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!

And just like that

Our tour is over and we’re leaving Kosovo.   It’s been a wonderful two years.  We have made great friends, explored new places, and even expanded our family.  I really had no idea what to expect when we started this adventure, but this was a good tour for us and although there have been challenges, we will miss Kosovo and we are very thankful for our time here.

Some of my favorite pictures and memories from the last two years.

first weekDinner at Tiffany’s our first week in Pristina

albania 1Berat, Albania with Amy

 

rugovaRugova Gorge

singingKaraoke at Pacific Rim.  Don’t stop Believiiinnnnnnn’!!!

santorini 2

santorini 3santorini
Santorini, Greece

paris vaux

new years 2 new years
Paris, Vaux le Vicomte, and ringing in the New Year at the Sacre Coeur

first picWelcoming Abby to the world

lake ohridWine tasting at Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

shelbyI’m not sure I can call it a highlight, but I can’t skip over Shelby (and I have an update to share soon!)

croatia 1 croatia 2 croatia 3croatia 4
Our wonderful trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia with my parents

elephant Abby’s first Halloween

 

family 1 family 2 family 3 family 4
Spending precious time with our families and Abby’s first Christmas

romania pic
And one last picture of our awesome road trip last month

Lamtumirë, Kosovo!

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

Oh Shelby

Puppies are exhausting.  Maybe more exhausting than newborn babies.

I experienced a very broad range of emotions over the weekend while we had the puppy.  As I said, I was kind of riding this high of “you did such a good thing, you’re a good person!” into Friday evening, until I found out we couldn’t take the puppy to a shelter.  I started to feel nervous wondering what I had gotten us into and how it would all play out.   Initially my emails with Jill (the woman trying to rescue pups here) and her colleague Debra (she lives in the UK and is just interested in helping) gave me great hope that we could send the puppy on a plane to Canada in a month or two for adoption, and all I would need to do in the meantime is pay 25 euros a month to a foster family who would take care of her until then.  Totally simple, right?

Those positive, hopeful feelings went downhill quickly on Saturday when Jill and Debra were pushing me (understandably so) to find my own solution and explaining the puppy could actually be here for several months before getting adopted in Canada, if that ever happened at all.  They were still adamant that a shelter was not an option.  I suddenly felt very overwhelmed and mad at myself for taking this puppy off the streets. She was sweet, but she was peeing all over our apartment.  Even though we were taking her out every 2 hours, which is NOT easy to do when you have a husband who had to work all weekend and a baby in the other arm.  I have a tendency to go from “la la la life is a fairytale” to “this is the WORST thing ever and my life is in shambles” really quickly.

feelings

 

photo (5)

After we cleaned her messes, we put down paper towels so we wouldn’t step in on the wet carpet.  This is just a small sample of how it looked in our apartment.

Luckily JR was doing his best to be supportive and helping with the puppy whenever he could.  That included sleeping in the guest room with her by himself for 3 nights so we didn’t have to worry about her in our room, and taking her outside during the night.  He’s good people.

Jill and Debra told me that we should name the puppy. I suspect they were hoping I’d open my cold anti-puppy heart and decide to keep her, and they thought having us name her would be a good step in that direction.  JR suggested Shelby or Trudy from one of the best movies ever, Steel Magnolias.  Shelby won.

drink the juice

Drink the juice, Shelby.   I had high hopes to deliver Shelby to a foster family on Sunday evening.  But I realized she would need more vet visits, and the foster family lives about 15 minutes outside of town, making multiple trips there and back rather inconvenient.  We kept her overnight once more, and I made it my mission on Monday to convince someone to give her a temporary home.  At lunch that day I asked everyone who walked through the door if they wanted a puppy, and to my ASBOLUTE DELIGHT, a wonderful guy named Adam (who shall now be referred to as Adam the Saint) said he could give her a home for a few weeks.  First problem, solved.

