--R. Zucker, Los Angeles
Answer: Advice? Mon Dieu, yes. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, but do get a new passport.
Why? Well, for openers, you're dealing with the French, for crying out loud. Further, you've altered your passport. You may just as well have pasted a sign on yourself that says, "Customs officials, harass me. Please."
OK, so I'm being a little hard on the French. It could be any country's agents, frankly, who decide you have messed up your passport. They might notice; they might not. But . . . .
"Defacing or altering any passport can raise questions and delay your travel," says Steve Royster, a spokesman for the State Department. "If he were the absolutely safe traveler, he would apply for a new passport. Otherwise, it's going to depend on the discretion of the border protection agents around the world." (For information, www.travel.state.gov.)
Zucker's passport problem, however, looks like a cakewalk compared with Suki's tribulations.
Suki is the 2-year-old German shepherd traveling to France with him. Among the requirements for dogs (and cats and, apparently, ferrets) are microchips or tattoos identifying the animal (although the latter are acceptable only until 2011, when the chip will become mandatory).
So Suki got a chip. Turns out that chip is incompatible with French systems. Importing an animal with a different kind of chip means you may need to tote your own chip reader. (To read more, go to www.pettravel.com.)
Zucker, exasperated, has decided to get Suki a tattoo. Perhaps it could say, "Bonne chance." They're both going to need all the luck they can get.
Have a travel dilemma? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.