From Thailand to Australia with two white dogs and their cat Part 3: Life in Limbo

By | July 23, 2017

This is part 3 in a series about my relocation from Thailand to Australia with 2 dogs and a cat….

Part 1 is about preparations in Phuket before the journey and Part 2 is about quarantine in Malaysia on the way to Australia

Sunday June 11

My XL Uber taxi pulls up outside an unmanned boom gate. Google maps tells me that my Airbnb house is about 100 meters away.
My Airbnb host has switched off his phone.

Alrighty then, well I’m glad I haven’t got 3 animals with me.

My driver seems impatient. Clearly he’s not looking for a five-star rating from me and he won’t be getting one. I decide to get out and make my way on foot. I unload my 9 bags how did 9 bags happen?, pay him his money and off he goes.

I place my 9 bags just inside the boom gate. I decide to carry my laptop and backpack containing documents and tow one of my wheeled suitcases. I set off to find my temporary home.

It isn’t far but it’s mid-afternoon and hot and I am somewhat worried about the 5 bags I left behind.

With some difficulty, I heave my things over the locked gate and find that one of the doors of the house has been mercifully left unlocked by the tenants who checked out hours earlier.

It’s a shame the same tenants also decided to leave all their garbage outside next to the bins rather than in them. Minimum of 6 people I’d say judging by the plastic plates, shrimp tails and snail shells.

I put my stuff in the house and run back to get the other bags.

After a couple more trips and a fair amount of cursing I get everything inside, take a shower and set off in search of supplies.

My Airbnb host calls late in the evening with the combinations for the locks. Having eaten and showered and buoyed by the thought of the kid’s arrival in the morning I’m able to be fairly magnanimous.


No worries, I’m very strong.

Monday June 12

Petri is on the way with the kids. They’ve gone straight from quarantine to the vet for a blood test and a rabies jab. Poor little ones. I considered meeting them there but thought their excitement at seeing Mummy might hinder the process. Petri and the vets are more than capable and they do this every day. I should let them get on with it.

I’ve been out and bought litter trays and food and I’ve figured out which bedroom we’ll use and closed the others. I’ve checked all the windows and covered the brand-new sofas in machine washable blankets. We have our own bedding on our bed.

Even though I didn’t get the best reception I don’t want my host to regret taking our booking.

It wasn’t easy finding an Airbnb that would take two dogs. Actually, this was the only one I could find by the time I confirmed my trip. I imagine there are a lot of cheap to rent landed houses in Malaysia but it seems like they are owned by Muslim people in Muslim areas or unfurnished and available long term through an agent only. If it were just Mickey and I we would have had hundreds of condos to choose from.

When you’re using Airbnb it’s best to message the host and ask them up front if they will accept your particular furry companions. I did and I explained that my animals were all house trained, sterilized, well behaved and quiet and that I always pick up after them and walk them twice a day.

Finally Petri pulls into the drive way. Nut is riding shot gun which I know she loves and the two small ones are in their crates. Nut’s massive crate is in the back.

Nut doesn’t see me at first and I open the door and pick her up. She’s happy but surprisingly calm. Petri carries the small ones inside the house in their crates and we have a moment to chat.

It’s the first time we’ve met in person and he’s exactly as I imagined. He’s very kind, honest and gentle with the kids. Nut likes him, that’s important. You can tell he knows what he’s doing but he’s a very modest person and easy to talk to.

We talk about the export process and agree that it’s certainly possible for someone to come and do it themselves without an agent but that it would be difficult and stressful.

Petri leaves and I take Mickey up to the bedroom, show him where his litter tray is in the en-suite and close the door. I finally let Frankie out of her crate and take both dogs out for a walk.


June 2017

We settle more or less into our usual routine.

Mickey and Frankie wake me up early for breakfast and then we wake Nut up for hers before the morning walk. Nut has always liked sleeping in. When she was a puppy her Daddy and I operated a night club in Patong so it’s just what she’s used to.

She does seem particularly drawn to the bed though but I figure she’s homesick and getting some comfort from her old familiar blankie. She’s not that excited about meal times but maybe that’s because she’s resting more on the bed. I feel like she’s depressed but maybe that’s me feeling guilty for taking her out of her home of 6 years and putting her into quarantine. She has been through a lot for a dog. I feel bad but I figure time heals.

I also notice there seems to be a new order. Frankie has always been a bit bossy but now she’s definitely graduated to self-appointed “middle management”. Whenever I see Mickey torturing an innocent piece of furniture I say “No Mickey” and Frankie takes this as a cue to bark and chase him away from whatever he was doing. Her bossiness has it’s uses I suppose. I just have to make sure she doesn’t boss Nut around too, that’s not cute.

