Monthly Archives: October 2013

Ronnie and Lucy’s Big Flying Journey

I am happy to say that Ronnie and Lucy have safely made the journey to London! Getting here has been a bit of a journey.

The Old Rules
The UK used to require that any dog coming into the country would need to be quarantined for six months. This quarantine could take place in your home country or in a facility in the UK. The upshot was either put your beloved pooch in a foreign jail cell for half a year (like an American drug dealer in a foreign country) or be separated from your baby to pursue whatever job or love for which you are travelling to England to pursue. Either choice sucked.

The New Rules
More details can be found here, but essentially you need to have a micro-chip and fairly standard vaccinations and tests done within 30 days of the move, with a final test within 24 hours. I had a bit of lead time to bring Ronnie and Lucy over, and I was happy to learn that they had everything they needed already taken care of through their regular check ups. The company hired WorldCare Pet Corp to help facilitate the move, and WorldCare was thoroughly professional. They were very specific about all of the documents necessary, and were very reassuring through what was the most stressful part of this whole experience. Evelyn was my main point of contact and she was really great. They arranged everything from top to tail.

Getting Ready
R&L have never travelled by air before. They’ve done long road trips sure, but that’s nirvana to my car loving pooches. And they’ve never taken well to crate training. Facing an eleven hour flight in a crate had me very nervous and I was flying Business not steerage. Once World Care was signed up, they asked for specific measurements to order appropriately-sized carriers. As I shared with Josh in Cannes, the carriers came about three weeks before the trip to allow R&L to acclimate to the crates. I started by feeding them in the crates, and insuring that the liner pad had some of my scent on them as well.
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Once they got comfortable eating in the crates, I would close the gates while they ate. Lucy did fine with this and would continue to eat. Ronnie, not so much. Even trying to associate positive things (ie Trader Joe’s mini hot dogs) with the closing of the gate, Ronnie couldn’t quite get there. Eventually, Ronnie had to just get used to being nervous once he was left alone in the crate. Using the Presence app, I was able to keep an eye on Ronnie in the crate.. he would be nervous for about 10-15 minutes and then go to sleep. The Trip With the vaccinations all done, the only one left was the Tapeworm shot which needed to be given no later than 24 hours before the trip. For this reason, World Pet Care likes to pick up the dogs the day before the trip to give the final shots and health check. They contracted out to Pacific Pet Transport based in Los Angeles, and Josh couldn’t have been nicer and better organized. Josh took care of logistics, and Manuel arrived Wednesday morning to pick up the dogs and their carriers. R&L were loaded up into their carriers in the transport van, but not before I shed a few tears. It was heartbreaking to leave them, knowing they would not know what was happening. But Evelyn had shared the following insight – dogs are like children, they often behave better around people other than their parents, or those they can emotionally manipulate. This is true of R&L, whenever they are taken by the vet or groomer, they never try to escape or have separation anxiety. So I had a bit of solace they wouldn’t be nearly as stressed as I was. There would be no tranquilizers, as the airlines don’t allow it as they can interfere with the dogs breathing.

The Journey
R&L were taken to a kennel five minutes from LAX. Kept separated but in side-by-side cages, Josh reported they were doing fine, as they were in neutral ground, surrounded by lots of new smells and stimulus. They were fed and walked, and the kennel has 24 hour personnel so I knew they would be cared for all night. I took off about 7 hours after they left me, and by the time I arrived in London, I had received an e-mail confirming they passed their health checks and were good to travel. They flew BA, in the cargo hold which is climate controlled and pressurized. Once they landed, I got an email saying they were fine, and I spoke to the team just to be sure – what a major relief. It took about 5 hours to get them through Animal Control, Customs and delivered right to my door. Once they were out of their crates, Lucy was very excited to see me, and running all over our new house smelling everything she could. Ronnie was still a bit shell-shocked and tired, but happy to see his Daddy.

First Doggie Day
Wanting them to get accustomed to their new surroundings as soon as possible, we quickly headed out to take a walk. Lots of new smells and sounds. We hit Acton Common, just down the block and met a few of the local pups. 20131025-235100.jpg

Later that evening, we had dinner with our friend Flavio at the Swan, right down another block. Pubs in the UK allow dogs, and the bartenders were thrilled to meet R&L. Both of the dogs were very popular, despite being completely exhausted and taking a bit of a snooze amidst the din of the establishment.

20131025-235114.jpgAll in all, a journey made very easy with the help of a professional team. I was lucky to have World Care and Pacific Pet to help get my babies to their new home. Now all we have to do is get them used to the British weather and the British doggies’ accents.
Have you ever shipped your animal by plane or acclimated them to a new home?

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The adventure begins..

Today I have moved to London to kick off the new adventure of living abroad. After living in Los Angeles for nearly 10 years, I have taken a new post at work which takes me to London. As part of the visa application process, I listed the number of times I’d been to the UK in the past ten years – about 15 times. And in the ten years before that, I’d wager another 15 times at least. So while not an unfamiliar place, I will be adjusting my view through the lens of a resident not a tourist. My two boxers Ronnie and Lucy will also make the journey – they arrive tomorrow.

I have started this blog to share my experiences with my friends back home, my family as well as anyone else who might be thinking about the same type of adventure. I also travel a fair bit, so intend to share my experiences and impressions of various airlines, locations etc. Below you’ll find my experience flying over on Virgin Atlantic. I hope you’ll enjoy following the adventure with me, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Virgin Atlantic VS008 – Los Angeles to London
I fell in love with what I call the ‘acoutremont’ of travel when I was young and opened my first Kosher in-flight meal. All the little compartments and mini-packages. My love was sealed later in life on Virgin Atlantic – then flying Premium Economy back and forth from London to New York for my former employer Ragdoll. The food was also presented in little packages with cute sayings – much better than the Kosher food of my youth.
I flew Virgin Airways Upper Class and Upper Deck on my moving trip to London. I am happy to see my favorite airline item – the airplane salt and pepper shakers with the ‘pinched from’ on the bottoms – are still provided.

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The other favorite item of mine generally are the Dopp kits – the little packets of ear plugs, toothbrush, socks etc. I’ve collected a variety over the years. While the Virgin Dopp kit comes in a lovely fabric, the contents aren’t particularly special. Considering their partnership with Cowshed, one expects some Cowshed lip balm or hand creme in the packet – alas not to be.

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Upper Deck has been re-configured so that the back half is Economy seating. While this makes the remaining five Upper Class rows fairly quiet, it also cuts you off from the attendants and the best thing about the plane – the bar. A signature feature, the Virgin in-flight bar is a great reason to stretch your legs and meet some fellow passengers. But having to traverse through another class and down the stairs requires the bartender to quiz you on your seat number to confirm your right to sit down. A weird interrogation to get a drink. Nonetheless, I sidled up and had a scotch, and chatted up a lovely older British couple about places to live in London. They live out in the suburbs – not for me.
The other challenge with Upper Deck is that upon exit you are stuck behind a large group de-planing in front of you – the Customs Fast Track helps, but not ideal.
I am sad to say overall Virgin lost a little luster for me. While the Clubhouse in Heathrow still ranks as the best airport lounge in the world (in my view – so far!), at LAX it shares the Air New Zealand lounge – very nice but no Clubhouse. Many other airlines have caught up to the Virgin Experience and in some ways surpassed it. They still get high marks for overall service and for great car service to and from the airports.
And yes – I pinched my salt and pepper shakers. What’s the best item you’ve pinched from an airline?

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