Annabelle

Our sweet 9-year old cat Annabelle died this past Friday night.  She had some kidney problems that started in the fall, and after a few rounds of blood tests, antibiotics, IVs, and a change in cat food, we thought she had recovered but over the past several weeks her health deteriorated quickly.  The local vet was kind enough to make several house calls to set up IVs and administer another round of antibiotics. We hoped she would be able to turn it around but unfortunately, she couldn’t.

JR and I were only together for a year and a half when he agreed we could get a cat.   Nerd law students that we were, we made sure to have terms in place before we started looking for one – things like how we would handle expenses (50/50 split), who she would live with (me most of the time) and what would happen if we split up (I would take her).  We met Annabelle at the Capital Area Humane Society in March of 2007.  We waited until we found an orange kitten since JR grew up loving the comic strip Garfield and loves the color orange (Go Vols!). Initially, we were considering taking home one of her sisters, but she batted JR’s head as we walked away (her cage was eye-level, on top of another cage) and he changed his mind saying that “she chose us.”  She was tiny and furry and so much fun.

bath relaxing

younger 2 younger

Annabelle lived in more places and countries than many humans.  She moved with us to multiple apartments in Columbus, our apartment in DC, and then our homes in Kosovo and Georgia.  She was well-traveled but as you might imagine, did not enjoy flying.  I sobbed the first time we dropped her off at the United counter at Dulles to make the trek to Kosovo.  The employee assured me that she would be fine and when we landed in Pristina, we could pick her up in a special designated area for pets.  To our shock (although after living in Kosovo for a while it all made sense) Annabelle’s crate was the first piece of “luggage” to arrive on the baggage carousel with the rest of the suitcases.  Special pet area, sure.  You would have thought we were transporting an exotic zoo animal through the airport with all the stares and strange looks we received from the local Kosovars.

We rocked her world again when we brought Abby home, although I don’t think she took too much notice until Abby could crawl.  She was always sweet with Abby, allowing her to pet her and hug her all the time (really it was more like Abby would drop to her knees and try to lay down on Annabelle to show affection.) Her treatment to Abby always amazed us since she usually treated other people with indifference or total disdain. When Annabelle became sick this time and she wasn’t moving around as much, we kept her in the guest room.  Every morning and night, Abby asked to check on her and asked us if she was “all better.”

abby plank christmas

We are sad to lose her and our house feels different without her.  She was wonderful to us and exhibited more patience with Abby than we ever would have expected. We will always have a special place in our hearts for Annabelle.

She will be missed.

stressed sleeping santa hat 3

annabelle

 

The Trek to Tbilisi

I started to get anxiety about our travel to Georgia a few weeks before we actually left.  How would Abby do? How would the cat do?  Most importantly, how would I handle it all?  We do our best to be as prepared as possible, but you can only do so much, and we’re humans, so we make mistakes.

This was our first time flying with Annabelle, our cat, in the cabin with us.  Previously she has flown as excess checked baggage, but the airlines we were using this time did not allow that option.  She is not a great traveler, and we were quite concerned that she would howl and make noise the entire time.  We took her to the vet in Orrville for our required health certificate and asked for suggestions, and he recommended a mild sedative for her.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, kind vet.  Annabelle was calm and quiet from the time we left until we arrived at our house in Tbilisi.  A miracle!

passed out kitty
(Disclaimer – not a real photo of Annabelle)

My mom wanted to take us to the airport, but we had too many bags for one vehicle so we also hired a van to help transport our luggage.  This was our first time flying with Abby’s new convertible car seat (we purchased the Britax Boulevard Clicktight).  It is a beast, weighing in at almost 30lbs.   Since the new seat doesn’t click into our stroller like the infant seat did, we used a bungee cord to latch it to the stroller and we pushed it like that, while I wore Abby in my Beco.  This was the most convenient way for us to move through security, because they allow me to walk through without removing Abby, and they also didn’t require us to take our stroller/car seat contraption apart.