We have everything we need in our “Eco Tree-House”.

There’s a kitchen, washing machine and small fenced garden with a fish pond.

There’s a Tesco a 20-minute walk away and a fresh food market across the road along with a veterinarian, a food court and numerous other businesses.
The neighborhood is all parks and wide streets so very safe to walk the girls. I am careful to shut Mickey in the bedroom whenever we or I go anywhere to prevent him shooting out the door.

The kids all had a confirmation RNAT test on their first day out of quarantine and 2 weeks later we get the lab results.

They all passed. We knew they would. This test is just to make sure their rabies vaccines were effective.
Petri submits the lab results to the Australian Department of Agriculture so that they can release our import permits.

July 2017

The dog’s permits are emailed in the first week of July and Mickey’s is not which is a little disconcerting and I end up calling the Department in Australia myself to check. I’m told it’s all good, the permits have all been applied for separately so they are sent separately and this is perfectly normal. Sure enough, Mickey’s permit comes through 5 days later.

Mr Muru shows up on July 4 to take the girls for their second round of blood tests.

I’m so surprised at how much they love him. They both see him through the front gate and it’s immediately as though I don’t exist. They both cry like sad puppies.

He must have good treats!

Anyway, they happily climb into his car and any thought I might have had of accompanying them to get them through the “ordeal” just fades away. I go back inside to wait with Mickey. As a cat, his preparations for export are less complicated. He’s already had his confirmation rabies titer test and now he just needs his usual vaccinations , Frontline plus and 2 worm tablets. Lucky boy!

The girls have to have several blood tests for blood parasites and Frankie has to have an extra one for Brucella Canis because I don’t have a Sterilization Certificate for her. She must have been sterilized before I found her back in 2015 but I can’t prove that.

The only test to I’m anxious about is the E.Canis (Erlichia Canis) test. This test is for antibodies to a tick-borne disease and dogs from SE Asia have a particularly high failure rate.

Frankie tested positive for E.Canis on both a SNAP test (a simple test used in vet clinics for diagnostic purposes) as well as an IFAT test in Phuket in May so she has been on doxycycline for 6 weeks to hopefully clear it.

Nut has never tested positive on a SNAP test and has had a lifetime of protection with Frontline Plus so I didn’t order an expensive IFAT test for her.

Monday July 17,2017

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since the girls had their blood tests and it has been an anxious wait.

When I left Phuket I knew that Frankie might test positive for E.Canis and that I might have to put her in boarding in Malaysia while I went on ahead with Nut and Mickey. It just might take another course of antibiotics and of course time. I’ve prepared myself mentally for that possibility.

I have learned a lot about this disease over the last couple of months. I scour the internet, I talk to other dog owners and vets, I have set up google alerts.

We have a booking for quarantine in Australia for Monday May 24.

The kids will fly Sunday night. I will fly on Monday night; I don’t want to be worrying about missing a flight when I’m getting them ready.

I have had a few disturbing dreams about the test results but I push them out of my mind. No point worrying unless I have too.

And then the emails come.

First Frankie’s results.

Her E.Canis titer in May was 1/640 (it needs to be <1/40 to pass) It’s now 1/80. She’s failed but only by a whisker. The doxycycline has been working though so I know she’ll be ok and I can cope with leaving her here a few weeks.

Next come Nut’s results.

She’s failed too.

Why, why, why didn’t I test her with Frankie back in May?

I dash off an email to my stepfather who isn’t a vet but as a GP he knows about lab results and he replies quickly and we end up deciding that Nut probably has an acute infection. I think of Nut’s overall lethargy, slow appetite and reluctance to get out of bed over the last month. It makes sense. I missed the signs because I assumed that I could protect her completely with the Frontline Plus and Bravecto she’s on.

But the thing about E.Canis is it only takes one bite from a tick, just one bite.

The feeling that I let my dog down threatens to overwhelm me but I know I have to shake it off so I can help her.

I go the nearest vet and get some doxycycline.

Tuesday July 18

I’m out exploring some shops in a neighboring district. At the busy intersection ahead of me I suddenly see a small dog seem to spring from nowhere. Car doors open and people scramble to catch him but he bolts, straight into traffic.

I start to run and lose sight of him for just a moment but then there he is. Behind me cars are stopped at a red light but they are soon moving again and with the small dog still 10 meters or so ahead of me I try to wave at them to slow down.

