Expat’s Best Friend

When I said “yes” about 20 times to Hubs’ proposal, I knew I would be making a huge step and moving to another country for my husband. Making new friends, finding a new job, meeting new people, getting involved in new things, learning a new language, starting a life together, trying new foods, re-learning to drive, getting used to a new home and new surroundings, learning a new culture. What neither of us thought about is how it would effect Turner.

Turner was my dog and now (as much as he hates to admit it) is Hubs’ as well. As far as Turner’s concerned, he’s more Hubs’ dog than he is mine! It was an unspoken understanding when we decided that I would move to the Netherlands that Turner would come too. We agreed that I would need a friend – someone to spend time with and share my lonely, home-bound days with while I was just starting out here. I also knew how much he depended on me and was afraid how of he might react if I left him in the States. But it never occurred to either of us how the move would affect our Little Buddy.

While in the US, I was concerned with wedding plans, moving details, and all the administrative stuff I had to do to get my dog into the Netherlands. Actually, the process of bringing a pet into the Netherlands is surprisingly easy. The airline required that he have a certificate of health, a microchip, updated rabies shots, and a pet cargo carrier that complied with the airline’s policies. The Netherlands wanted roughly the same, though they obviously weren’t particularly concerned with what we used to get him here. Other than that, everyone was happy – no quarantine or anything, much to my (and I’m sure, Turner’s) relief.

As far as getting all the stuff, we really lucked out! We got the crate as a wedding gift from one of my bridesmaids, which actually went above and beyond airline’s requirements. Through the Humane Society in Frederick, MD, we got Turner’s microchip, microchip tags, and a T-shirt for $25! Our vet in the US was brilliant. Every time an animal needed to go to the vet for whatever reason, we hoofed it all the way to Charles Town, West Virginia to see Dr. Allera.* When I was living in Washington, DC, I still continued to take my cat, Samwise, there. For $75 we got the following: full check up, rabies booster, completed health certificate, 2 Front Line small dog gels, 2 Front Line large dog gels, 4 Front Line cats gels, and 4 sedative pills for Turner for the flight and New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Because my dad flies for Delta Airlines, my brother and I – now that we are no longer dependents (when we were, we flew everywhere for free) – fly very cheaply. However, we fly space-available. This means we’re usually in business class as that’s where most available seats are. It also means that if there aren’t any unsold or vacant seats, we have to wait for the next flight. In addition, my parents get 8 Friends and Family Passes per year. This allows those friends and family members my parents choose to give the passes to to fly for a little more than what it costs my brother and I (to give you an estimate, when I flew one-way to the Netherlands in December 2008, I paid roughly $120 and sat up in business class). Hubs became very familiar with this way of travel while we were dating! But he didn’t want to risk the possibility of not making it to the US in time for our wedding, so he booked a round-trip flight through United Airlines. Being equally afraid that I might get bumped on the way to the Netherlands and risk Turner flying out without me, Turner flew with Hubs. It was just a matter of calling United and letting them know that my husband would be traveling back to the Netherlands with an American dog.

The day we left for the Netherlands, I was dropped off at the airport first since I had to fly to New York in order to get the flight to Amsterdam. Not long after dropping me off, Hubs and my dad gave Turner 2 sedative pills. I’ve been told that Turner was more or less out before they got to Hubs’ airport. Once there, they put him in the crate and my dad pulled away. Hubs went to the counter and handed the agents Turner’s information. They made Hubs get Turner out of the crate so they could inspect both dog and crate. Then they proceeded to charge Hubs $250 more than they quoted me when I made the reservation for Turner! Afraid he and dog wouldn’t make it on the plane, he complied – although I heard aaaallll about it later!  (turns out , the agent I spoke to over the phone didn’t make note that the dog was only flying one way, so they charged Hubs for a round-trip ticket for Turner. That and apparently prices went up between when I booked the flight and the actual flight – or so we were told.)