Our first flight was short and sweet, and we arrived in Detroit only a few minutes before boarding began for our flight to Amsterdam.   The seat arrangement was 2-4-2, and originally we were assigned 3 seats in the middle section.  There are rules about where a car seat can be on the plane, and I didn’t love the idea of how we would have to set up if we were in the middle section.  We switched so that we had the aisle seat of the middle section and then the aisle and window seats directly across from that.  We put Abby’s car seat next to the window and took turns sitting beside her, which actually worked out really well (during my time in the other seat I got to watch an entire movie!).   Abby did pretty well, but because her car seat is so big, we couldn’t position it rear-facing with a nice recline, and I think that contributed to her lack of sleep on that flight.

We arrived in Amsterdam about 7 hours later, landing at 5:30am local time (about 11:30pm EST).  Abby and I waited with all of our things while JR picked up our gate-checked stroller.  Or so we thought.  Apparently, our stroller didn’t make the flight.  This is the second time that has happened to us!  What is the point of gate-checking an item?  I was too tired to fully express my rage.  I calmly asked the attendant where we should go to file a claim, as I was certain our item wasn’t really missing, as much as it was just sitting in Detroit.  She was insistent that we could not file a claim in Amsterdam, we would absolutely have to take care of it with Delta/KLM in Tbilisi.  When I explained that there is no Delta/KLM at the Tbilisi airport, she was like, oh well, bummer for you, try there anyway!

Okay, so no stroller, nothing can be done at the moment, moving on.   I’m not sure we could have physically moved through the airport without assistance.  I asked her if she could call one of the golf carts over.  She said, oh sorry those cannot transport baggage.  She also said Abby and I couldn’t ride on them anyway because they can’t transport babies.  So basically those golf carts that always look like an ideal way to move through an airport are completely useless, in my humble opinion.

She brought us over the wee tiniest luggage cart we’d ever seen.  Sigh.  We loaded up and tried to locate their Baby Lounge in the airport, which I’d read about online.  It was pretty glorious.  It’s a separate large room with a long counter and sinks for changing babies, and then 8 sleeping pods.  Here are some photos:

IMG_0635 IMG_0636

Amazingly, Abby went right to sleep in one of these cribs and slept for over 3 hours!  This was quite a feat considering that you could hear EVERY sound in this room, including one dad who was coughing like he had the Black Plague.   One minor complaint – the seating for adults leaves a bit to be desired.   You can see where a person could sit beside the crib, but I wanted to sleep, not sit.  JR and I contorted ourselves into some crazy different positions using our carry on bag and the floor to try to get a few hours of sleep.  I also seriously contemplated crawling in the crib.

Finally, it was time to leave Amsterdam and board our final flight to Tbilisi.  The flight took about 5 hours, and we were all exhausted.  Abby’s car seat did not fit in the seat rear-facing, so we flipped her around and she slept almost the entire time, which allowed us to sleep as well.  We landed in Tbilisi around 5:30pm local time (9:30am EST).  All of our luggage was there – hooray!

Of course, when we spoke to their lost and found to fill out a claim for our stroller, the employee was shocked that we didn’t handle it in Amsterdam.   He insisted the claim form should have been filed with KLM there.  I was displeased.

angry little girl

Thankfully, the Embassy driver was able to help us file our claim, and he and JR’s work sponsor took us to our TDY house where we feasted on homemade chicken noodle soup, salad and bread (thanks to our fantastic social sponsor Laura!) and promptly passed out.

We did not have internet or a phone at first, so I was unsure where to start hunting down our stroller.  Sunday morning, I sent my Mom a FB message (using JR’s work phone) with all of the information and asked her to look into it.  Amazingly, the stroller was found in Detroit and delivered to our door Monday afternoon.  Two takeaways from this trip – gate checking is not a guarantee that your item will arrive at your destination, and my mom can get things done for me even from thousands of miles away.  Thanks Mom!

