Bringing Rusty Home to Singapore – The Preparation

I wrote about preparing and bringing Rusty to the US almost 4 years ago. We have just come full circle, having just experienced the process of bringing him home to Singapore a few weeks back.

While it was seemingly more complicated this round,  the experience felt a little bit more manageable. Perhaps it’s because we have gone through it before and can sort of anticipate the things to come. Nevertheless, clearing each stage was always a relief and felt like a great weight off the shoulders.

Not surprisingly, the most paperwork we had to do was for the Singapore side, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). Singapore has been rabies free since 1953! I am certain that we want to keep it that way! For the American side, the United States Department of Agriculture – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) basically required us to adhere to whatever the destination country needed. There was no additional work for that end. Here, I shall mention that the USDA-APHIS website seems to have changed and is now more informative and easier to navigate compared to 4 years ago. I really appreciated that the site had a dropdown box of all the countries that one could possibly export your pet to, that then led you to the official documents and circulars of that country for pet owners to download. While it was not difficult for me to get information from AVA myself, I appreciated the fact that the USDA-APHIS were helpful enough to link me to the required information. Good to know too that they had the very latest information as well! (I counterchecked the circulars!)

IMG_9241Kudos also go to AVA for improving how information was communicated. I really liked this step by step chart, which gave me a high level view of all the tasks I needed to complete over the months and weeks leading up to Rusty’s journey home.

6, 5, 4 Months To Go

AVA has different importing rules for pets coming in from different countries, hence it is important for pet owners to check which of the 4 categories your pet belongs too. Animals coming in from the US (except Guam & Hawaii) come under Category C which typically has pets being quarantined for 30 days (Category C2). However, with additional vaccinations and blood work done, that can be reduced to just 10 days (Category C1). It was a no-brainer for us to gun for the 10 day quarantine period. However, it did mean more precision planning on our part to make sure that we hit the key milestones and requirements. Hence our planning started 6 months ago in December 2016 where Rusty went for his first rabies shot. A month later (January 2017), he went for a blood test to test his rabies antibody levels and then a month after (February 2017), he took his second rabies shot when he passed his antibody test.

3 Months To Go

We booked a quarantine space for Rusty at the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station (SAQS) right at about the time we booked our plane tickets home. I remember H & J (Otto’s pawrents) telling me many years ago that the SAQS could run out of space, so it was important to book a space for Rusty once we knew our flight itinerary. Each pet has their own room though pets from the same family can share the same room. The SAQS offered air-conditioned and fan-only rooms for us to choose from, with the air-conditioned rooms costing about $10 more each day. We ended up choosing the air-conditioned room because we thought Rusty might not be able to adjust to the tropical heat of Singapore so quickly. Thank goodness we did because it turned out to be a great idea not just for him but for us too! Pawrents are allowed to visit their pets during quarantine. Since pets cannot interact with each other at SAQS, we spent almost all of the time sitting in the tiny room that Rusty was in during our visits. Imagine if there was no air-conditioning, we would have melted!

1 Month To Go

This was the time where we had to get a Singapore pet license for Rusty as well as an import license to formally register his arrival to Singapore as a Singapore pet! Note that the import license is only valid for 30 days upon application. So no point doing it too early. We just needed to make sure also that our arrival date to Singapore was within the validity period. The import license is one of many key documents to pass to the authorities.

We also informed AVA’s border control that we were arriving so that someone was around to inspect Rusty when we landed. Important thing to note here is that the border control only opens till 10.30pm each day and is closed on Sundays and Public Holidays! This affected how we planned and booked our travel itinerary, kiasu us took into account  plane delays, possible strikes (we traveled near Labor Day, May 1st) etc to make sure we arrived on an appropriate day and time.

7 Days To Go

Rusty Vet Check
As part of the requirement, we brought Rusty to the vet a week before we flew. The vet verified his microchip number, checked his overall health and administered oral and topical medications to prevent ticks and other parasites.