Once at Schipol airport in Amsterdam, Hubs got his luggage, picked up Turner in his crate, and passed right through customs without being stopped  to where Hubs’ friend and I were waiting for him. We got Turner, who was more than a little disoriented, out of the crate. There was a bit of water and urine mess, forcing us to bury Turner’s blanket and one of his toys in the airport trash can. And Turner reeked of that musky skunk smell he gets when he’s frightened. But surprisingly enough, he was very compliant! He came right to us when we called him after he escaped from the crate and he went through things he’d never encountered before like it was nothing: moving sidewalks, escalators, elevators, revolving doors, he even got on his first train! I was to find out later (in very much the hard way and much to my embarrassment!) that he did all this so calmly because he was still too drugged up to know what was going on.

I wonder what was going through his mind. As far as he knew, he was sitting in his car and went to sleep. All the sudden, he wakes up to new people, new things, new places new smells, new sights, a different language. The home he had known for well over half of his life is gone and the people he was always surrounded by are gone too. Only Mommy and the man later to be known as Daddy. He’s brought to a new home with no yard, no Belle, no Uncle Timmy, and no Grand People. He’s always on his leash, which until we moved him here and he realized he had to get used to it, always made him nervous. And Utrecht is a city. Knoxville, Maryland most certainly isn’t. So many cars, bicycles (something he’d never seen before), lots of people, lots of dogs, busy streets, loud noises. Taking him out for a walk was a great adventure those first few weeks!

He’s come an awfully long way! He’s still afraid of the bicycles no matter how many times I take him out with mine. And he’s terrified of the huge city truck that comes once a week to empty the recycle bins across the street. Trash days still make him nervous. He clearly recognizes my parents. He hasn’t seen my brother since before we left the U.S,. but it’s obvious that he recognizes his voice when we Skype and it upsets him that he hears him but can’t figure out where he is. What I wouldn’t give to be in his head and know what he’s thinking. Or that he could speak and describe for me what it’s all been like.

He adores Hubs and lives for 6:30pm when Hubs comes home from work and the two of them play on the rug in front of the TV for 5-10 minutes. He’s developed a taste for fine cheeses (particularly paturain, portsalut, brie, feta, and goat) and Dutch pudding and yogurt desserts. And the fact that I have to take him out and walk him 3-4 times a day has really strengthened the bond between us. He helps me take care of the little boy I babysit on Mondays, and we practice cycling on the way there and back. He’s learned to shake with the commands “paw” and “poot” (Dutch for paw). Turner’s also become quite the gardener! He loves to sit out on the balcony with his nose in the daisies. But before he lays down to relax, he first must check inside every pot to make sure that everything’s growing to his satisfaction!

The attitude towards dogs is also much different here. The last time I was in the States, I saw a sign on the Metro bus that read “No drugs, smoking, weapons, pets, or other hazardous material.” I’ll take the Netherlands over that attitude any day! There are all kinds of “honden toilets” where dogs can relieve themselves and the owner’s needn’t worry about cleaning up behind their pets. One of these parks exists about 100 meters from our apartment. No matter what time of day or night, you can expact to see at least one other dog! In addition, there are areas where dogs can run freely without a leash. Turner’s favorite of these is the woods of Bosch en Duin. And there are few places where dogs are not allowed. Only during the heavy summer months are dogs forbidden on the beaches. A sticker with a dog inside a red circle marks those places where dogs are not allowed, but there aren’t many of them. So far, Turner’s been inside a department store, several small stores, and 2 cafes. At the cafes, restaurants, and pubs, they bring a water dish for your dog before they get your drink order!

As a result, Turner’s gotten worlds braver – if you knew him in the States, you’d hardly recognize him now! And he’s become quite famous! Well, in the IWCU anyway. He relishes in the parties we have and loves having people over (this is new… very new), and has been pictured in the IWCU bi-monthly newsletter The Contact twice and mentioned 3 times since January. I think, like me, he’s learned to love it here. And it’s obvious how much it means to him to have a family of his own!

This site contains affiliate links. When you buy something using those links, a portion of your purchase goes to helping update and maintain Clogs and Hotdogs. Thank you for your support!

One Reply to “Expat’s Best Friend”

Leave a Reply