by the new policy and to help their families stay together. However, they refuse to grant the same waiver to all other U.S. heroes serving the country in embassies and consulates all over the world. Please help us tell United Airlines to think with their heart, not their wallet.”

The Pets of the US Foreign Service

The Pets of the US Foreign Service by mom2nomads: “A video to introduce you to a few pets of the United States Foreign Service. Their families serve their country with integrity and dedication in the Diplomatic Corp. They move on government orders in order to serve their country, just like the military. They deeply love their country, just like the military. They are asking that United Airlines include them in the exemption they’ve given the military from the prohibitively expensive new pet policies.”

Another version of this video with Sting’s Field of Gold is here.

The blog is now collecting photos of pets in the Foreign Service. The blogger writes:

“United basically does not think foreign service personnel and their family pets deserve the same treatment as our military. If shipping the pets costs what the article says it might cost, I don’t know what our family will do.  Stop eating?  Sleep on my FIL’s floor all summer to save money?  It will certainly effect us.

Someone recently suggested a pet blog to highlight pets in the foreign service and how they are a part of our families too.  Obviously I think this is an excellent idea and way to get the word out that this is a VERY important issue.  Please feel free to send along a photo of your pet with a backstory if you wish.  Tell your friends and tell your co-workers.  Send to”

The Foreign Affairs Friends of Animals Network (FAFAN) is keeping an eye on this and has a page on pet travel here.

The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) also has a page on Foreign Service Pets in the Spotlight here.

Meanwhile, in late March, Stars and Stripes reported that the Defense Department is seeking greater authority from the president to prosecute service members who abandon their pets — a perennial problem within the transient military community.

“The Pentagon wants to broaden its current animal cruelty policy to include abandonment and to cover personal pets, not just “public animals” owned by the military, said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.

Troops already can be charged with “dereliction of duty” and “conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline” for abandoning or physically harming their family pets, Breasseale said. But specifying the bad behavior in the Manual for Courts-Martial — the rulebook for prosecutions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice — would strengthen those cases and increase the chance of prosecution.”

We can’t find a line in the Foreign Affairs Manual on pet abandonment. The summer transfer season is just around the corner. With no telling where this is going, perhaps somebody ought to take a look at updating the FAM?

Update: One of our readers called our attention to a new State cable posted in AFSA’s website (UNCLAS STATE 032126 | Pet Travel: New Options For Using Non-Contract Carriers) allowing the use of non-contract airlines:

“Effective immediately, when pets cannot be checked as accompanied baggage, the traveler may use the government rates of a non-contract airline that will accept the pet as baggage. This exemption to mandatory use of a contract carrier outlined in 14 FAM 543 is in addition to exceptions allowing travelers to use excursion or other low fares offered by various carriers. If the airline does allow the pet to be checked as baggage, this exemption does not apply and the traveler must use the contract carrier. The new exemption applies to all airlines participating in the City Pair Program (CPP).”

Click here for AFSA’s Pet Issues Page

And the Fabulous Foreign Service Pets is now in Facebook!

Domani Spero




#United Deeply Offends Diplomatic Tails – It Sucks, Really! Woof! Woof!

We previously wrote about AFSA’s appeal to United Airlines on its new pet travel policy that can cost thousands of dollars to pet owners in the Foreign Service.

About 2800 emails were sent to United in response to AFSA’s appeal. AFSA has a membership of approximately, 16,000 members, so the appeal came from about 17.5% of its membership. Even if every member of AFSA writes to United, the number pales in comparison to the military and the potential backlash from military families.

Here is an update from AFSA on that appeal–

“United’s Senior Manager for Marketing, Customer Service and Business Systems responded to my letter to United CEO Smisek on March 7. He said that United developed the waiver for the military “in recognition of the commitment made by members of our military and the family members (including the four-legged ones) who share in their sacrifice” and intends to limit this “special process” to military families only. United has sent a standard customer relations response to individual e-mails saying that concerns would be conveyed to senior management for disposition.”

There are two troublesome thoughts that crossed my mind after reading this official response. First, the possibility that United’s Senior Manager for Marketing, Customer Service and Business Systems knows squat about the Foreign Service. Try not to roll your eyes. After all, a medical doctor and Ivy League graduate once thought the Foreign Service is like the French Foreign Legion.

Second, and perhaps more troubling, United’s Senior Manager for Marketing, Customer Service and Business Systems may know about the Foreign Service, but may not consider civilian service overseas on behalf of the United States, while representing the people of the United States of America as real service and sacrifice.

As Google says it in French, oh, ça craint, or in simplified English — oh, that sucks! Even, the diplomatic pets are deeply offended.

So poor Fido and his overseas escapades from Albania to Zimbabwe; traveling the world as a diplomatic dog is not sacrifice enough.  It’s not even a sacrifice when the four-legged ones are left behind during evacuations, because current State Department policy allows for the exclusion of pets from evacuation.

