B is for… beasts, blues and border control

Four and a half years ago, we moved to the US. “A permanent move!” we thought. We bought a house, found the right school for the kids (which turned into the wrong school, so we had to swap schools), bought cars, and got involved in a community (several communities really, but who’s counting?).

Then, last year, we moved back to Australia. Permanently. Or maybe not. Permanently enough for now. Again, we went through the house buying, the car buying, and the school finding. The community was less of an issue since this is our home town.

Moving house is stressful. Moving house across the world is even more stressful. Despite the intervention of professional movers, our move home was made more onerous by farewelling our old family dog, who was too ill to make the journey, and having to kennel our young family dog for four months.

It’s probably relevant to mention at this point that I’m an enormous sucker for animals. I’ve always had animals in my life (really… at one point we had two big dogs, ten chickens, two geese, and innumerable goldfish. That was before the guinea pigs and rabbit came to live with us). As a child, I once rescued a cat-mauled bird, carefully nested it in a cardboard box in my parents’ bedroom, fed it water with an eye dropper, obsessively checked on it every half an hour, and then shed wet hot tears of grief when it died of shock. I can’t imagine my life without animals, and I languish when we don’t have a pet.

Shortly before we moved home, I held our old dog as he breathed his last, then a few days later, farewelled our young dog into the arms of strangers who’d be responsible for her care. Australia’s animal import laws are strict and complex, and I don’t begrudge them. We’re an island continent with very few diseases, and an enormous potential for species extinction. None of that makes a separation from beloved pets any easier.

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For four months I checked my emails incessantly, badgered US friends into visiting the dog on my behalf, and fretted. Even after a dear friend FaceTimed me while with the dog, I worried over her care (it was excellent), I worried over whether she’d survive the long plane trip (she did), and I worried over how I’d fare if something happened to her (we’ll never know!). When we finally reunited, it was joyous.

If there was ever any question about the role of pets in maintaining mental health, I am the living proof of their benefit.



21 Comments on “B is for… beasts, blues and border control”

  1. I recall all the Rani updates when she was away from you and how we all waited for her return. You certainly do have a spot for animals in your heart. I think that explains the largeness in your heart as well, for other people. Also, you may like my post today 🙂

  2. I can empathize with you completely. We had to put our 6 year old lab to sleep 3 years back after he suddenly developed an incurable disease. It was traumatic. I have’nt yet experienced leaving a pet behind in another country but I can imagine how bad it could be.

    • Saying goodbye to our fur babies is so hard! And leaving one behind is impossibly sad. How do you explain to them? I’m glad she’s back with us now.

  3. I once met a couple here in Singapore who told me their experience of moving their dog from India to Singapore… Like you they had to undergo a brief separation from their pet…. Thats when i realized that its a complex process….Do visit my blog

    B for brachiosaurus

  4. Love this post. We moved to central London 3 months ago from coastal Australia. We were not allowed to bring our Boxer dog because airlines will not carry short-nosed breeds in such a long-haul flight. But we brought my 17-year-old Ragdoll cat, who survived the 36-hour trip from door to door. she’s the thing keeping me from crying every day.

    • Thank heavens for our furry horcruxes! They hold our mental health in their fluffy paws. Hugs. I know how hard the transition is. Sending you wishes for finding your feet in your new space.

  5. Asha this is such a fascinating post. I being a complete animal lover know what you are saying. I have two dogs. I’ve had red ear slider turtles, hamsters lots of guppies, goldfish in the past. If I could I would have an entire zoo at home. Someday I hope too! Till then I’ll dream on…
    I can imagine how you must feel minus your furry babies. Are you planning to get new ones now?

    Blog: natashamusing
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  6. That’s what dog does to our souls, don’t they? I have one now and I love him more than anything. Moving is quite stressful and in the other part of the world is beyond stress I guess! But you seem to be doing a great job! Here’s more power to you!


    • Thank you for the vote of confidence! Some days are definitely better than others. You’re right about dogs inhabiting our souls. It’s such an unconditional love.

  7. You seem to be a kind person 🙂 I have never had pets so I don’t know of my love for them but your post did brighten up my day. ❤

    • Oh, how hard to give up your fur babies, but I’m glad you were able to house them elsewhere. Three and a half years in the Alice is some achievement! Remote living is hard (I lived in Kalgoorlie for a while, and in Karratha too).

  8. What a sweet post, Asha! I’ve never had pets but 3 has been badgering us for a pet cat. Looks like we’ll be a pet family soon!

    • Hooray, Hema! I’m all in favour of enabling your little one in badgering you for a cat. Pets are so great for kids. So many lessons in love, responsibility, loss.

  9. Heartrending – having to say goodbye to an old dog. Like you I’m a sucker for animals and have always had pets – mostly dogs. I’m so happy to know the young dog survived all the difficulties. She’s adorable.

    • Thank you, Kalpanaa! It was so hard to say goodbye to the old dog. My youngest was especially affected (despite being a teen). And we’re so glad to have little Rani well and healthy and with us!

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