The Well Traveled Canine

After months of living in temporary quarters and under temporary circumstances, one more event brought us a little closer to normalcy: the arrival of our dog, Ruby.

Like many rabies-free countries, Singapore has strict rules for the import of pets, and the requirements change depending on the country of origin. I’ll spare you details, but it goes roughly like this: chip with international standard microchip, rabies shot, wait, another rabies shot, blood draw, titer test, quarantine kennel reservation, import license application, dog license application, final exam, exam review/endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, travel, arrival, quarantine control in-processing, quarantine.

Each step listed above has about five or six sub-steps that I spared you. There are all kinds of timelines and flow charts along the way, directing how long each step takes, and the minimum and maximum durations that each step remains valid. The rules are confounding enough that veterinary practices often have one vet who specializes in taking animals overseas.

When we took Ruby to Japan we did all of the paperwork ourselves, and the U.S. government travel office booked us a non-stop flight between DC and Japan specifically because of the dog. For our Japan departure, we checked Ruby in the same time as our luggage and she flew on the same flight as us since it was “only” a single, 14-hour flight.

For our Singapore departure the 27-hour transit made the DIY approach impossible. We decided to hire a pet shipping company called Pack Your Pets, depending on their expertise in arranging the testing, documentation, and flights and transfers along the way. Since Ruby is listed on the official orders for the family, her travel expenses are paid alongside the other moving expenses. Thank you, my fellow tax-paying Americans!

In the spring we estimated our departure for Singapore to occur sometime in June. At the time new human arrivals from the U.S. served 14 days of hotel quarantine, while animals from the U.S. only served ten days. Fun fact! For some countries like the U.K. incoming animals have no rabies quarantine at all, while humans with U.K. travel history were banned from entering Singapore during summer 2020. This led to a scenario where animals from the U.K. were allowed in, but their humans were not.

Since we did not know our exact arrival date, the uncertainty made it impossible to sync up departure and arrival for both the humans and the dog. So we decided to leave for Singapore first, leaving Ruby with a loving someone until she could join us.

And that’s when you call your big sister and ask a huge favor.

We asked sister Joanna and brother-in-law Richard if they would consider keeping Ruby until we could have her shipped to us in Singapore. We didn’t know exactly how long they would keep her, but we estimated that sometime in July or August we would have a house (Oh, how naive we were…..). They quickly agreed, because that’s what awesome family members do. Their dog Bella was not especially great with other dogs, so we discussed hiring a dog trainer to get Bella ready for her doggie cousin’s arrival. Also we pushed the I Believe button that the dogs would work it out between themselves, which they quickly did.

We already had plans to visit Joanna, Richard, and their kids in Ann Arbor, Michigan in early June to celebrate our niece’s high school graduation. So the Ruby transfer meant that instead of flying we drove from DC to Michigan, a drive of roughly ten hours. We enjoyed our weekend with family, bade Ruby a tearful farewell, and drove back to DC.

As loyal martayaki readers recall, our departure for Singapore kept getting delayed over and over. We finally departed for Singapore in mid-September and finished our hotel quarantine October 1. So Ruby enjoyed an extended vacation with Joanna, Richard, and doggie cousin Bella. Back in the planning days we expected Ruby to stay with them for a month, or maybe six weeks.

Instead, Ruby’s Michigan sojourn lasted four and a half months.

Joanna regularly texted photos of Ruby that we joking called Proof of Life photos. Joanna and Richard even took Ruby on two different road trips, one of those times leaving their own dog Bella at home with their daughter and taking Ruby solo. They kept raving about what a great dog Ruby is, and we joked that they would keep Ruby and send us their dog Bella instead. Ruby and Bella quickly became buddies and snuggled up for naps and assorted canine hijinks. Joanna reported that they quickly formed their own little doggy posse and ganged up on other dogs at the park. Great.

Though most of the summer’s covid travel updates were pretty bleak, one scrap of good news emerged. Singapore decided to waive the quarantine requirement at the government’s kennel, allowing the dog to quarantine in a private residence as long as no other animals were present. So while we didn’t have a house rented by late summer as we anticipated earlier in the year, we could have Ruby stay with us at our pet-friendly serviced apartment for her quarantine.

We are incredibly lucky that Ruby arrived in time to take advantage of the government kennel waiver. The home quarantine rule expires October 31, and as of November 1 incoming animals have to complete quarantine at the government facility, with no exception. And according to chatter in various Moving to Singapore Facebook groups, the first available reservations are in March 2022, five months out. And if it’s on Facebook, it must be true.

So we decided to start Ruby on her travels for arrival in Singapore on October 16.

Richard very kindly took the lead on the flurry of exams, paperwork, and preparations for Ruby’s final week, guided by Lindsay from Pack Your Pets. Finally on Wednesday (Michigan time), Ruby started her journey. A contracted driver picked up Ruby from Ann Arbor and drove her four hours to Chicago, where she spent the night. On Thursday Ruby flew from Chicago to Amsterdam and spent the night there at a kennel at the airport. Friday she flew from Amsterdam to Singapore, landing in Singapore late Saturday afternoon. We got automated email updates along the way from KLM Cargo informing us of our “shipment’s” progress.

A local pet importer met Ruby at the airport and completed the animal quarantine intake, then delivered Ruby to us at our serviced apartment that evening. We gathered for a joyful/tearful reunion, and the excitement was mutual among all mammals present. Ruby ran around in excited circles, and we laughed and cried and declared each of us to be her favorite human based on her warm greetings.

Then came the surprise.

The local shipper Shirley handed over a stack of paperwork, then casually confirmed that Ruby could not leave the apartment for ten days. But we can take her out briefly to relieve herself, right? I asked. No, came the reply. Apparently this detail was buried halfway through Annex A of the Acceptance of Home Quarantine of Dogs and Cats agreement that I (ahem) “read” and signed weeks earlier.

You may be wondering how I managed to think that quarantine did not equal, you know–Actual Quarantine. Especially after our two weeks of hotel jail where we didn’t leave the room. So let me explain! When we brought Ruby into Japan she had a six-month “quarantine,” which wasn’t really a quarantine. It was the waiting period after her rabies test results came back, and we could complete the pre-Japan “quarantine” at home in the U.S. with no restrictions on her movements, and no confinement of any kind. So I guess I assumed the Singapore quarantine for dogs would be the same. Only it isn’t.

So after a last minute run to the pet store for a pack of pee pads, we prepped the balcony and set about teaching our Old Dog some New Tricks.

So that’s it! See how easy it is to import a dog?!?

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