And poor Miss H (and Miss Kitty) who once upon a time went on multiple trips with us. The last one, on a long trip after getting poked, microchipped, vaccinated (thank god, no tapeworm treatment for cats) and  issued their own EU passports only to suffer veterinary malpractice and death in a foreign land.  I supposed death overseas is not a sacrifice either.

Miss H. has been gone for two years now and Miss Kitty will not be going overseas again. But there are other cats, dogs, and a host of diplomatic pets who are all offended by United’s unfriendly skyride.

The diplomatic pets do not yet appear to have any Twitter account, although they are considering it and currently in a negotiation on which breed would make the best diplomatic spokespet.  For now, we may have to ask our scaly friend, @BronxZoosCobra  to tweet Miss Kitty’s most pressing question: Dear United, what do you have against diplomatic pets?

Cat writes to United Airlines about misguided pet travel policy affecting diplomatic pets

Um, no answer yet.  Miss Kitty now needs to get off the podium and get her beauty sleep.

Domani Spero

Note: Photo above is of Socks the Cat from the Clinton White House.

AFSA Appeals to United Airlines on New Pet Travel Policy

pictograms used by the United States National ...

Image via Wikipedia

In early January, United Airlines announced that as part of its efforts to merge the policies and airport procedures of the two airlines, on March 3, United would adopt PetSafe®, Continental’s program for traveling with animals:

Effective for travel beginning March 3, except for small animals who you will carry on board with you*, we no longer check in animals at the airport ticket counter for travel in the cargo area of the plane. Instead, they will be accepted and delivered at cargo facilities or express package SPD (Small Package Dispatch)/QuickPak offices worldwide.

*Small animals may still travel in the cabin in accordance with existing United and Continental policies.

After a blowback from military families, United Airlines made an exception last month for military families who ship their pets on UA when making permanent change-of-station moves.  The Army Times reported on this last month with a quote from UA:

“We evaluated our policies and developed a special process for military families traveling on permanent change-of-station orders only,” said Mary Ryan, a spokeswoman for United Airlines.

Under the policy, military travelers on PCS orders will be able to ship their pets under United’s “PetSafe” program without having to pay an additional fee to a third-party freight forwarder, Ryan said. That fee would add $1,500 to $4,000 per pet to a traveler’s costs, according to some estimates.

In its Call to Action, AFSA President Susan Johnson writes that “AFSA has engaged with the Department of State and United Airlines regarding United’s new policies on pet travel which restrict options, raise costs and pose enormous practical problems for the safe and timely transfer of pets at transit points where a change of plane and carrier is required. ”  Instead of paying approximately $250-$400 per pet, families are expected to pay between $1,000 and $4,000 per pet during relocation overseas under the new pet travel policy.

Below is AFSA’s suggested text to email to UA no later than 5:00 pm EST on Friday, March 9, to generate maximum effect. The email campaign is primarily addressed to Jeffery A. Smisek, the President and Chief Executive Officer of United Continental Holdings. See end of post for additional email addressees:

Dear Mr. Smisek –

As a [member of the Foreign Service/spouse or family member of a U.S. Foreign Service employee], I welcome your decision to grant a waiver of certain parts of the new United pet policy to members of the U.S. military on permanent change of station orders, and I urge you to grant the same waivers to America’s Foreign Service traveling with their pets when they are on official “change of station” orders.

Extending the waiver would demonstrate that United recognizes the service of those who work to advance and protect America’s interests abroad, and would modify a policy that unfairly penalizes members of a career service that requires its members to be available worldwide, who rely on and feel deep responsibility to their  beloved animal companions. This policy will cause serious hardship, both financial and emotional, to members of the U.S. diplomatic service and their families when they are assigned to official stations abroad and traveling to and from their official station on government orders.

This is a fair and common sense solution and we urge you to extend the waiver to members of America’s Foreign Service, for the benefit of our animal companions who are such important members of our families and our lives.


(please send the message to,,, and

Read in full in AFSA’s page here.


Insider Quote: Every bureau has its pets

Tales of the Riverbank...Image by law_keven via FlickrAnyone telling you otherwise is playing the spin master’s game…

NDS of Muttering Behind the Hardline has an interesting bit on FS bidding where perplexed newbies may find some sunshine. Striking part excerpted below:

Every Bureau Has Its Pets

This is simply a reality.  There are always individuals who are highly regarded by bureau principals who are taken care of when it’s time to hand out jobs.  Sometimes that status is based on merit; other times, it was just a matter of working for the right ambassador or DCM at the right time.  The only reason you might be chosen for a job on which a pet has also bid is that management has something even more grandiose in mind for the pet.

Like something high profile …. a stretch DCM assignment …. an acting chieftain or something with no immediate regular replacement in sight …. pet tales, don’t be surprised if almost everybody has one.

Continue reading, The Kafka-esque World of Bidding