Our vets from Bramer Animal Hospital were super professional, efficient and helpful! They must have done so many pet exports before that they knew exactly how to help and advice us. The very detailed health form/certificate that we had to provide to AVA was also impeccably filled and printed out when we arrived for our appointment. We just had to check that all was in order, get it signed by the vet and we were ready to go in a few short moments. It was also thanks to Bramer Animal Hospital that we found out that we didn’t have to drive to Wisconsin (I thought that was the nearest one) to get our forms authenticated by USDA-APHIS! There was an office in Des Plaines, Illinois, only a 30min drive away! The authentication was a requirement by AVA. There was no need to bring along the dog for this step.

Love to AVA

By now, you must think I have a super human brain for being able to remember all these deadlines and intricate processes to bring Rusty home. While the husband and I did go through a whiteboard process to visualize everything :D, we did have a lot of help from the AVA site. AVA provided a very very handy pet calculator that helps pets owners track every step and requirement according to timelines, as long as you know the date that your pet will land in Singapore. How cool is that?! The only bad thing I have to say is that I had to go to several different sites to apply for different licenses, book quarantine space and appointments. If there was an integrated system where everything could be seen at a glance, it would be perfect.

We spent probably $1,000, including airfare, different fees, vet visits, blood tests, vaccinations, quarantine costs to bring Rusty back to Singapore. But having him home safe and sound with us is priceless!

Planning to write more about the plane journey as well as the quarantine experience! Stay tuned if interested. 😀

 

 

Memories of 2016?

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Guess this blog has truly been gathering cobwebs 😀 It is at this moment at the start of 2017 that I wished I wrote a bit more for 2016 so that I could remember the little moments that have happened. My memory is like Swiss Cheese sometimes. Luckily, I do take copious amount of photos, so that certainly helps to recall the memories of 2016.

Jan – Feb: Winter was superbly kind to us this year and was no where near the polar vortex double digit negative C temps we experienced when we first moved here. I think I can count on one hand how many times it snowed. And no slipping or falling this year! So that was awesome.

I remember feeling rather lonely this time of year. The husband was traveling every week for work and I was on an internship as well on top of 3 classes. It was hard to juggle both work, school and home on my own. I remember having to walk Rusty in the wee hours of the morning and then rushing right home after work to walk him again. Rusty never saw daylight much during that period because it would be still dark when we did our morning walks and already dark when I reached home at around 6pm each day. The husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary over FaceTime #consultantlife, both of us eating our respective dinners as we chatted. He was away during my birthday as well, but thankfully I was showered with lots of love by eveeleva and family. ❤

March: March was a month of friendships. We had 2 sets of visitors from Singapore and had such a good time bringing them around Chicago and Evanston. I did have to take the Chicago River Cruise twice, go to the Bean twice, eat frozen custard twice, eat deep dish twice, eat fried chicken twice (the one opposite our house is the yummiest!) within the span of 1 week.

After finishing up my final thesis, I also went on a trip to LA to meet up with K, M and A for a short weekend vacay to celebrate. It was really a treasured trip since 3 of us flew in from different cities (Chicago, Seattle & Houston) just to spend time together. We went to Disneyland for free (K works there!), drove along the coast to Santa Monica and Malibu, went to see the Hollywood sign at the Griffith Observatory and ate hipster vegan food. 😀

April: Celebrated the husband’s birthday this month. We ate lots of pancakes on the actual day. The husband was traveling a lot less by this time (yay!) and started working a lot from home. We  hung out quite a bit at the library together, he with his work-work, me with my school-work. We also went to the Lincoln Park Zoo for the first time and the weather was nice enough to picnic with Rusty by the lake. Fun times!

May: Spring was in full bloom here in Chicago/Evanston. We went to the Botanic Gardens multiple times to see all the flowers that were popping up. Love the poppies and explosion of apple blossoms (like cherry blossoms). Also hosted another group of friends from Singapore who came in from California and a Mee Pok party for our Singapore friends living here.

June: Finally graduated! Though the feeling was a lot more bittersweet. Couldn’t believe how 2 years just flew by like that. While we celebrated the accomplishment, it also felt sad knowing that I may never see some of my friends again.

The parents and brother were here to attend graduation and vacation in the US. We did a short road trip to Michigan. And I did the cruise, bean, frozen custard, deep dish and fried chicken circuit again. lol. It was great to connect as a family. I think the last time we were all together traveling in a foreign country was almost 10 years ago. The apartment felt a bit crowded at times but it was also an unforgettable and precious experience.

