04 November 2017

A Catch-Up Post

It has been 4 years since my last post..sounds a bit like a confession.  The main reason I have not posted, other than a lot of changes in my life, is the difficulty posting from the iPad.  Adding photos is a challenge I just haven't been able to overcome.  Unless I am missing something, Blogger seems to work best from the computer and I am so rarely on my laptop.  That aside, it's time to take up writing again.  Quite a few things have happened since we (Riley, Livvy, Bell and I) were in Ireland and Scotland.  Not sure if anyone is still following, but I am and it seems will always be...on a perpetual search for more sheep.
Sheep in the Pyreénées Mountains, France, September 2017 

First, a little background...In 2011, I sold my sheep and poultry farm in western Oregon and moved overseas for what I thought was a permanent relocation. I sold and/or donated almost everything I owned and packed the rest into 3 large suitcases and off we went.

My Australian Shepherd, Riley, cats, Livvy and Bell, and I moved from Portland, Oregon, first to southern Ireland, county Cork.
The pets being unloaded as cargo from the United flight at Dublin International Airport

A favorite photo from our time in Ireland

I applied to Ireland for permanent residency, as Ireland is one of the few countries in western Europe that offers a "retirement visa" for those who qualify. It generally takes 3 months to have an answer from the immigration service.  After 9 months of paperwork filling out and jumping through Irish hoops, I received a letter saying I was not approved for residency. (I will leave that explanation for another blog post - it is quite a story to be told).  I had always had a backup plan, as there is never a guarantee of residency approval in any country.  My next step was to move to France, where they also have a permanent residency category for retired persons.

Since it was so long past the normal waiting period to hear an answer on residency, the local Irish immigration officer allowed me to travel to Scotland for the summer.  We met good friends, visited castles, toured the Highlands, volunteered for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (educating the public on the importance of rare breeds of livestock), and explored the wonderful city of Edinburgh.
Sheep on the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands

Edinburgh, with the castle in the background

When the letter from the Irish immigration service finally did arrive, I was just about to leave for Montana for a visit home to see my parents. Once I arrived in Montana,  I found my elderly mother to be quite ill. Time for another change in plans.  This time, back to Scotland to gather up "la ménagerie" and return to Montana to watch over my Mom until the end of her life.  She was with us another 18 months. Mom passed away in her sleep on December 27, 2015.

My Mom, LeAnne (Norville) Beene, and I at Thanksgiving 2015

In April 2015, my boy Riley succumbed to liver disease at the age of 12. What an amazing life he lived, on my 2 farms in Oregon and traveling throughout Ireland and Scotland. The UK and Ireland had just lifted their 6 month quarantine for pets coming from outside the country, so most people had never seen an Aussie. He was a star wherever he went! Riley was the 2nd of my 3 Australian Shepherds and I think, the best - only because I had him the longest - and is still missed to this day.

My dog-less days did not last. In May 2015, I adopted my 3rd Aussie, Sophie. She had been through 2 homes before finding her way to me and she will never go anywhere else.  She was a "special needs" adoption, as she tore both ACLs in her back legs and her first owners never had them repaired, so both knees are quite arthritic. You wouldn't know it though, as she still hikes and goes backpacking with us - not much slows Sophie down!
Posing in the Beartooth Mountains

When I moved back to Montana, I moved into a 100 year old farmhouse near a teeny tiny town called Edgar, about 35 minutes southeast of Billings. I lived there happily for 2 years with Riley (then Sophie), multiple cats, and several chickens. My ancestors, Germans who emigrated to Russia and eventually to America (known as Volga Germans), lived in that exact area in the early 1900's.  It was eventually time to move when the roof leaked so badly that it began raining in the bathroom!

This past May, I took up residence in the family home in Billings. My Dad had moved to a retirement living apartment and the plan was to sell the house, but at the last minute it was decided to keep it in the family. It is a terrific home, set atop of the Rimrocks that surround Billings. Mom and Dad lived there 30 years and it has "great bones", but there is much work to be done. I am looking forward to posting before and after photos of all the renovation work, as we make this house into our home.

Just last week, there was a little more sadness as it was time to say goodbye to Bell, a wonderful friend for 12 years.  She had been experiencing 2 chronic diseases, hyperthyroidism and IBS (Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome) for over a year and yet she was still the sweetest, most curious, kitty there ever was.  With IBS, there is always the chance this disease can actually be a precursor to lymphoma. She told us it was her time by no longer having the desire to eat.  She lived a great life - born in Oregon, traveling to Ireland and Scotland with us, and living a peaceful life in Montana.  Wherever I went, there she was and she always touched my cheek with her little paw to tell me it was time to get up to feed her or give her a bit of petting. It's not the same without her.
Soon after adoption in Oregon

Happy and healthy in Montana

Livvy (aka Big Mama) is still with us, at 12 years old, and weighing in at around 18 lbs.  Though she was close to Bell as a kitten, they have not been as adults. However, she seems to miss Bell and is now quite vocal and has taken to following me around.  This is a good thing, as she needs the exercise :) This is definitely a cat with "tortitude" and we love her to bits.

While living at the farmhouse near Edgar, I inherited 2 outdoor farm cats. Woodhouse, was a lovely cat and I enjoyed being her guardian for 2 years.  Before moving to Billings, she was rehomed to a family in a nearby town, as no matter how much we tried, she just couldn't get along with other cats.  Thankfully, the local rescue helped me find her a terrific furever home.

The other barn cat, originally named Snarfy by the former owner, is now called Bouffée, which means "bed head" in French. She is about 4 years old and living the good life, as an inside cat only now.  She currently resides in our mountain house, but will soon be moving to Billings.  She is a curious cat and reminds me of a miniature Norwegian Forest Cat.

With all the challenges over the past 3 years, at times it seemed there might not be any light at the end of the tunnel. Then one day I walked into a local bar and grill near Edgar, Montana, and met a Frenchman.  Now, that sounds like a story, doesn't it?  Well it is and it's the best one yet!