Now we’re full steam ahead to dealing with the bigger problem, finding Shelby a permanent home.   The amazing thing is, I have a friend in the DC area who wants to adopt her.  And we have a friend of a friend here who will be flying back to the US in a few weeks who is willing to fly with her!  Hooray, this is all incredible news.   If only it were that easy though.  There are so many logistics involved in getting Shelby to the States.   We need to make sure all of her shots are up-to-date, that her paw is well enough for travel, that we have the right crate (airlines are VERY particular about this) and paperwork for the flight, and we have to pay for it all.   It’s pretty expensive and with 5 visits to the vet already, plus each follow-up trip, I can see the dollar signs adding up in JR’s head.  Plus Adam the Saint told us that Shelby chewed through his patio screen door, so we’ll need to replace that as well.

Thankfully, a truly great group of friends (including Shelby’s future owners!) have offered to pitch in to help with some of the costs.  If you have any interest in helping out as well, please leave a comment or send me a message!  We are hoping to purchase her airline ticket in the next few days and have her on a flight to DC by the middle of the month, if everything goes according to plan.

Hoping that my next post about Shelby will be to report that she’s gone global!  To be continued…

shelby 3shelby 2

 

It started with a whimper

Let me set the scene for you.  Kosovo has a terrible problem with stray cats and dogs.  They are everywhere.  It takes us less than 5 minutes to walk to work, and it’s pretty normal to see a few dogs running around, and a few cats fighting or hiding under cars.  Many of our colleagues have adopted a cat or dog (or several) during their time here.  Not us.  We live in a small second floor apartment, we do not have a yard, and we have a fat cat that wants nothing to do with any other living species, including us most of the time since the baby arrived.  Oh yeah, and we have that baby now.  In addition to the immediate concerns and logistics of taking on another pet, when you are in the FS you have to think about the long term issues (including major expenses) of moving your pets around the world with you.   We also travel frequently, and it’s hard enough leaving our cat and worrying about her care.

Surely I’ve convinced you that we are the last people in the whole wide world who should be taking a dog home.

Friday morning I was on my way to work when I heard a whimper to my left.   I looked over and saw a small, cute puppy hobbling towards me with a bandaged front paw.  She followed me another minute or two until I arrived at work.  I knelt down to pet her and she was shaking and quiet.  Another woman who was walking her dog had also stopped to see the puppy.  I called JR and asked him to meet me out in front of the Embassy because there was a hurt puppy and I didn’t know what to do.  He came out a few minutes later and gave me a look that was equal parts “oh that poor puppy, you have such a big heart to want to help” and “seriously you are nuts, why are you dragging me into this.”

photo (2)

I asked him if we could just keep her for a day or two, take her to the vet and get her checked out, and then drop her off at a shelter. Easy peasy, right?  He was less than thrilled but agreed.  Then came the discussion of what we would do with the puppy while we were at work all day.  Luckily, the other woman who had stopped agreed to keep the puppy at her house until 5pm.

So off we went to our respsective offices, me feeling like I had done a good deed and JR contemplating divorce.   At 5pm on the nose, we gathered up the puppy and took her to the vet just down the street.   Her poor paw was infected.   The vet suspects she was hit by a car, then someone took her to a vet to get her paw stitched and wrapped, and then put her back out on the street.  😦  We met a Canadian woman there who works to get stray dogs fostered or adopted back in Canada, and as often as possible, she flies them there as cargo.   When I told her that we planned to take the puppy to a shelter the next day, she was adamant that we could not do that.

Apparently the shelter situation in Kosovo that was at one time just bad is now in a really horrible state.  There was a reputable shelter  (even there, it’s not like a shelter in the US.  Dogs are often outside in a shared yard where many die from fighting and disease.) but the founder was frustrated by the lack of help from the local government, so he ordered that all of the rescued animals be put back on the street.  Over 600 cats and dogs!  One of his staff members was trying to keep them all, but then he had a heart attack.  So there was literally no one to provide food and water to the animals in their enclosures.  Jill, the woman we met at the vet, and some of her friends, along with the vet and his colleagues, were trying to rescue as many of those animals as they could.

I was extremely naive to assume that we could help the puppy get better and then drop her off someplace safe and call it a day.  In less an 10 hours, I had somehow acquired a puppy and it was my responsibility to find her a home or keep her.