July: The husband had to go home to Singapore to settle visa issues for the first 2 weeks of July. We missed watching the 4th of July fireworks together this year. 😦 The house wasn’t empty though as we hosted our Singapore friends with their 3 kids during their transition period of moving to New Haven.

The 2nd half was July was a lot more fun. The husband had to travel to Orange County for a work meeting and we planned an impromptu vacation around that. It was crazy going to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree at the height of Summer (40+C weather every day!!) but it was loads of fun. I loved how the desert landscape was so different from what I have ever seen. Most memorable trip for me for sure. And all that yummy Asian food in California, wow.

August – September: Took advantage of the great weather and went out a lot! Ate the rainbow cone at Navy Pier, went for sunset walks by the lake, scored last minute reservations at a hot new restaurant, went to watch a performance at Second City, hiked at the Morton Arboretum, went to a Renaissance Faire (so weird), outdoor movie at Ravinia Park and watched our first and last night time Northwestern Football game.

October: The colors of the trees were changing beautifully by now and I snapped so many fall color photos. We were transfixed by election news and watched CNN every night plus all the Presidential debates. Our obsession was a bit cray-cray.

When we weren’t glued to the TV, we went out quite a bit too. We went to an outdoor Fall festival with our friends and had super yummy food cooked by some of the best restaurants in Chicago. Attended the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House event for the first time and toured several historical properties in Evanston. The husband ran the Chicago marathon and came in with his 2nd worst timing because he didn’t have time to train #consultantlife. We had kind friends who let us and Rusty bunk over in their home the night before the marathon. They stayed much nearer to downtown and it was a super kind gesture. Was also super fun to hang out with them.

Highlight of October has got to be the impromptu trip to Door County with eveeleva and family. First time driving in the dark but it felt safe with another family with us. Having a hot McDonald’s filet o fish supper on the way up during the 5 hour drive was one of the highlights. 😀 We went trigger happy exploring the parks and crazy gorgeous colors in Door County. My newly acquired iPhone 7 Plus was the best investment ever because it turned out so many beautiful family photos. And who can forget the scrumptious Swedish pancakes we had on the last day. The husband would like to forget the lunch we had at the Goat Creamery on the first day. 😀 lol

November: Month of crazy devastating news because of the election results. We felt so lost and depressed, and everyone around us was so sombre. Basically sealed our decision to head home to Singapore sooner than later.

December: Swung by Boston for a week long trip for the husband to attend a workshop and for us to visit good friends. Ate too much good food, especially seafood. First snow in Evanston when we landed, which didn’t stop for a day and a half. Freezing cold for about a week just before Christmas. Took it easy during Christmas and New Year’s, no big parties or anything, just quiet and cosy.

….and 2017 is here.

Alaska! & Seattle Day 5-9

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Another bright and early day where we hopped off the ship for another shore excursion. Day 5, we’re in Skagway and had planned to hop on the White Pass Railway for a 2 hour ride.

Actually, we only thought we were early because many others had already scored prime seats on the train by the time we got on. Don’t think kiasu-ism is a Singapore-only disease ok?

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Skagway was considered the gateway for the Klondike gold rush in the late 1890s. The railway was built specifically to transport prospectors to the gold fields 500 miles away. Prospectors then had to travel by foot and carry a ton (literally!!) of supplies to be able to get to the gold fields up near Canada. Unfortunately, the gold dried out shortly after the railway was built! Now, it exists only as a tourist attraction. And more appallingly so, only a Summer attraction mainly for cruise passengers like us! Ultimate touristy!

Thankfully, it was a really beautiful ride and we had great guides who pointed out scenic spots and points of historical interest to us. We also stepped out to the viewing deck from time to time to feel the breeze and get better views of the surroundings. A really relaxing and informative ride.

Random little nuggets I learnt from the ride… Most people made their riches during the gold rush not because of the gold itself but through the services that they provided to prospectors. Donald Trump’s grandfather made the family riches by opening a hotel and casinos for prospectors. The family name was also Drumpf and not Trump, he was a migrant from Germany!

