This time we are packing for the move Down Under - to Melbourne, Australia. Packing up your earthly possessions and pulling out the roots is not for the faint hearted. And you quickly realise that this is the most life changing decision you will ever make.
We decided that I would stay in South Africa until the end of January 2009 to complete my studies and to pack up and wrap up our affairs in South Africa while Riaan left for Australia a few months ago.
As we were not granted relocation allowance we had to work according to a tight budget, but on top of the list was Harry and Thomas' quarantine cost. Jip, the two four-legged family members are coming with on this whirl-wind adventure to a kingdom far, far away!
Checking the basics
Australia requires a quarantine period of 210 days (approximately seven months). Dogs are required to spend a minimum of 90 days (three months) in South Africa at any of the two approved quarantine stations: Kookaboora in Pretoria or Keringa Kennels in Kempton Park.
Dogs are required to spend a minimum of 30 days (one month) in Australia at any of the approved quarantine stations in Perth, Melbourne or Sydney. The remaining 90 days may either be spent either in South African or Australian quarantine station. The total number of days in quarantine should be 210 days.
Dogs should be living in the country of origin for at least six months before being imported into Australia. So there is no way of getting around the 210 days quarantine. Not even by shipping them via Canada to Australia unless you intend to take a six month vacation with the dogs to Canada ...
Checking the quarantine station and quote
I obtained the contact details of Keringa and Kookaboora from the Internet, phoned them and made an appointment to visit the quarantine station one Saturday morning.
I was greeted by the friendly staff and they took me on a guided tour of the kennels and explained in detail how the microchipping and blood testing worked and how the dogs would be transported from the quarantine station and be loaded on the aircraft by the quarantine personnel themselves.
The quotation from Keringa Kennels was in my Inbox by Monday morning. The quote includes accommodation, food, microchipping, cost of all blood tests, import and export permits, travel containers and travel charges. The quote contains the South African quarantine charges for 90, 120 or 180 days. We chose the 90 day option and this amounted to just under R40 000 (inclusive of travel costs). Once you accept the quote it is valid for 30 days provided that your dog is admitted into quarantine within those 30 days.
This would however not be the case as the first available date that Harry and Thomas could start quarantine was on 23 March 2009. The quarantine stations are extremely busy but I requested that Harry and Thomas be put on a waiting list.
The call came on 14 November 2008 to inform me that Harry and Thomas could commence their quarantine period of 90 days on 2 December 2008. Their vaccinations had to be up-to-date, so a trip to the vet was put on the to-do-list. Keringa sent me all the necessary paperwork including the updated quote (which was only R1 000 more than the original quote as the import permit charges increased) and a Pet Information sheet. The Pet Information sheet required me to tell Keringa all the nitty-gritty details of Harry and Thomas - their temperament, how often and how much they eat every day, if they are taking any medication, if they are allowed to eat Hill's Maintenance dog food or whether I require that they be fed something else, how often they are groomed ....
The last weekend with Harry and Thomas consisted of various outings. Saturday I took them to the doggy parlour and they came back two sexy studs.On Sunday it was a visit to my Mom, who usually looks after the dogs when we go on holiday. Harry fell into "nobody-loves-me" mode as he thought I was going to leave him with Mom. On Monday he was still feeling very sorry for himself but after taking him for his daily trip around the block all tension subsided. Looks like endorphins make dogs feel better too!
They went ballistic when I loaded their sleeping baskets in the car on Tuesday morning and were on the back seat in a flash. I took along their leashes, food and water bowls. But none of that was necessary as Keringa provides it all.
We arrived at Keringa shortly after 8 AM and the dogs stayed in the car while I handed over all the completed paperwork and their vaccination records. The handlers were summonsed and we went to fetch Harry and Thomas. Harry shook like a leaf at first but when he had the leash on he regained all his confidence. I walked with them to the kennel (the size of half a single garage with three pre-cast walls and a front gate), went inside and they followed. I told them to be good boys and with tears in my eyes left them behind, in a place I thought that would take their spirits away.
Still on the GO
But how very, very wrong I was proved to be ...
I am only able to visit Harry and Thomas on Saturdays as I work full-time during the week. I set up my visiting times from 11 - 12 on Saturdays and during the week I phone the Kennel Manager, Collin, at least once. I arrived for my first visit on Saturday 6 December 2008. And what a surprise!
Their bedding was stacked on top of the kennel, the kennel was clean (they are washed every day) and a large bowl of water was in the corner. But the dogs were nowhere to be found ...
However, Collin led me to a private "garden" - a walled area of about 5m x 5m with a Wendy house, green grass and a big water bowl - where Harry and Thomas eagerly awaited at the gate.
As soon as the gate opened they were all over me, barking and jumping and were so excited to see me. A word of advice though - don't go all dressed up or with plans to go the mall afterwards - unless you can create a new "paw-print" fashion craze. Harry, having his self-image shattered by robbers in 2006, has regained his confidence and Thomas was all sparkling-eyed.
It is believed that a dog's perception of time differs from human's and they are equally glad to see you whether you left them for 5 hours or 5 weeks. Harry and Thomas each received a doggy treat (you can bring your own or buy at reception) and we bonded for one full, undisturbed, hour. When it was time to say goodbye, the obediently sat on the porch of the Wendy house as if to say: "OK, cheers, see you next week!" But this time I left with the absolute comfort that they are receiving the best five-star treatment.
I would encourage all dog owners to make their dogs part of the relocation process. From my experience it is harder on the owners to see their dogs in the kennels. Believe me, 210 days fly at the speed of light and when you look back it would be a blip in their life cycle that would make all the difference.