The dog rounds a bend and I can’t tell if he is hit but he tumbles and rolls before continuing on. I know he’ll get tired and find somewhere to hide soon and I don’t want to lose sight of him. So many dogs go missing every day never to be found again. I’m thinking about my own fur kids and the time Mickey went missing for 3 weeks and the little dog “Bolt” that went missing last month from a homestay while in transit.

Sure enough the little dog darts down a side street and I follow. I’m just in time to see him disappear under a parked car.

He’s panting and he doesn’t look like he wants to come out. I still have a water bottle in my hand so I pour some water into the lid and offer it to him. I have to push it almost to him, he doesn’t want to move.

I wonder where his owners are and pull out my phone. I take a photo of him under the car and post it to a Facebook group “Dog lovers in Malaysia”. I try to post a location but it doesn’t work and I’m not actually sure where I am.

Ok. Now what?

I remember that I have some cat food in my backpack that I just bought for Mickey. I open it and put a small handful just a little bit away from the dog.

He’s hungry. He can’t resist the food. 15 minutes later I lure him out and am able to grab him.

I walk back to the intersection where I saw him break loose. There’s a bank on the corner and I post his photo again on Facebook explaining where we are. People start to ask questions but I can’t type very well while holding the dog and then in the end I go back to the pet store where I bought the cat food and get him a harness and lead.

He walks so nicely on the lead and he’s so handsome, a very cute fluffy Pomeranian, we get a lot of attention.

Finally, his owner’s Dad shows up outside the bank to pick him up. I find out they had been headed for the vet.

Dog’s always know these things!

Later that night I am glad I have built up some karmic credit.

The girls wake me up barking urgently. I open the bedroom door and they dash downstairs.

They are furious.

The wooden back door is wide open. There is a metal deadlocked door behind it but there’s no screen. Mickey is sitting outside. I can’t reach him, I don’t have a key to this door, but I grab his lucky bag of food and shake it and he climbs back inside.

I close the wooden door and put a chair against it. I don’t know if someone opened it or if it just came open somehow but I do now that Mickey’s “night shift” patrolling the house is over. I take him upstairs into the bedroom with the girls and lock the door.


Wednesday July 19

I go and see Adrienne. Adrienne works with Petri taking care of pets in transit at her home. She is going to look after my girls and I am sure she’s great but of course I have to see for myself where they will be staying.

And it’s absolutely lovely. Nut and Frankie might not want to leave.

It’s seems like Adrienne’s whole house is dedicated to looking after dogs. It’s not spotless of course but it’s very clean and organized and there is not a trace of that overpowering odor you get at those nasty pet stores where they actually have puppies and kittens for sale.

Adrienne has 5 dogs herself and they are all male and Frankie’s size and unbelievably cute. I could pet them all day.
There are a few cats too, one that is in boarding for export of course was in a cage but Adrienne also has her own cats that wander around with the dogs.

There is also a lovely 9-year-old golden retriever Rufus. He is so snugly and sweet and seems happy enough with his gang of tiny companions. Adrienne is fostering him until she can find a home for him. He really would be amazing company for someone and I hope he can be Nut’s friend while she’s here.

Adrienne seems very qualified as a dog behaviorist and we sit on the floor playing with the dogs for a long time discussing how to introduce my girls to the existing pack. I suggest that due to Nut’s size and strength she should probably be crated when not supervised, just in the beginning till we see how she deals with so many small dogs. Nut’s crate is massive and she will probably like having her own space. I know she will be getting 2 daily walks and yard time so she’ll be fine.

Adrienne is sharp as a razor and very kind. The visit leaves me with no doubt the girls will be fine. It will probably be good for them to be socialized with safe dogs, I’ve kept them fairly isolated for the last year; there are just so many unvaccinated dogs carrying ticks in SE Asia.

I stop by the export vet whose surgery is nearby. She is also absolutely delightful; very chatty and passionate about her work. She tells me about her blind pug that she saved from euthanasia. She and Adrienne work together a lot and she says Adrienne always comes straight in with the dogs if they seem off.

The vet thinks both girls can be retested after 3 weeks of doxycycline so actually I might get them back sooner that I think. I will just chill though; when it happens it happens.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all of this it is not to get too hung up on particular dates. You have to stay flexible.

No count downs until the girls actually land in Melbourne!


Thursday July 20, 2017

Mr Muru comes to pick up Mickey for his final health check prior to his flight on Sunday night.

The girls see him through the front window and I can tell they are sad they’re not going with him in his car.

I am too.




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