As many of you know, our dog Pi lived with my sister Karen and her family last year. He went on hikes, played in the snow, and generally received love 24/7 from them. Our gratitude for all they did knows no bounds.
However, when we began discussing the possibility of staying in Spain for another year, the dog quickly entered the conversation. The conclusion was clear. If we were going to continue living abroad, Pi had to be a part of our journey. Thus began the process of bringing Pi to Spain.
For those of you who have moved a dog to another country, you know the process and the paperwork is extensive. However, Spain doesn’t have a quarantine period, and this would make his entry into the country a bit easier. Transport was another story altogether.
We worked with a pet relocation company and they were fantastic. At 212 lbs, we were informed that Pi was the largest dog they had ever transported. Add to this the fact that he is now completely blind, and you have quite a few unknowns. Many airlines won’t transport a dog that large, and his crate even needed to be custom made so that he could stand up and turn around–to say nothing of what it would take to lift it!!! Moreover, they were not able to get Pi a flight until one month after school began.
So Karen decided to stay in the US and manage the transport while I went ahead with the boys. Mind you, she chose not to tell us about the fact that he cut his mouth on the water bowl (that he chewed) and his nose on the wire bars while crate training in preparation for the main event. All of these things would likely have been traumatic to hear for the three of us, and Karen weathered every storm. She never wavered, helping Pi persevere through all the pre-flight homework. Being divided as a family (on two continents no less) was certainly less than ideal, but if this adventure has taught us anything, it is that we are pretty adventurous, can deal with the unforeseen, and have an ability to be unconventional. Perhaps we always knew this about ourselves deep down, but living abroad has only reinforced this idea that our family is willing to make different choices.
After multiple trips to the vet and a battery of tests, Pi was cleared to fly to Spain. Everyone on the relocation team was in place, and all systems were go. He flew from LA to Newark on September 18th and Newark to Madrid on September 19th. All along the way, we received updates regarding his location, hydration, and evening accommodations. Really impressive and the people really do care deeply about the animals they transport. It is so clear and we owe them a debt of gratitude.
Once Pi arrived in Madrid, he had to go through an extensive customs process which took the better part of the day. By the time it concluded, it was too late to drive to Sotogrande, so the Vet who received Pi in Madrid took him to her home in the country for the night. Incredible!
It has been a long time since I had felt as scared and nervous about anything as I did about flying Pi across the world. And I can hardly express my emotions and sense of relief upon seeing him in Madrid. Karen and the boys felt a similar sense of relief, and it almost seemed more unbelievable that Pi was in Spain than the fact that we were.
From the first moment Pi arrived, Spain felt different. Make no mistake, Pi is a big responsibility. He is old and blind and more sedentary than he was in his youth. But he is our dog, and he was a missing piece last year in Granada. It was strange not to hear him snoring at night like a foghorn, and we thought of him often even though we knew he was in the most loving hands. Having him here in Spain has been great, and we are all adjusting to the new normal. Pi is becoming a pro in the elevator in our building, and the boys are now big enough and strong enough to take him out. He is a lot of work, but he is worth it.
It did take Pi a few days to get settled and recover from all his travels, but he is back to his old self. He has adapted quickly, found his favorite spots in the apartment, and looks forward to his daily belly rubs and walks to the beach. Jackson talks to him exclusively in Spanish and he just tilts his head as if to say, “Are you kidding me.” But he is really doing great, and we are so glad he is here and so glad he is still with us at nearly 9 years old. He is a special kind of beast.
Karen likes to say that Pi legitimizes us as a family, and in some ways that’s true. And we are not the same without him. Last week, one of Jackson’s classmates saw Jackson standing with Pi on our outdoor patio and exclaimed in disbelief at Pi’s gargantuan stature “Jackson! No F…ing way!!!!” I am not sure I could have said it any better. 🙂