And so began our weekend with the puppy.  To be continued…

puppy 3

 

Labor Day Weekend Fun

I wrote this post two weeks ago and didn’t get around to publishing it.  Since then, we’ve been dealing with the loss of a dear cousin and friend in JR’s family.   It was unexpected and a sad reminder to not take a single day for granted.   This year has given us the highest of highs with Abby’s birth, but it has also been more difficult than anything we’ve ever experienced before.   My mom never let me say the word “sucks” growing up because I had a little brother and sister around, but I have to tell you, sometimes I just want to yell “This sucks!!”

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Anytime we have a long weekend, we prefer to take advantage and head out of town for a few days.  Anticipating that, JR and I both requested vacation days for last Friday.  As the weekend drew closer, we realized that with all of JR’s recent – and upcoming – travel, a staycation might be best.  So we decided to stay close to home and explore around here a bit more, and spend quality time with Abigail.

Friday morning we drove to Mirusha falls.  If you’re a faithful reader (hi Mom!), you might recall that I had quite the experience on this hike about a year ago.  Our sweet little VW Passat was not cut out for the unpaved, rocky road that led to our destination.  I also had zero recollection of how to get there, so I wasn’t certain we were in the right spot.  We contemplated turning around but didn’t want to give up.  Finally we reached the parking area with our car and tires intact.

mirusha 1

Abby and I stayed put while JR hiked to the next level of the falls.  It was a beautiful day, not too hot so we enjoyed sitting outside and waiting for him to return.

mirusha 2

mirusha 3

That night we had dinner at one of our favorite places, Pinocchio.  It’s the best to us because the servers are super friendly and we always enjoy ourselves.  Plus they have a lovely view of the city.

Saturday morning we drove to Gracancica, a Serbian community with a beautiful monastery founded in 1321.  It was beautiful and peaceful.

monastery 2 monastery

 

Abby wasn’t all that interested.

abby mon

After lunch – chicken wrapped in bacon, ah the joys of finding a restaurant that serves pork! – we visited the Bear Sanctuary.  I went last year but JR had never been.  It’s on the small side and you can’t really spend a long time there, but they’re expanding it and it’s so great to see the bears in this environment, compared to the tiny cages they used to live in.

bears 1  bears 3

bears 4bears 2

Sunday was a lazy day and Monday we went downtown to walk around and have lunch.  We also happened to find this little sign that I wanted to buy months ago!  It’s perfect for Abby’s room and a neat souvenir from our time here!

photo

Finally, Abby has a lot of cute clothes and we keep waiting for nice occasions to have her wear them.  She’s growing so fast that we anticipate her growing out of many of these outfits before they’ve been worn, so we had a few photo shoots.

photo (5)photo (6)

 

photo (1)abby 1

Also because I feel like a negligent cat-parent, here’s Annabelle.  She’s still pretty ticked off that we left her and then came back with a baby.

annabelle

 

Trying to be a blogger

If you are reading this, then you probably know that I’m Jenni, and I just moved to Kosovo with my husband and our fat orange cat, Annabelle. I’ve kind of always wanted to have a blog, but I lacked a purpose. I’m not crafty or super domestic, and I don’t really excel at anything (unless celebrity gossip counts?). But now, I can do this and keep our families and friends up to date on our lives over here.

It’s also possible that some day this could be helpful for another couple or individual looking to move overseas, particularly someone who works for the US government. I read a lot of blogs and found them incredibly helpful as we prepared for this big change.

I really wanted to spring for the $100 premium blog package, but my husband was not impressed with my visions of becoming the next Bethenny Frankel or Jen Lancaster. So this is my cheapy free blog for now. Speaking of my husband, he would currently prefer to remain anonymous (which is kind of funny considering the ONLY people reading this know his full name and probably lots of other identifying information) and so I want to humor him. I need to come up with a nickname for him (Scrooge comes to mind – kidding). For now I guess I’ll go with JR.

So, I’m currently a housewife unemployed. Hopefully that means I’ll be able to update frequently. Um, I really have no idea how to end this. Good bye? Xoxo, Gossip Girl?