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The surroundings in Skagway were beautiful but again nothing much to see in the city itself. Most buildings were also re-creations of old buildings and not really historical. We did have yummy King Crab (my current favorite now) and elephant ears, fried dough coated in cinnamon sugar!

We spent the rest of the cruise mostly out at sea back to Seattle. Days were spent chilling out at the pool, reading and snoozing. In other words, perfect. 😀 The ship did make a stop in Victoria, British Columbia but it was a short stop and I had a virtual class at that time. So I attended class online during the cruise itself, it was quite a cheap thrill really. But I ditched it halfway to get to a spa appointment. 😛 Don’t tell my professor!

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We decided to spend one night in Seattle since we both have never been there. It was a whirlwind trip but I think we covered most of the main things.

Seattle was especially exciting as there was a Din Tai Fung there! It was the first thing we went in search of after dumping our bags at the hotel. Hadn’t eaten it for the longest time and we definitely over ordered. The food there pretty much tasted the same as back home in Singapore although the sauce for the 红油抄手 was a tad sweet.

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Spent the rest of the day admiring the glass sculptures at the Chihuly Glass Museum. So so pretty. My favorite were the multicolored glass orbs in a boat. There were also several sculptures in a garden setting and I can so imagine the Gardens By the Bay commissioning Chihuly’s works one day for display.

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Of course we couldn’t leave Seattle without visiting Pike’s Place. Ate crumpets, bought multi-flavored Orzo (our current favorite pasta), drank homemade ginger ale and gawked at the crazy lines in front of the original Starbucks. Avoided the bubble gum wall (click if you dare) like the plague but still accidentally caught a glimpse of it. It’s as disgusting as you can imagine.

Alaska! Day 4

There wasn’t much research done before we went on this trip. We knew we wanted to cruise, we knew it was Alaska, we just followed the ship’s itinerary. I guess that’s the beauty of cruising? Just hop on and worry later. When Tracy Arm Fjord appeared on the itinerary, we really didn’t know what to expect. It was also suppose to happen between 6am – 10am. “What? 4 hours only for a port of call?! And so early!” were my first thoughts. Obviously  I was ignorant, because who docks in a Fjord!? We sail into it!

It turned out to be one of the most enchanting mornings of the trip. So you know those aerial photos of cruise ships sailing in a narrow passage between steep mountain sides and surrounded by icebergs? Yup, we did that for those 4 hours in the Tracy Arm Fjord. We’ve sailed through the Norwegian Fjords before but the Alaskan experience was so much more fun! Why? Because the cruise company hired an Alaskan expert to give a running commentary throughout those 4 hours!

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We woke up bright and early at 5+am and quickly turned on the TV to listen in on the live commentary by Brent Nixon, a naturalist who knows all things about Alaska and its flora and fauna. I would say that our whole trip was made more educational and fun mainly because of him. He gave live talks everyday, from things like Alaskan history to the 101s of whales, bears and bald eagles. The talks were extremely informative (useful when we tried to spot all these animals on our trip) and done in a very entertaining manner as well.

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Huddled in cosy blankets and eating breakfast on our balcony while we sailed into the Fjord was such a luxury. The crisp air, blue waters and the beautiful scenery added to my feelings of being so fortunate and blessed to be able to do this in my lifetime.

At the end of the Tracy Arm Fjord was the Sawyer glacier. The captain tried to steer us as close as he could. There were icebergs in the way and he joked that he didn’t want us to be stars of another movie you know? We lingered for a while to admire the glacier and the ship was even turned so passengers from both the port and starboard sides of the ships could have a good look. It was interesting to note that because Tracy Arm Fjord was so narrow and only has one way in and out, cruise ships take turns to sail into it, and sometimes they don’t get very far inside if there are too many icebergs floating around. Even the seemingly tiniest ones can cause big trouble. Remember we only see 10% of all icebergs above water!

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On the same day, we were dropped off in the Alaskan capital city of Juneau. One of two American state capitals that can only be accessed by air and water. Juneau was pretty much a non-event as it was again populated by yucky tourist traps. It wasn’t a very pretty town. It was also pouring rain when we arrived.