The Frenchman and I were recently married twice, once in Montana and again in his native France. We just returned from our honeymoon in southwest France, near the Pyreénées Mountains, where we plan to eventually retire. Maybe that is where we will have some sheep!

As I continue to write, I hope to share our adventures in hiking, backpacking, fly fishing (yes, I am 2 years into learning), cooking & baking in our wonderful new kitchen, renovating, and of course, all of our pet adventures.  For now...Au revoir!
The Frenchman and I, married in Provence, France, September 16, 2017

19 October 2013

Moving Pets Overseas

This post will BORE YOU TO TEARS, unless 1) You are considering moving your pets from the US to another country, specifically the Republic of Ireland or UK; or 2) You want to see how insanely expensive it was to do it. If you are interested only in the insanity of it all, scroll all the way down and the total is listed a few paragraphs from the bottom.

Before our big move in February 2013, I tried finding first hand accounts online from anyone who had moved pets overseas.  All I could find was information from pet transport companies, legal requirements from government websites, and a few references saying it was expensive.  My hope is someone interested in moving their pets might find this post helpful.

In February, I moved from Portland, Oregon, to the Republic of Ireland (often referred to as Éire - sort of pronounced "Air-ah" - which is the Irish name for the island, not to be confused with Northern Ireland that is part of the United Kingdom.)  With me, came my 10 year old Australian Shepherd dog named Riley and 2 seven year old cats, Livvy (Olivia) the tortoiseshell with "tortitude" and Bell (Isabella), a wee tabby.  Some people have said I was brave, though I think it is their polite way of saying crazy.

Moving pets to other countries requires different steps that can be found on each country's government website.  Some of the information I have listed does apply to importing pets to the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland), as the process is very similar.  It isn't impossible to move pets to Ireland or the UK, and in the end it wasn't very difficult, but it was expensive.  When I first started my research, I read that taking just one large dog could cost as much as $3,000 - one way - so I knew ahead of time it was going to be pricey.  As soon as I decided to move, I started saving, as I knew I wouldn't be moving without them.  Unless you are a wealthy person, taking your pets overseas is not something to be considered lightly.  Not just due to the expense, but also the stress it causes the pets.  I knew we would be gone for at least a year, if not longer, so it was worth it for us.

Until January of 2012, importing pets into Ireland and the UK required a 6 month quarantine at an approved facility/kennel at the owner's expense.  This regulation was meant to prevent rabies from reaching the islands.  For several years I thought about making a job transfer to the UK, but I had my dog Gabby for 16 years and couldn't imagine (nor afford) placing her in a kennel for 6 months of quarantine.  As luck would have it, the discontinuation of quarantine for pets imported from the US and certain other countries coincided with my life change.  It was time to go!

When I first started my research, I thought about moving to France, so I started with a website called Europa, the official website for the European Union, and the French Embassy in Washington.  Once I decided on Ireland as our destination, I looked at the rules for the UK, as it was possible we would be flying to Ireland via London.  The DEFRA website (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) has all of the information specific to the UK.  I have heard of some Americans who have flown their pets to Ireland via London, but it isn't required.  You can go directly into Dublin.  The government website for pet imports for Ireland is at the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine.

Where to begin?  Visits to the vet.  Several of them.  It took 3 separate trips to the vet to complete all the steps that included: 1) Microchipping and rabies vaccination at least 21 days prior to leaving the US; 2) Health examination and the majority of the documentation completed no more than 10 days before departure; and 3) Parasite treatment (dogs only) and the last of the documentation 1-4 days before departure.  I have lumped everything together and noted the time frames where necessary.

Here we go!

1) 1st Visit (Sept/Oct 2012 for a future departure of 2/13/2013): The first trip to the vet was to have the pets microchipped and vaccinated for rabies.  Since the rabies vaccination has to be done at least 21 days prior to entry into the UK and Ireland, this visit is done prior to the health examination and documentation completion.  I wasn't exactly certain when we would be moving, so once I made the decision that our new home would eventually be overseas, I made the first appointment.  It was several months before our eventual departure, but this visit coincided with their need for their other annual booster vaccinations.

a.  Microchips need to be given first, then the rabies vaccination!  This is important in that the microchip number must be listed on all future documentation.  Also, the microchip needs to be an ISO chip (ISO Conformant Full Duplix type) that is used in Europe.  It uses 134.2 kHz versus the 125 KHz used in 98 percent of the pet chips in the US.  (In the US, microchips have been controversial over the years as there are 3 proprietary types of chips and for some years, not all of the scanners at shelters and vet offices could read all the different chips.  Thankfully, that problem has been mostly resolved.  Not all the scanners can read the ISO chip numbers, but they can read the chips used in the US.)  In the case of my pets, all 3 were already chipped - 2 with chips from AVID and the other with a Home Again chip - but none of which were ISO chips.  Therefore, they all had to be chipped again.

b)  Rabies vaccinations: As noted above, the pets have to be vaccinated for rabies after being microchipped.  So even though Riley, Livvy and Bell were all up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations, they had to be vaccinated again after they received their new ISO chips.  As noted above, the rabies vaccination has to be done at least 21 days prior to entry into Ireland or the UK.  Thankfully, blood testing for a rabies titre is no longer required for pets from the US.

Cost:  All 3 pets were also due for their 3 year booster vaccinations, so this vet visit was incredibly expensive. None of the boosters were required for travel, but still needed. As is the case with most vets, our vet charged for a health examination as well as the microchips and all the vaccinations.  The cats required their 3 year booster for FRCP (feline rhinotracheitis, calici, and panleukopenia), plus the new microchip and rabies vaccination at a cost of $187.50 per cat, totaling $375.00.  Riley needed his 3 year booster for DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza) and Bordetella for kennel cough, plus the new microchip and rabies vaccination, at a cost of $214.50.  I could have had the vaccinations done at a low cost clinic, but because the documentation for international travel had to be perfect, I had the pets vaccinated at the vet where the import/export documentation would eventually be completed.  Cost: $589.50. (Ouch!)