Remember Shelby?

Of course you do!  I wanted to share a little update from M & L, Shelby’s amazing adoptive family:

“She’s definitely a daddy’s girl.

shelby 1

She’s learned lots of new things including “lay down” and “stay”.  She runs right to her crate when we say “Shelby bed.”

We’re still having some challenges with the other dogs getting used to having her in the pack (note, Shelby now has FOUR brothers and sisters), but it gets a little better as time goes by. She loves to play in the backyard, and Lobo is her best friend- whether he likes it or not!!

She likes to play with her little rubber tire and snuggles for head pats.

Her paw healed well. She is missing a nail and one of her paw pads didn’t heal quite right, but you’d never know given how she runs and jumps and plays. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all.

The vet didn’t have insight as to her breed – we may do a doggy DNA test at some point to find out.”

shelby 3 shelby 2

Makes my heart happy to see and hear about Shelby doing so well.  Thanks again to everyone who helped make it happen!

We have tickets – kind of

When I started this post it was titled “Holy cats, we have plane tickets!”.  But it was silly of me to think things could be so simple!

We’re faced with two issues regarding our travel home.  First, JR is currently planning to attend a  one-week training in DC, so we were all flying together to DC, and then just Abby and I would continue on to Ohio.   But now there’s a strong chance that this training will be canceled, so we would need to change his ticket.  And it was only because of this particular training that we all wanted to fly through DC, so if the training is off the table, we can take a different route home.

The different route is important because it feeds into problem #2.  The cat.  Right now we’re supposed to fly on Austrian Airlines to Vienna and then DC, and then a United flight to Columbus.  Austrian had no trouble making arrangements for Annabelle to fly as checked baggage on both flights and the cost is $200.  Okay, great.  But, they noted that I needed to call United directly to book Annabelle on the DC to Columbus leg.  I called and that’s where things went downhill.  United informed me that Annabelle would have to be flown as cargo.  In order to do that, we have to take her to their cargo center at Dulles (located at the airport, but not within the terminal) and check her in 2 hours prior to our flight.  We’re scheduled to land in DC at 2:05, and our flight to Columbus leaves at 5:20.

Hmm.

I’m quite concerned that we will not have time to retrieve Annabelle and our other bags, clear customs, deliver her to the cargo office in time, and check our bags all over again for the final flight.   Oh and United is charging $300 for the cat for this short flight! NOTE: It costs more to ship our cat on one domestic flight with United than it does for a transatlantic flight with Austrian.  Urgh.

We’ve thrown out some different options – such as renting a u-haul minivan and driving ourselves home from DC.  This would actually get us home faster, and would probably cost about the same.  The problem is that JR has never recovered from driving Annabelle from Columbus to DC in 2012.  He loves her but swears he will not drive in the car with her again.  Apparently she yowled like she was being tortured the entire time and it was miserable, so when I suggested this option, he responded with:

 

hard pass

Regardless, we aren’t making any changes until we know what’s happening with JR’s training, so it’s wait and see at this point.  But we still have dates and we’re down to about 6 weeks, which is crazy.  On Friday, the movers came to do a pre-packout survey.  Basically they go room to room and we talk about which items are going to storage, which items are going to Tbilisi, our UAB (air shipment), and all sorts of other details.   They looked a little concerned when they saw the size of our couch.   Our pack out date is just a few weeks away now and full-blown panic is starting to set in – we have so much left to do!

Shelby the Yorkie: The Final Chapter

I’m writing what I hope is the final update, at least from me, in the ongoing Shelby saga.  Really, it’s like a TV miniseries at this point, with so many twists and turns and emotions!  But I’m certain of one thing, the world is full of really nice people.