Thankfully, we got out of the city quick and took a short ride for a canoeing trip that we had pre-reserved. We thought maybe the rain would affect our excursion but nope, canoeing was one of few that would go on rain or shine!!! Many others who booked helicopter rides and white water rafting had theirs cancelled on them. We had planned to canoe to the Mendenhall glacier. The rain had actually made it really foggy that day, and canoeing up close to the glacier was really one of the only ways to see it. Even people at the visitors’ center would not have been able to see a thing.

We got suited up in ugly waders and raincoats for the trip to the glacier. People who know me well know that I am a total 姑娘 when it comes to outdoorsy stuff so this was an experience totally out of my comfort zone. After 45mins, we arrived near the glacier and stopped at a beach for a rest. I looked so unglam, my hair was plastered on my face because of the rain and my arm was sore from all the rowing. But know what? I had so much fun! And so did the husband, most likely because he has never seen his wife look like this before! Btw, we rowed another 45mins to get back!

Alaska! Days 1 – 3

Oh horrors, it’s already winter, albeit a very mild (only 3 days of snow so far) and warm one for Chicago standards. So before my memory fails, here’s what we did in Alaska!

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We’ve been cruise lovers since our honeymoon eons ago. So imagine our delight bumping into the ship that took us on our very first one, the Jewel of the Sea. Busied ourselves admiring it and snapping photos for cheap thrills. Seeing this ship really brought us back to wonderful memories of our 13 nights in Scandinavia and Russia. It was bar none the best trip we’ve ever been on and we always speak of it with great fondness.

I knew we had to do an Alaskan trip as we were already in the US and Summer 2015 was the perfect time for it. The husband had graduated and waiting to begin his full time job, I was having my long break between school terms, i.e. a perfect time where both of us had no worries on our minds and could fully concentrate on enjoying this long awaited vacation.

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It was our first time on a Celebrity ship, definitely swankier and newer than the Royal Caribbean ships that we have been on. We snagged a balcony room of course. *Pro-tip #1, if there is one cruise to splurge for a room with a balcony, the Alaskan one is THE one to do it. Spent many a day starring out at sea to spot humpback whales. Food quality was pretty good and we also spent many a day eating. 😀 *Pro-tip #2, skip the formal main dining hall food where you have to sit with strangers and have polite conversations, eat at the buffet because the food is mostly the same as the dining hall anyway! Besides, where else but at the buffet can you get Cantonese congee paired with whatever you want, like bacon! Have to say that Asian food was aplenty and yummy on this trip (no complaints there), probably thanks to the increase of rich Asian tourists from a certain country (insert complaints here).

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First stop – Ketchikan.

The port of calls we made in Alaska were nothing to shout about. In fact, pretty disappointing because most of them were tourist traps full of jewelry shops and kitschy souvenir shops. Btw, we saw this world map at a coffeeshop that tourists from different countries indicated where they were from and look at the exploding number of pins on Singapore! Of course I tried to squish just one more pin on it!

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Thankfully we had more interesting things to do than to explore the town because we went rainforest walking to look for wild bears and spawning salmon. Who knew parts of Alaska are considered temperate rainforests?! They get a lot of rain throughout the year.

We were lucky enough to spot some wild bears (thankfully from a distance), 2 adult bears and a cub. Learnt about their hibernation habits and how they eat this thing called skunk cabbage to help them poop after a long winter’s rest. Amusing! We also saw the bears hunting for salmon near a salmon hatchery (so smart if you ask me!). Apparently they only eat the female salmon because of all the delicious roe they have in their bellies – Ikura! Male salmon are most often promptly spat out.

The bald eagles we saw were so fascinating as well. They were not wild but live in a sanctuary that also houses other injured birds of prey. Our guide was however able to point out several eagles’ nests along the way to and from the sanctuary. Apparently each nest gets reused year after year by the same pair. They just lay a new layer of leaves, branches etc to make things clean and comfortable each year. Hence, some eagles’ nest can be several feet wide and humungous.

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The highlight of the day though was an All-You-Can-Eat Dungeness Crab feast. We had 90mins to eat all we could. The crabs were simply boiled and had accompanying melted butter for us to dip the flesh into. So so fresh! We were so crabby smelling after eating that the whole tour bus reeked of crab.