Riley on his way in for his 1st of 3 visits to prepare for the move.
2)  2nd Visit on 2/6/2013 for the departure of 2/13/2013:  The 2nd visit is for the health examinations and completion of 2 forms - the export APHIS 7001/Health Certificate and the import Annex II for countries in the EU/European Union.  This had to be done no more than 10 days before departure.  Since the forms have to be then sent to the official state veterinarian and returned in a timely manner, the date had to be chosen carefully.

Listed below are a few specifics regarding the 2 forms.  Remember, I said this post would bore you to tears!

a.  Dates on the export APHIS 7001 form need to be printed in the US format (month/day/year) whereas the import Annex II is dated using the European format (day/month/year).  This is important!  Watch carefully as your veterinarian fills out each form.

b. An APHIS accredited veterinarian must certify your animals' health status prior to exportation and sign the APHIS Form 7001 (and the Annex II).  After this is completed, the state veterinarian endorses both forms by stamping them at the top of each page and at the bottom of the last page next to his/her information.  You must print and sign your name, but only on the Annex II form, not the APHIS form.

The pet relocation company I used filled out both forms ahead of time and sent them to me via overnight mail prior to the health exam visit.  My vet signed both forms and I sent them on, with the appropriate fee (of course) and a pre-paid overnight delivery envelope to the state veterinarian in Tumwater, WA.  A list of other state vet locations can be found here.  The reason for the overnight delivery is that the form must be completed within a certain time frame to be valid.  

Here is information on the 2 forms:

APHIS 7001/Health Certificate: The is the form for exporting your animals out of the US and is managed by the USDA, specifically APHIS/Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service.  The health certificate is only valid for 10 days from the date signed/issued by the accredited veterinarian until entry into the EU.  This is why it is important to have the certificate completed by your veterinarian and overnighted to and from the state veterinarian so everything gets back to you before you leave.  Copies of all of the paperwork are forwarded to the pet relocation company (if you are using one) and the originals go with the pets.  Don't forget to keep copies with you on the plane in case any of the documents are lost.  You can click on each of the photos below to see some of the detail.

The dog's APHIS Form 7001/Health Certificate:

Both cats were listed on the same form:

The APHIS website includes information for all countries, but it is also important to go to your specific country's government website.  I didn't notice until I began writing this that my local APHIS office in Tumwater, WA, had a great FAQs document that was clearer than what I had read on the other websites.  So check your state office location at the link here.  You can also click on the following link to see a blank copy and download the APHIS Form 7001

Special note: Even if you are using a great pet relocation company, it is important to check all of the forms prior to taking them to the vet for the health exam and before sending them to the state veterinarian.  I reviewed the forms, but didn't look closely at the microchip numbers on the form.  Since I was paying the pet relocation company, I assumed the information would be correct.  It wasn't until I was in the vet office for the health exams that I noticed the affiliate pet relocation company in the US had entered one of the cats' microchip numbers incorrectly.  This required calls to their office that became frantic when I realized, with the 3 hour time difference, both my contacts were out to lunch.  The vet continued with the health exams and when the company representatives returned, they emailed me the corrected form.  To save yourself the anxiety, check all the forms and be sure dates and microchip numbers are correct.

Annex II:  This is the form for importing your animals into Ireland or the UK (and all other EU countries.)  The "II" after Annex means you are importing less than 5 cats, dogs, etc.  It would be a "I" if you had more than 5 animals.  The Annex II is offered for those pets coming in from what are known as "listed third countries" that includes the United States.  Unlisted countries are those that have "...less robust veterinary or administrative systems or higher rabies incidence" and pets still require quarantine.

The Annex II is not an EU Pet Passport.  The Pet Passport is a document needed to travel within EU/European Union countries and can not be obtained until you are overseas.  Later, if I decide to travel to continental Europe from Ireland or the UK, I will need to have a Pet Passport from the local veterinarian. It requires a small bit of paperwork and proof of vaccinations.

The official (and boring) details and forms can be found at this link Official Journal of the European Union. The Annex II (also called the EU 998) can be downloaded in any language by going to the bottom of the page of this link: European Commission Animal Health and Welfare.  Just as with the APHIS 7001, the pet relocation company I used filled in the Annex II forms for me and sent them to me just prior to the health examinations at our vet office.  The forms were signed by my vet, then sent on with the APHIS 7001 to the state veterinarian for his/her endorsement.  Most the pages for both the dogs and cats are the same, with the exception of page 2 for the dog that includes the parasite treatment information.

Page 1 of the cats' Annex II.  Both cats are listed on the same form.  This page looks the same for the dog.

Page 2 of the cats' Annex II:

Page 2 of the dog's Annex II.  This form is different than the one for the cats as it includes the parasite treatment for the dog.  Parasite treatment information is added after the forms are returned from the state veterinarian, as the parasite treatment has to be completed within 1-4 days prior to departure and the state veterinarian endorsement has already been completed (between 4-10 days prior to leaving.)

Page 3 of the cats and dog's Annex II.  This form states that it is valid for 10 days before departure and 4 months after arrival (in case you are moving on to another country.)

Page 4 of the cats and dog's Annex II.
Proof of rabies vaccination must accompany the Annex II form.  Below is a copy of one of the cats' forms. This form will look different, depending on which vet you use.  This form must include the ISO chip number.

Cost: The 2nd visit included health exams for all 3 pets and paperwork completion.  Cost: $278.00.

3)  3rd Visit on 2/11/2013 for the departure of 2/13/2013.  The 3rd and final visit was for Riley's parasite treatment.  Ireland and the UK (as well as Finland and Malta, in case you are thinking of moving to Malta) require tapeworm treatment dogs only, 1-5 days prior to entry into the country. Both countries accept certificates where tapeworm treatment is done after USDA endorsement.  The treatment is a tablet that could easily be given at home, but because the vet has to sign the certificate, it requires another trip to the vet.  Thankfully, our vet allowed the technician to give the pill, at a lower charge.  Then the vet signed the paperwork without an extra fee. (Note that tick treatment and titre are no longer required for travel overseas.)  Cost: $15.

