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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The Pooch and the Pussycats go to Spain

A story of intercontinental pet travel

Exactly twCat with paw over faceo years ago five of my pets made a gruesome journey in order to join me.  They flew from Halifax, NS, Canada  → Toronto  → Barcelona  →  by ground transport to Cantabria, where I was waiting for them.

Back in Canada many people asked me why I was going to take them with me (because of the cost).  Are you kidding?  I would never have left Canada otherwise!  I had to find a new home for two cats, which was bad enough.

On a non-commercial basis you can import five pets to Europe.  It is a costly and time-consuming affair.  Even if you let others handle most of it, you need to be involved and do your homework.

Abdicate, abdicate! (but verify)

Let the professionals handle everything, even if it costs an arm and a leg.  They should know exactly what they’re doing.  At the bottom I share some of what I’ve learnt.  I’m telling you, it’s much, much easier to emigrate with kids!

A quiet afternoon in a pueblo (or barrio) in Spain

Five pets after long voyageHere they are, my five critters, acclimatising in Spain one day after arrival.  All in all they were underway for almost 36 hours.  This particular Saturday afternoon they were all spaced out in my bedroom where I sat reading.  It was a fairly large house but they all congregated with me.  So sweet.  The tail of the ginger cat is just visible on the right hand side.  He very rarely is a bed sleeper.

Heaven or hell, was the journey cold that gave you eyes of steel?

Wide eyed catThe worst leg of the journey was probably the nine hours or so it took from Barcelona to Cantabria.  It would have been shorter from Madrid, but then there would have been a stopover in Amsterdam.  The animal inn in Nova Scotia recommended a direct flight with a longer road trip.  The pooch and one pussycat despised car travel and they both arrived wide-eyed with dilated pupils.  It didn’t last long once they saw mommy…  None of the pets received medication during the transport – it’s controversial.

Traveldog, Spain – Good service!Traveldog Spain

I still thank my lucky stars that I opted to have the animals cleared at Barcelonacat carrier airport by a service.  This service was recommended by a Spanish vet who worked together with the animal transport agency in Nova Scotia.  The driver waited five hours before the animals were cleared to go.  Imagine, if I had waited all that time, with my limited Spanish, I would have had a major migraine and not been able to leave at all for perhaps days!!!  Expensive, but worth every cent.  He SMS’ed me a few times to let me know that they were well and the expected arrival time.

Pins and needles

old gypsy woman maskMy pets and I had been apart for several weeks while I househunted in Spain and they boarded in Canada.  There just wasn’t any other way.  It broke my heart and at one point I almost canned the whole thing, wanting so desperately to be with them.  The older I get, the worse this becomes.  By now, my gypsy travel genes are completely dominated by my pet attachment ones.

This became eerily obvious when half an hour before my pets were scheduled to arrive in the pueblo I became aware of a strange sensation in my arms.  Pins and needles subtly travelled from my fingertips to my elbows.  I did not know that feeling and said to myself ‘if that isn’t my pets coming around the corner, I don’t know!’  Five minutes later, headlights pulled into the pueblo: Traveldog.

Hindsight

Nature area the NetherlandsAh, it seems like a long time ago.  The animals and I are happy now, but it took almost two years and three countries to get there.  Spain was a nightmare, especially for the pets.  There are many loose dogs in the countryside of Spain.  Owners just don’t care and they are arrogant should one of their dogs attack and wound your animals, even if their dog jumped over your garden wall!  I didn’t have the stomach for it.  Had I known, I would never have gone to Spain.  Had I known, I would never have had all the stories that I worked into my manuscript, or movie script, whichever one I’ll finish first!  There’s the advantage that each disadvantage seems to have.

Had I known that the Netherlands is full of ticks and that the area where I settled is the worst of all, I would perhaps not live right next door to one of the most beautiful nature areas in the country.

Had I known that you can’t have it all I would have been less demanding when I was younger. 😉

I hope to never live through a similar ordeal again.  Pooch, pussycats and I are staying put!

Action tips for international animal transport

  • Consult your vet and pet transport agency regarding the type of chipping and vaccination required in destination country (check online to be sure).  Ask both for quotations (my vet gave me a discount on the chipping because I had five pets).
  • Anti-rabies has to happen at least 30 days before you arrive in most countries, if not all, but must also not have expired.
  • Some destination countries, such as UK, require a special anti-rabies process, called tethering, which must start at least six months before you import your pet(s) (read the regulations for each country where this is required – no quarantine is required if all goes well).
  • Again, rabies (the bugger), I remember reading that if you fly via England, you must also adhere to that country’s anti-rabies regulations in case there is a delay and the pets need to temporarily board – so much to think of!  So I did not fly via England, naturally.
  • If you suspect at all that you need to board your pets, have them vaccinated well ahead as many animal hotels require that this was done three to four weeks before they take them in, especially in Europe where they seem to be stricter with that than in Canada (there is a long list of prerequisite jabs).
  • In Canada the vet writes a health, vaccination and chipping document for each pet.  This has to be stamped by the Food & Health Inspection Agency – this document is only valid for FOUR months!  I, atypically proactive, had this done early and I had to redo them in case I would not be able to send for the animals before the end of the four months.  $100 down the drain.  It does not pay me to be efficient, damnit!
  • Also in Canada, the vet needs to do a final health inspection within a week or so before they finally depart!
  • This list is probably not complete.  Be extra diligent, that’s all I can say.
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Pilgrimage, Pèlerinage, Pelgrimstocht (I)

Who has not heard of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela?

Not many.  Late nineties, an artist friend in South Africa said she had rented a house near the Camino where she produced a range of paintings.  I seem to remember that she lived on bread and olives.  Also that I felt the urge to walk the Camino ‘where monks feed you for free.’  I didn’t get around to it (and as for the last bit, was that really true anyway?).

In Quebec I met a man of 67 who had walked the Camino from France all the way to Santiago.  Again, I wished that I could too.

As they say, ‘be careful what you wish for, it might just happen.’

Isn’t that some kind of curse?

In 2009 I fell in love with a picture of San Vicente de la Barquera.

I thought to myself, if ever I go to Spain, that’s the place I want to see.  That was as soon as 2010.  And not just did I ‘see’ it, I went to do a ‘recce’, i.e. I checked it out to see if I wanted to live there, and I rather liked it.  Three months later I arrived in Spain with the intention to stay.  Phew, if everything was that easy!

But that’s where the ease stopped.  After that, my life became complicated and traumatic and seven months later I left Spain, for good.

But I did walk the Camino!  You see, I lived right at it.

And as I have a dog who travelled with me, she and I walked the Camino every day.  We probably qualify for a 100 km certificate, but I never applied for it.  😉

Right there, on the Camino, my dog was bitten by a loose dog from the village.  And later, two of my cats suffered the same fate (three big holes, two fractures & 300 Euros).

It was the last straw in a string of Jean de Florette-like encounters in which I felt like Gérard Depardieu.  Except that the villagers didn’t get me down (although it was close).  The youtube link to this movie was removed, alas).

Lesson learnt: Living in northern Spain doesn’t compare to visiting or walking the Camino.

As for the Camino, my advice is to take the northern route, which is breathtakingly beautiful.  Blow a kiss to San Vicente for me.  The peregrino albergue is right next to the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen.

You can’t miss it.

TIPs

Nov. 15: Found this remarkable PDF file of an extensive printed folder about the Camino.  You won’t believe your eyes!

Excellent info on Santiago on this Hitch-Hikers’ Handbook

How should I choose my Camino de Santiago Starting Point?

¡Suerte!

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