A quick recap from the beginning:  As I was walking to work on September 28, I heard some whimpering behind me.  It was a tiny black puppy with a bandaged front paw, hobbling along to follow me down the street.  That first week, JR and I took her to the vet almost daily to have her paw treated and we worried they would need to amputate it, but with treatment it started to heal  quickly.  We kept her with us for a few nights, but it was not a good situation with our apartment and the baby.  Luckily, Adam the Saint offered to foster her while we searched for a permanent home.

From the start, I would experience these really great, happy feelings that we were going to get her to her new home rather easily, and then that would all come crashing down when every attempt failed.   It’s honestly hard to write down every single thing that I tried, how many people I approached, airlines and pet shippers I called, and research I did online to find a way to get this puppy adopted in Kosovo or in the U.S.

I was embarrassed to post a link to a fundraiser on my Facebook page.  That just doesn’t seem like something I would ever do, and for a dog of all things.  It’s not that I’m anti-dogs, I’m just not a bleeding heart dog lover.  Sure, I cry at the Sarah McLachlan commercials like everyone else, but this isn’t really my thing.  But I got really wrapped up in making sure Shelby was well cared for, and I desperately wanted a happy ending to her story.  More than once, when it looked like all hope was lost and I was truly exhausted of trying to figure it out, I messaged the only dog shelter I know of in Kosovo to ask them about taking her.  The pictures of the shelter broke my heart.  I know the people running it are doing the very best they can with extremely limited resources and a tragically high number of animals in need.  But I didn’t know if I could actually drop her off there.  And if I couldn’t, what else could I do?

I can be very dramatic when I talk about things, and I’m always emotional, but this has been one of the most stressful and difficult things I’ve ever tried to do.  When I said that to JR, he said what about taking the bar exam?  Yeah, that was a tough two months of studying like crazy every day and 3 days of testing, but studying and test-taking are things I do well.  This has been completely different.  There were several times that it caused tension between us, particularly when I obligated us to pay $1,500 in transportation costs, not knowing if we would recoup any of that from donations.  He didn’t agree with what I was doing, but he knew that I was trying to find a way to do the right thing.

The last two weeks were perhaps the most stressful as I was finally ready to give up when a plan to fly a friend to Frankfurt with Shelby, and then transfer Shelby to a pet shipper for her flight to the US, fell through.  One of Shelby’s biggest fans in Kosovo, Helen, helped me with a new plan to fly someone from the US to pick her up and take her back as excess baggage.   JR and I had to leave Kosovo rather quickly due to a family emergency.  The morning we left for the airport, Helen notified me that the ticket had been purchased.  I let out a huge sigh of relief – it was really going to happen!

JR and I traveled all day with the baby in tow  – 3 flights, 7 bags, and over 22 hours – and when we landed in DC, I received a terrible email from Shelby’s foster home.  She had run away and hadn’t been seen since the previous night.  I felt like the universe was playing a giant joke on me at this point.  I even texted a friend to ask if the entire Shelby saga was some kind of bad karma for something I’d done in the past.  I just couldn’t understand why this kept happening!

We waited a few days in hopes that Shelby would return, wanting to avoid canceling the plane ticket in hopes she would be found.  Amazingly, last Wednesday she just reappeared in Adam’s yard.  We hurried to secure her a ticket on our friend’s flight.  It was the final piece and I was determined to make sure it worked.

I called Turkish Airlines to make the request, and when they asked for her breed, I said mixed street dog.  They said that was not specific enough, so I said she was a mixed terrier.  I know basically nothing about dog breeds, but that seemed like a reasonable guess.  I had to wait 24 hours to see if my request was approved, so we were on a very tight time frame.  When I called back the next day, my heart sank as the agent informed me that my request was denied because “mixed terrier” was not specific enough, I had to know her precise breed.  In a panic I said “she’s a Yorkshire terrier.”