And by no means do things (or costs) end there.

1.  Access to the UK and Ireland: Pets have to fly into an approved BIP, or Border Inspection Post.  For the British Isles, this includes Dublin in Ireland and London Heathrow or Gatwick airports in the UK.  BIPs are where the pets undergo a veterinary check before they are allowed into the country.  On my last trip to Ireland, I flew a much less expensive flight into Shannon Airport in County Clare, but because the pets were coming along, we had to fly into Dublin.

2.  Airline and Cargo Carriers: You have to use an approved carrier (airline or cargo company) for entry into Dublin and the UK.  There are a multitude of approved carriers for importing pets into the UK and are listed at this link.  From the US into Dublin, pets can arrive via certain ferries from Europe, via one of 3 airlines, or 2 cargo companies listed below.  (There are all kinds of restrictions for pets travelling in-cabin.  Obviously, I couldn't take all 3 pets in-cabin and Riley was a little large to fit under the seat, even if we had qualified.  For PetSafe's restrictions on in-cabin travel, go to this link.) All 3 of my pets flew in carriers in a heated and ventilated hold, not thrown in with the luggage, as pets once were.  The special hold is quieter than the rest of the cargo hold and pets rest well in the darkened environment.  It is possible for pets to fly unaccompanied (without you on the flight), however I needed to be there to pick them up, so I chose the same flight.

Airlines for import into Dublin include:
1) Aer Lingus via New York, Boston, Orlando or Chicago only and using the pet relocation company Pet Express
2) Lufthansa (code share partner with United)
3) Turkish Airlines

Cargo companies include:
1) EFL International Distributors
2) Multi Cargo

Though Aer Lingus would have been less expensive for my flight, I had read some not-so-terrific reviews of the Pet Express service. Pet Express may be a perfectly fine service, but the flight connections were better with United, so I chose them in the end.  United, a code share partner of Lufthansa, uses a program called PetSafe.  We flew from Portland to Newark, NJ, with a 2 hour layover, then direct into Dublin.

United began using PetSafe, a dedicated pet transportation program, after their merger with Continental Airlines.  PetSafe has employees who work only with pets, a 24 hour helpline, and a tracking system.  PetSafe prices for flights, determined by the weight of the carrier plus the animal, can be found here.  There are procedures for shipping pets specific to each carrier and PetSafe's procedures are listed here.  This includes information of drop-off locations, tracking your pet, IATA (International Air Transportation Association) & USDA regulations on kennel and crate sizes, and specifics about not sedating your pet (see below.) There is also a Live Warm-Blooded Animal Acceptance Checklist. to be sure you have followed all of the procedures.

I am asked often about whether the pets were sedated for travel.  Sedation and tranquilization is prohibited and you have to sign a document that says you did not medicate them.  Pets can have respiratory complications if they are sedated while travelling by air.  Also, there are certain breeds of both dogs called snub nose breeds (boxers, pugs, bulldogs and Pekinese) that have difficulty maintaining normal body temperature in hot weather, so there are time periods when they can and cannot travel.

PetSafe has restrictions regarding the age of pets that can fly.  Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old.  If the pet weighs less than 1 pound, it has to be at least 10 weeks old to travel.  United recommends, but does not require, that senior dog and cats that are more than 7.5 years old receive a more extensive health examination (e.g., liver and kidney screens.)  Riley had blood work done 2 months prior to our leaving, before having a tooth extraction, so I already knew he was healthy enough to travel.

I had read online that at some airports, PetSafe will allow owners to see their pets during a layover.  I went to the PetSafe area in Newark (a very small office and very busy, as people were there dropping their pets off for travel), but a very stern PetSafe employee said I couldn't see them.  She said the dog would be taken out of his carrier and pottied during the layover, though I have no idea if he was or not.  At first I was a bit frustrated about not being able to see them, but later realized it was smart. Had Riley seen me, he would have thought it was time to get out of the carrier and this would have been unfair to him.

4.  Pet Relocation Companies:  I used a company that specializes in overseas transport of pets.  Though it was an extra cost, I couldn't afford (financially or mentally) to arrive in Ireland and have the paperwork incorrectly filled out and have to return to the US.  EFL International Distributors imports and exports pets into Dublin.  They use an affiliate company in the US to handle the export paperwork.  The company's pet-specific service is now called Pets on Board and can be found here on Facebook. (If you follow them on Facebook, you can see all the pets that come and go to & from all over the world!)

EFL has a mobile vet service that brings the vet out to the airport in a specially equipped van rather than the pets having to be transferred to a kennel off-site for their health check-up.  If not using EFL/Pets on Board's mobile vet service, pets are transferred to Lissenhall Veterinary Hospital in Swords, near the airport.  I liked the idea of the mobile vet service, rather than more stress placed on the pets with another transfer off site.  The inspection by the vet includes verification of identification and examination of the veterinary certificate and other documentation.  The exam for all 3 pets took all of 30 minutes.

My contact at Pets on Board was Dean and he was great to work with.  EFL's affiliate company in the US that completes the export paperwork is called Aeropaws Pet Shipping based in Beaufort, SC.  I didn't have as much communication with Aeropaws, as the majority of my communication was with EFL.  My only complaint with Aeropaws was the incorrect information on the paperwork sent to my vet, but I communicated this to Dean and he assured me he would talk with them about it, so future customers would not run into a similar problem.

Cost: The payment to EFL included 3 airline tickets for the pets, completion of all export and import paperwork, overnight services for documents, and the mobile veterinary service at the airport in Dublin. As noted above, you can see United PetSafe's prices at the link provided and see what the cost would be without the extra services.  Cost: 2744 euros or $3,674.

