A couple years after moving to Nairobi, we felt ready to share our life with a dog again. Once we started to get the pang for canine companionship, we needed to make sure we were ready to become a multi-species, expat family. Having had a dog before, we knew that there are many things to consider before getting an animal in any situation.
When you’re an expat, there is even more to consider. After a lot of thought, we decided that we were indeed ready. We knew the type of dog we could have in terms of size, exercise needs, and temperament. We knew given all of that plus proper training, we could take this future dog with us anywhere. We also did the math on the cost of moving a dog and set some money aside accordingly. (It’s not that much, but enough to take into consideration ahead of time.) We knew we could commit to being a forever home. That led us to the wonderful Oreo and then to Maddie.
Before becoming a family of four, we did some research again. We had to make sure we could move easily enough with two dogs. We also had to make sure we could afford it. The first things we did as we got each dog was to get them each microchipped and to get IATA approved travel crates. Coming from a city (New York), we are fans of crate training; It helps with potty training. It allows safe containment for the dog. It serves as a den for your dog (ours will often go into their crates on their own just to hang out there.) And it will make your dog comfortable when eventually he or she is traveling in that crate.
Crate training isn’t the only training to do with your dog. Over the last two years we put time and effort into overall life training. We took dog obedience classes and made sure they knew basic commands. We made sure they were comfortable walking on a leash. We also made sure they had plenty of opportunity for socialization with other dogs. Oreo and Maddie needed to be ready for the possibility of living in a different environment. There would not always be lots of people around all day or a garden. They would need to know how to behave inside as well as outside. They would need to be okay with other dogs. With training, practice, and play dates, we were able to prepare them.
After a while, we knew our time in Kenya would be coming to an end. We started to look at new postings. Part of the posting research was seeing if the city or country was dog friendly and/or if there were any restrictions or quarantine requirements. In some cases, we did not apply for a post because of the restrictions. In other cases, we were surprised to learn that a given city was getting more and more dog friendly and that it would be easy to take our two there. All it takes is a little time on the internet and contacting people. Bloggers are an excellent resource and often very eager to answer questions. We were still researching and just starting to put our applications when we decided we better get the anti-rabies blood tests done. It’s a requirement in many countries and it has some time constraints in terms of how soon it can be done before a move. Many countries require the test at least three months prior to allowing the import of an animal. It’s a good thing we did it when we did.
A new posting came up much sooner than anticipated. With the blood work done, vaccinations kept up to date, and crates set, all we needed to do was to book their flight and boarding. Since we were moving to Europe, we wanted either KLM or Lufthansa. At time of writing, those two airlines are the gold standard for pet travel. Amsterdam and Frankfurt have pet hotels in case there is a very long time between transfers. What airline you choose will depends on where you are going. Do some research to see what kind of reputations the carrier has. Also see what the crate requirements are. Ours are IATA approved but Lufthansa wanted all metal nuts and bolts. So, we got some metal nuts to go with the bolts. It was an easy thing to do–because we checked ahead of time! See if you can take your animal via excess baggage, in cabin, or if he or she must go cargo. Your destination country will also affect the mode of transport. As with picking your next city, picking an airline isn’t hard. It just takes a little prep work. There are also plenty of agents in Nairobi who can help you with this.
In our situation, we used Yapperville as our agent. We were going on home leave back to New York right before our move, so we had already planned to board Oreo and Maddie. We realized we would need a little time to find housing before they could join us, so we extended the boarding. At first, I was a bit distraught at being away from them for so long. However, it worked out really well. They loved Yapperville and they got to have a vacation before joining us. After having their home life in a bit of an upheaval with moving preparations, that vacation was just what they needed. It put them in a relatively relaxed state when I returned to Nairobi to retrieve them.
They were excited to see me and they were a little nervous in the airport for the first time. But they were fine. They traveled really well, as did I. I was very nervous but the airline was fantastic. I was assured by well-trained and compassionate crew and staff that my dogs were all right. One gate attendant even went into the hold of our second flight to check on my girls. Again, planning ahead and working with an agent and airline paid off. Customs in Austria, where we are now, was also easy. Why? You guessed it: planning ahead. Yapperville took care of all the forms and the dogs were all set with all their vaccinations and blood work. Really, many of the things we needed to do on our side of the travel were already getting set up from day one.
Should you decide to get a dog while you are in Kenya, you can move with them just as easily as we did.
To sum it up:
· Crate train and start early
· Socialize with other dogs and with people
· Keep up to date on all vaccinations
· Get the anti-rabies blood test. If you keep up to date with the rabies vaccinations, then the blood test is good for the entire life of the dog.
· When you start to look for that next job or posting, or when you know that a move is coming up, do your homework that’s it.
That is all it takes to make sure that yours is a forever home, no matter where it may be relocated.