Now for reference, here’s another picture of Shelby.

shelby 2

And here’s a picture of a yorkie.

yorkshire-terrier

So, a bit off the mark…oops.  I called back the following day and the agent told me that my request had been granted and Shelby had a confirmed ticket to fly to DC on  Monday, November 17.  I couldn’t hold back my tears.  On the day of her scheduled flight,  I was incredibly anxious just waiting for something else to go wrong.  I can’t describe the relief I felt when my friend M messaged me to say that Shelby had arrived, and she was now safe and sound and making herself at home with M and her other pets.

I want to thank so many people who helped make this possible (I feel like I’m accepting an Oscar. Ha.)  Adam the Saint, for fostering Shelby and stepping up when I was completely panicked about what to do.  Amy for providing me with dog-related items and offering support.  Helen and Andi for hosting Shelby for play dates, falling in love with her, and then going above and beyond to help get her home.  Stacey and Lori who had to listen to me at lunch – almost every single day for more than a month – talk about this dog and the latest troubles I faced in getting her to the U.S.  Elizabeth and my mom, who also heard about it daily and often times longer than a lunch hour.  My poor husband, who had to endure all of my dramatics and frustrations and even when he didn’t want to anymore, he still had my back.  The number of people on my FB feed, many of whom I haven’t talked to in years, who shared Shelby’s fundraising page, sent me a nice message, or donated, wow.  M and her husband for sticking with Shelby through all the back and forth, and offering her a wonderful home.  Our amazing group of internet friends who started this whole thing!  I can’t thank you all enough.

This has been such a strange experience, but I’m so grateful that it had a happy ending for one Kosovo street dog.  Here’s a picture of Shelby snuggled up with her new owner!

shelby

Fundraising for Shelby

Yesterday I posted this on my Facebook page:

I am trying to raise money to send Shelby, the rescued puppy, to the US to a friend who is willing to adopt her and provide her with a great home. It’s crazy expensive, and this plan is basically insane, but I have tried everything to find her a home here. There is only one shelter and the conditions are terrible, and they won’t take her even if I could leave her there. I’m out of options except to ask for help. Please consider donating if you are able.

http://www.youcaring.com/pet-expenses/help-shelby-get-to-her-fur-ever-home-/255944

I was quickly blown away by how many people shared the link, donated, or sent me words of encouragement.  I woke up this morning to learn that over $1,100 has already been donated!  Incredible. We’re only $500 away from our goal.  If you are interested in helping, please consider donating or sharing the link above.  Thank you!

shelby

 

 

The Shelby Trials

Well, the puppy is still here.  Fortunately, she’s currently in the care of our friend, Saint Adam, but I had reallllly hoped she’d be in the US by now.  I spent a significant amount of time making sure all of her paperwork was in order prior to her flight (which included more phone calls with Turkish Airlines than I care to count), that she had all the necessary shots, and taking her to multiple vet visits for her paw.   An amazing group of friends came together to donate money to cover the cost of her plane ticket, and a very kind soul (N) was willing to take Shelby on her flight back to DC.

It all seemed perfect!

Until we arrived at the airport that morning and learned that Shelby’s first flight to Istanbul was delayed by two hours, which would cause her traveling companion to miss her connection to DC.  At that point, we didn’t know if N would be spending the night in Istanbul or trying to change her travel plans to get home.  She was already doing us a huge favor by agreeing to fly with Shelby, but we could not ask her to deal with all of the unknowns of an overnight flight delay with the puppy.

I was SO disappointed, standing in the airport with Shelby whimpering in her cage, when I had to put her back in the car and return her to Adam’s house.  She was thrilled to be back “home” and with her playmate Rudder.   So now we are back to asking our friends and colleagues if anyone is traveling to DC in the next few weeks, and willing to be an escort for this sweet pup.  The back up plan is for JR and I to fly with her when we return for our R&R at the end of November.   Our DC friends who want to adopt her are willing to wait for her (they are really good people!) so that’s what we do now.  We wait.

Whyyyyy did I think this was a good idea?