5.  Choosing and buying travel carriers (crates/kennels):  Pets can be flown in plastic or specially built wood carriers.  Since we will likely use the carriers again in the future, I chose plastic carriers that can be taken apart and stored more easily.  There are 2 main brands of carriers used for international travel, the Vari-kennel and SkyKennel.  Though other carriers may say "Approved for Air Travel" - beware - they likely are not approved for international travel. I read reviews of both brands, with the only difference being some people reported having to drill holes in the back of the SkyKennel to comply with the requirement that carriers traveling internationally require air circulation on all 4 sides.  Though the Vari-kennels were a bit more expensive, rather than deal with the air circulation issue, I chose that brand for all 3 pets.

The Dry Fur website has great information about travelling with pets.  Their shipping container guide shows how to measure pets and also lists the different sizes and measurements for different sized carriers.  Find the link here.

I chose the medium size (200) for the cats and the carriers were huge, even for Livvy who weighs 17.5 lbs. When I purchased them, several months in advance so the cats could acclimate to them, I wasn't certain of the airline we would be flying and I knew British Airways no longer accepted the smaller sized 100.  So I went with the larger 200 size.  The price was a bit more for the 200, but it didn't change the price for airline tickets as the cats were still in the same weight category.

I originally thought it would be nice if the 2 cats could travel together in a large carrier, however this was not possible.  And, for good reason.  The USDA AWA (Animal Welfare Act) says that no more than 2 puppies or kittens (8 weeks to 6 months old) that are comparable in size and weighing 20 lbs or less each can be transported in the same carrier.  This is because animals, even those in the same household, can become stressed and even aggressive when traveling by air.

For Riley, I chose the large size (400).  I tried Riley in the medium size 300, but he seemed a bit too tall.  I measured the pets, as instructed, but was a bit concerned I might not have done it correctly.  A suggestion was made on the Dry Fur website to take your pet to the airport cargo office ahead of time so he/she would not be as frightened on the day of travel.  Riley and I visited the United Cargo office before I even purchased his carrier and asked the staff if we could try him out in the different sizes.  The staff agreed the size 400 was needed.

I bought all 3 carriers online.  I can't recall the website, but even with shipping, the prices beat those found at the local Petco and Petsmart stores, as well as Amazon.com.  The Vari Kennel 200, 28" x 20.5" x 21.5", for the cats cost $66 each.  The Vari Kennel 400, 36" x 25" x 27", for the dog cost $165.  Cost for all 3 carriers: $297.

6.  Other supplies for the carriers: The DryFur website also offers information and videos on how to label and secure the carriers for international travel, paperwork you can download if you aren't using a pet relocation specialist, and a list of various supplies for pet carriers.  Even after you buy either the Vari-Kennel or SkyKennel, you still have to alter it for international travel.  This includes metal nuts & bolts to replace the plastic ones that are an absolute necessity for the carriers to be accepted.  There are other requirements noted below.   Rather than buy the extra pieces separately, I bought DryFur's Deluxe Pet Airline kit for all 3 pets.  The kit included:

a.  Spill proof food & water cups (much stronger & more secure than those that came with the carriers) and required by the airlines,
b.  Live Animal stickers with a space for feeding instructions,
c.  Required metal nuts and bolts for securing the kennel to replace the plastic ones supplied with the carrier,
d.  Cable ties for securing parts of the carrier,
e.  A pet ID tag,
f.  Document storage and dry food storage zip bags, and
g.  A checklist to prepare for travel.

Note that water cups must be accessible to an airline worker to fill without opening the carrier door.  The cups we used went on the inside of the carrier and were able to have water added by using a regular water bottle poured from the outside.  Based on our itinerary, my pets were not going to need to be fed, as the total time of travel and layover period were within the timeframe where they didn't need food.  However, you are still required to provide food in a plastic bag, attached to the outside of the carrier, in case the flight is delayed.  Another recommendation regarding food is that you not feed your pets 2 hours before the flight as a full stomach can be uncomfortable during flight (and I suppose they would also need to use the pet restroom of which there are none.)

These kits cost $18.99 each for the small carriers and $28.99 for the larger size.  Also, I had to purchase a separate package of replacement hardware since the 400 kennel has more holes for the nuts & bolts.  All of these items could have been purchased separately and from other vendors, but it was handy to have it all come together and be assured of having everything that was needed.  I did not purchase their DryFur Travel Pads for keeping the pets dry, though they are known for being very good, as I had similar pads leftover from when I worked for a medical company. The costs for the travel supply kits were: $18.99 each for 2 small kits and $28.99 for the large/xlarge kit.  Cost: $81.16
Photo obtained from the DryFur website.

7.  Training aids: I was quite concerned about my cats travelling, as they are strictly inside cats and had seldom left the house, only once a year visits to the vet and 2 house moves.  In an attempt to decrease their stress, I purchased their carriers 2 months before the move so they could get used to them.  My cats have never had treats, but the way to acclimate pets to carriers is by using treats.  They were thrilled!  I used Greenie cat treats as well as salmon flakes.  Every night I placed the cats in their carriers with a few treats and left them for 5-10 minutes, eventually working up to 30-40 minutes.  Of course, this was nothing close to their eventual 20+ hours they spent in their carriers, but at least the carriers weren't completely foreign to them.

Kitty treats were from Amazon.com.  Cost: $15.00

First try in the kennels.
Eventually Liv would wait in the kennel for me to bring the treats to her.
Riley is a pretty easy going dog, so he didn't require much training.  Here he is practicing in his kennel around Christmastime.

8. Anxiety prevention: I used Thundershirts on all 3 pets.  Originally developed as an anti-anxiety treatment for dogs, Riley has had great success with separation anxiety and his fear of loud noises with his Thundershirt.  The company had recently developed a Thundershirt for cats, so I thought we might as well give it a try.  Livvy didn't seem bothered by her Thundershirt, but Bell became completely paralyzed when wearing hers.  She would freeze and fall over on her side, as if the shirt affected her equilibrium.  Not an uncommon side effect for cat Thundershirt wearers, but a habit I was never able to break her of.  I think she likely spent the entire flight lying on her side in the carrier thinking she was unable to move.  Riley already owned his Thundershirt, so I only had to buy 2 for the cats. Total Cost: $68.
Modeling their Thundershirts.

Riley modeling his Thundershirt.
I also used a product called Feliway to hopefully decrease some of the cat's anxiety in the carrier.  Feliway is a product that mimics the feline facial pheromone that cats use to mark places, objects, and people as familiar.  According to the Feliway website, cats carefully mark their environment with facial pheromones and when we remove or disrupt these marks, we disorientate them and this can bring on stress.  Feliway comes in a plug-in diffuser and a spray, so we bought the spray.  The only negative is the smell of the spray.  The instructions state it should be sprayed on the carrier at least 15 minutes prior to adding the cats. I am not sure if it helped, but it certainly didn't hurt.  Cost: $34.99.
Photo from the Amazon.com website.

9.  Last but not least:  I purchased small, biodegradable kitty litter boxes to put in the cat crates once we arrived in Dublin and prior to our 3 hour drive south to our cottage.  The entire trip, door-to-door, took 23 hours, so the kitties definitely needed to relieve themselves once we arrived in Dublin.  (I brought a small amount of kitty litter with me in my carry-on luggage.)  These worked great and the cats used them as soon as I put them in their carriers.  Purchased at Amazon.com.  Cost: $12.99

Total cost for the one-way trip from Portland, Oregon to Ireland: $5,016.54

1. 1st vet visit for vaccinations & ISO microchips: $589.50
2. 2nd vet visit for health exams and paperwork completion: $228.00
3. 3rd vet visit for parasite treatment: $15.00
4. Pet relocation company including flights, paperwork completion, vet check in Dublin: $3,674.00
5. Travel carriers: $297.00
6. Other carrier supplies: $81.16
7. Carrier training aids: $15.00
8. Anxiety prevention: $102.99
9. Kitty litter boxes: $12.99

One thing to note regarding flight costs is that some airlines provide a discount to military families who are relocating.  If it was my decision, military family pets would fly free, as those families who serve our country deserve all the help they can get.


On the 13th of February, we left our house near Portland at 4:45 am, so the pets would be at the United Cargo office at the Portland Airport at 5:30 am.  We arrived at our cottage in County Cork, Ireland, at 1 pm the following day (5 a.m. in Portland) - just shy of 24 hours!

The photos below show the pets being unloaded at Dublin Airport. I wish I had taken more/better photos before dropping them off and picking them up, but I was overtired and stressed, so photography was the last thing on my mind.  Also, when we arrived in Dublin, there was a very cold east wind blowing, so time was of the essence, as I was freezing my buns off!  In the photo below, Riley is in the large crate on the left and the cats in the equally large crates on the right.

It is recommended that you only place a pad inside the crate and something with your scent, like a small t-shirt or other fabric, as the airlines want the pets to have as much room to move around as possible.  Bell had found a way to crawl under her pad to hide.  We took the pad out so Dean from EFL could get a photo of her (bottom right.)  The photo of Liv was too blurry to include, but she was sitting up when she arrived.  The only interesting thing was she had one leg out of her Thundershirt - not sure how she accomplished that.  None of the pets pottied in their carriers, so everything was nice and dry.You can see in the photo at bottom left, Riley was thrilled to finally be out of his kennel!  

Once I loaded all the suitcases into the rental van, there was just enough room for the kitties in the back. I covered the front of each carrier with a pillowcase, as seen on the carrier to the right, as the cats were calmer if they couldn't see out.  The carrier on the left is sitting inside Riley's carrier that I had taken apart so he could ride up front in the passenger seat.  

The photos below show Riley, just out of the car, on the front step of our cottage in Castletownroche, County Cork, Ireland.  Also below is a photo of the kitties, once they had settled in.  They were initially frightened by our new home, mostly because the beds sat on the floor rather than on bed frames, so there was no place to hide.  However, after just an hour or so, they were out in about in the cottage.

I have not done the research to see if shipping pets to other countries is similar in cost.  I know Ireland and the UK are very expensive because of the health examinations and documentation requirements, as they are very concerned about rabies not coming to the British Isles.  They are especially diligent now that the quarantine has been discontinued.  However if you think about it, you can drive your car onto the train in France and come across the channel via the Eurotunnel, so I think unvaccinated pets could easily be smuggled into the country in one of those small soft-sided carriers.  My cynical side says the high cost is just another way for the airlines and government agencies to make money.

I recently researched the cost for returning the pets to the US, in case we head back one day.  Unlike the trip over, pets can be sent as extra luggage, rather than through the airline's cargo service, at a cost of about $250 each.  Quite a difference than getting them here.  In the end, it was worth every penny.

27 September 2013

Musings about...Scottish foods.

Haggis, skink, black pudding, and neeps, oh my!  These are just some of the interesting foods found in Scotland.  I will admit, I have yet to dig into haggis, but I have certainly found plenty of opportunity to enjoy the fish & chips and loads of both sweet and savory pies.

The Scots rely on natural foods found throughout the country such as game (venison and grouse, to name a few), dairy products (lots of cheese!), fish, fruit and vegetables.  I live in Fife, in the middle of Scotland, towards the eastern coast.  It is surrounded by 3 bodies of water - the Firth (estuary) of Tay to the north, the Firth of Forth to the south, and the German Ocean to the East, so seafood is plentiful.  Parts of Fife were once mining centres (mostly coal) and Kirkcaldy, just 20 minutes south, was once known for flax spinning and linen weaving and production of linoleum and other floor cloths in the 19th century.  Now what you see is miles and miles of agricultural land - both arable crops (also known as cereals), as well as livestock (sheep and cattle), and numerous polytunnels.  Growing vegetables occurs mainly in tunnels, or under plastic in the fields, as the summers are very short on the 56th parallel.  I was somewhat surprised to find that Fife is well known for its soft fruits, such as raspberries and blueberries, as well as currants, gooseberries and cherries. I recently made 2 plum crumbles from the plums growing in the garden where I am staying.  I hadn't cooked with plums before and the crumbles were quite good.

Cullen skink is a thick Scottish soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions and a local specialty on the north east coast of Scotland.  Cock-a-leekie soup is what you might think - chicken stock and leeks - and is known as "Scotland's National Soup" (who knew there would be a national soup!)  And Scotch broth is made of barley, lamb, mutton or beef, root vegetables and dried pulses (split peas and red lentils.)

Salmon is found in almost every shop and some of the best salmon fishing in the world is found in Scotland and Ireland.  Arbroath smokie is a type of smoked haddock, Cabbie claw made with young cod, haddock or whiting, Finnan haddle is cold smoked haddock that originated near Aberdeen, a kipper is a whole herring that is butterflied, salted or picked and cold smoked, and rollmops are picked herring fillets, rolled into a cylindrical shape, held together with wooden skewers.

In the meat and poultry department, lamb is on every menu (no surprise there), as well as beef, bacon and ham, goose and grouse.  The bacon is much different here, as it is often boiled (called grilled) and is known as rashers.  American bacon (referred to as "streaky" bacon) is made from the belly of the pig.  British bacon comes from the loin, as well as the pork belly.  Pigs are the most common meat product that is grown in large factory-type farms.  There are large commercial sheep and beef farms, but not as common as in the US.

Beef, as we often call "hamburger", is called mince.  A popular dish is mince and tatties (minced beef and potatoes.)  Angus cattle come from the counties of Aberdeenshire and Angus in Scotland and are known as Aberdeen Angus.  In the US, there is Red Angus and Black Angus, the latter being the most common beef breed of cattle in the US.  Aberdeen Angus, the native breed, is actually on the Rare Breeds watchlist.  This is the original population of native or non-imported bloodlines of Aberdeen Angus cattle.  The Angus was widely exported during the 20th century and bred in the US and Canada, as well as other countries, to be longer and taller than the native breed.  These were then re-imported back into the UK, so the commercial Aberdeen Angus is a much larger animal.

Scotch pie is a small, double-crust meat pie filled with minced mutton (sheep over 1 year old) or other meat.  They are a type of Scottish fast-food, commonly sold at football stadiums and other venues.  The term "savory" was new to me, as in the grocery store, crackers are found on the savory aisle.  There are numerous types of savory pies including steak pie, steak and kidney pie, steak-and-tattie (potato) pie, cottage (from beef) or shepherds (from lamb) pie, and fish pie.  Sausage rolls and pasties (a filling of meat and vegetables on a flat pastry that is folded over and crimped on the edges) are common in butcher and many other shops.
From the Perth Agriculture Show this summer
Haggis and black pudding are the most unusual foods and I have to admit, I haven't tried either.  Since I raised sheep in the States, I just can't bring myself to try either of these.  Traditional haggis is a pudding made of sheep heart, liver and lungs, onion, oatmeal, suit and spices.  It is encased in the sheep's stomach and simmered for about 3 hours.  Now haggis is generally prepared in a sausage casing, rather than the stomach, but I just can't get a grasp on eating it.  There is even a vegetarian haggis (go figure) made of kidney beans, lentils, nuts, vegetables, oatmeal, onions, seasoning and spices.
Photo from the internet
Black pudding, also called blood pudding or blood sausage, is....yep - blood!  It's a sausage made by cooking pig, cattle, sheep, duck or goat blood.  Fillers include other meats, fat, bread, sweet potato, onion, chestnuts and oatmeal. In Ireland and the UK, it is generally made from pork blood with oatmeal.  It is considered a delicacy in parts of the UK and in Ramsbottom, one can experience "The World Black Pudding Throwing Championships."  There is also white pudding, a meat dish with pork, fat, suet, bread and oatmeal - with no blood - and red pudding made of bacon, beef, pork, suet, wheat flour, spices and beef fat.
Photo from the internet
For wild game, I was lucky enough to attend a social event with friends from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust at a small business called The Wee Pie Company a few weeks ago.  The couple who own this wonderful pie company gave us a tour of their manufacturing facility and a lot of samples.  In the States, I had tried venison (deer), but didn't find it to my liking.  I also ate elk, mostly in the minced form, as I didn't care for the steaks. Turns out, it is all about how it is cooked. I tried wee pies with wild venison, chorizo sausage (wild boar), rabbit, lamb, and wild mushrooms and they were all amazing.  (I did skip the black pudding once again.)

Photo courtesy of the Wee Pie Company website
After our taste testing:

Upon my arrival in Scotland, I was given a package of Scotch pancakes.  I was surprised to see pancakes, already cooked, in a package.  Scotch pancakes are also known as "drop scones" because soft dollops of mixture are dropped onto the cooking surface.  Here, they are cooked on a flat bakestone or a girdle (that's a griddle to Americans.)  The girdle is a round cast-iron flat plate with a semi-circular handle and the town of Culross in Fife was granted a royal charter for their manufacture back in 1599.  
From the Antique Kitchenalia website
I ventured to Costco in Edinburgh a few months back (there is also a Costco in Dublin) with the aim to purchase the cat litter my kitties favor and of course, left with much more than just cat litter.  If I hadn't known any better, I would have thought I was standing in any Costco in America.  It was my only experience so far, feeling like I was back home.  There were Scottish foods, such as haggis and many types of seafood, but the majority were Kirkland products found in the good ole U.S. of A.  I did find it surprising to see American pancakes on the shelf!

Though not good for the weight loss plan, I have a soft spot for the £1 pancakes at the local SPAR shop. SPAR is a sort of mini-7-11 store that is an international retail chain and franchise founded in the Netherlands in 1932 and is now found in 35 countries.  Every High Street (the American version of Main Street) seems to have a SPAR shop.  It's difficult to find maple syrup here (except at Costco!), though there are shelves and shelves of honey and jams.  I had read that peanut butter is difficult to find in Europe.  It is in stores here, but I have found only one store that stocks the American brands of Jif or Skippy.  Nutella is much more common than peanut butter.

I had a difficult time finding turnips for a recipe and couldn't locate them in the local grocery store, likely because it was too early in the summer.  They do have swedes, a member of the cabbage family, that is what we know as a rutabaga.  The term "neeps" refers to a dish of diced or mashed swedes.  There's a humorous blog article about the difference between turnips, swedes, and neeps - seems the British aren't always sure which are which.  Beets, a favourite of mine, are known here as beetroots.  The courgette is from the same family as the cucumber, squash and melon and are known back home as a zucchini.  Mushrooms are plentiful and some people hunt for them in the forest, though after reading about American author Nicholas Evans (of "Horse Whisperer" fame) picking and cooking the Deadly Webcap mushroom from his brother-in-laws Highland estate and eventually requiring a kidney transplant, along with his sister and her husband, I buy my mushrooms in the store.  Canola, called rapeseed here, is starting to be seen as more and more in the UK.  Rapeseed oil started to become popular around 2008 and is a light alternative to other cooking oils.  By the way, corn is most often called by its correct name, maize, here in the UK.

I have done a lot of baking since I arrived.  I don't generally eat much of my own concoctions, but enjoy baking and sharing with others.  Yesterday, I made 5 batches of different types of cookies and brownies for a bake sale for cancer research.  At first I couldn't find baking soda, until I realised it is packaged as bicarbonate of soda.  Baking powder seems more common here than in the States and is used in cake-making.  It is made from an alkali (bicarbonate of soda) and an acid (cream of tartar), plus a filler like cornflour (as we know cornstarch) or rice flour.  Self-raising flour is also very common here - it is plain flour combined with a small amount of baking powder.  I was quite confused by all the types of sugars available, but it's no surprise, as the Scottish (and the British) love their baked goods!  There is common granulated sugar, but also caster sugar (finer than granulated), icing sugar (same as powdered sugar), golden caster sugar (used in creamed sponge cakes), demerara sugar (an intense flavour and used in coffee and sprinkled over sharp fruits), light and dark brown sugar, and muscovado sugar (lots of molasses still remaining).

In the dairy aisle, there are more types of cheddar cheese than one could imagine, along with imports from all over continental Europe.  Milk is available whole, semi-skimmed (as we would call 1 or 2%), and sometimes skimmed, and as buttermilk.  Pure cream (35-45% butterfat) can be whipped or poured.  Double (the thickest and served served with fruits) and creme fraiche (with a high fat content, about 35%) are also found on the shelf.  Clotted cream has the highest fat percentage of over 55% and is served with scones, butter and jam. I have found it difficult to locate sour cream.  Only one or two of the larger markets carry it, but I recently found that I can easily make it by adding 1-2 tsp lemon juice to 150 ml or single or double cream.  There are shelves and shelves of yogurt and greek yogurt has been popular here much longer than it has in the UK.

Thank goodness I can find my beloved Pepsi products here, though I do see more Coca-Cola products in stores.  I drink Pepsi Max which has a little different taste than Diet Pepsi.  Pepsi Max in the US is a different drink altogether and lists ginseng on the label.  It also has twice as much caffeine as Diet Pepsi.  The "Max" drink was introduced because it was thought that fewer men would buy a drink with the word "diet" in it.  I am working on giving them up completely, so I no longer take in caffeine, and am now a lover of organic elder flower water I was introduced to at a little cafe called the Pillars of Hercules on the Falkland Estates.

Other than the SPAR shop and other local grocers, the main grocery stores in this part of Scotland are Tesco, Morrison's, Sainsbury's, ASDA (actually owned by Wal-Mart through a subsidiary), and Lidl (a no-frills grocery.)  There are also a few Marks & Spencers (more common in England) and Waitrose (think expensive!)

19 August 2013

Going back in time: West Cork, County Kerry and the Beara Peninsula

Back in April, I took a 3 day trip to West Cork and County Kerry in the south west of Ireland.  I was still living in North Cork and was scouting locations to move to once I returned from Scotland.  The trip had 3 parts:

1) West County Cork: Exploring Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Schull, Ballydehob (a favourite village name), Bantry and the southern portion of the Beara Peninsula including the village of Glengarriff (Letters C, D and I on the map below).

2) County Kerry and the Beara Peninsula: 2 nights at a wonderful holiday home in Lauragh (J) and exploring the northern portion of the peninsula and the town of Kenmare (F, J and H).  Kenmare was where I stayed with my parents on my first trip to Ireland in 2005.  I also drove back over to Glengarriff in West Cork to visit with 2 American couples I met through an expat forum.

3) The Iveragh Peninsula: Exploring Sneem (K) which is part of the Ring of Kerry, a drive through Killarney National Park (between K & L on the map), and the return home to Castletownroche (M).

This area of Ireland is much more rugged than where I had been staying north of Cork City.  The scenery was amazing and thankfully, the weather cooperated.  A little rain, but there was also blue sky to be had.  Not bad for April.

Of course, being the sheep fanatic that I am, I was in heaven when I found out the holiday home I rented near Lauragh (pronounced Lore-och) was located on a sheep hill farm.  These are some of the visitors, just outside the door.


Some of the neighbours.

The ewes were just about finished lambing for the season.  Eugene, the sheep farmer, puts these yellow, biodegradable jackets on the lambs to help prevent attacks from foxes and also help a little with the weather.  

This ewe and her lamb didn't seem interested in moving as I was making my way down the hill from the house.  I was at a standstill and tried honking the horn and hollering out the window to no avail. I even had Riley barking, but she was not interested in moving. 

Eugene feeding Mutt the sheep some bread.  Mutt was a pet sheep (known as a bummer lamb in the US) and is more dog than sheep.
The holiday home is owned by Mag and Eugene McCarthy and is advertised on Flipkey.com under home for let in the Kenmare area.  You can find the link here.  It is an old home up a steep hill that was renovated several years ago.  Mag and Eugene live below and were very nice and helpful.  I took some pictures inside, as I may return in the Autumn and stay the winter in their holiday home.

This is a mussel farm just up the road from the holiday home.  This is the bay that is seen from the front of the house.

It was a terrific trip and I am looking forward to going back soon.