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?


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.

Summer of 2015

What an awesome and full Summer it has been! But like all good things, they come to an end way too fast. I can definitely understand why Summer is such a huge deal over here. After all the cold, you really want to get out to feel the sunshine and embrace all the activities Summer has to offer.

This Summer has been a fulfilling one, it was not just play but a good balance of everything – fun, school, work, couple time, family and friends. Although perhaps I needed just a bit more “me” time and down time, paying for it now nursing a nasty flu bug.

The highlight at the start of the Summer has got to be the husband’s graduation. I love that he is well loved by his classmates and instructors. As expected, he received really good praise and a special mention for his final capstone paper. He’s really the super hardworking one and even continue to give himself homework to read and write AFTER his graduation.

It blows my mind to think how 2 years passed in a flash. If I didn’t also start school, we probably would have packed up and left for home already. As much as home is on my mine, this life we have here is really hard to beat and would be terribly missed.

We received our first visitors this Summer in the form of the inlaws, who flew all the way from Singapore to watch the husband graduate. They were obviously terribly proud and happy. It was also their first visit to the States so everything was exciting and new to them. They stayed with us for a whole month! (Yikes!) Looking back, I wondered how I survived. lol. As much as we loved having them around, I’m super grateful that I was never made to live together with them. Let’s just say that everyone has their little quirks in how they choose to live.

It was our hope that we can bring the inlaws to experience different sides of the US while they were here. We also wanted them to experience traveling with Rusty, whom they loved and pampered so much. So, a road trip to nearby Michigan was planned.

We booked a cute cottage in Union Pier, MI through AirBnb again and it didn’t disappoint. It was well decorated, well stocked and I especially loved the outdoor patio which was screened in, Rusty had a super fun time running about. The weather was great albeit with a few short showers. Come night time, it was magical with fireflies everywhere.

The trip also included a day trip to lovely Saugatuck, where we found the lost city of Singapore, Michigan! Thrilled to bits. We also took time to walk about the little streets, sip great coffee and do some cherry picking. Unfortunately, it was not convenient for me to walk into the shops and galleries as freely as I wanted to. Hope we can go back one day. Definitely a quaint little pretty town that was very worth the visit.

When the inlaws left, we also crossed off an item on my bucket list with a cruise to Alaska! Details of which would deserve a separate post. 🙂

By and large, Summer was pretty Chicago centric as well. I took up a part time internship this Summer and spend 2 days a week traveling to the Loop for work. It has been an interesting experience working in an American environment. It’s definitely less social and more work focused compared to back home. Everyone gets in early and goes off pretty much on the dot. And everyone eats at their desk during lunchtime so that they can power through the work. It has been a shock to the system considering how I’ve always worked in places where having friends at work is the norm and eating together and socializing after work is the norm. I’ve not been treated badly but the feeling is just a tad bit cold. The consolation is that I have a gorgeous view of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan from where I sit. 😀 And I do feel that I have contributed my experiences and talents in what I have been assigned to do.

Decided to take Summer class as well since this subject is only offered in the Summer quarter. Even though we had virtual classes most of the time, there was still readings and homework to catch up on every week. It was an amazing class on Cognitive Design and one of the best classes I’ve taken so far. It helped that we had great instructors and I had a really good project team that churned out a good piece of work which we think will be implemented in real life.

Outside of work, we manage to fill up our time with trips to various attractions and events around Chicago – the Ba’hai temple, Adler Planetarium, Taste of Chicago (so so so hot!), Shakespeare in the Park. We also found a great great spot this year on campus to catch the 4th of July fireworks. Not sure if we will still be here to see them again next year. They rank highly on my most memorable experiences living in Evanston.

Summer came to an exciting end with more visitors to our household. We had a good friend visiting from New York and friends who have moved from Singapore to do the same program as us in Northwestern. It’s been a noisy few weeks with extra people in the house, but I loved the fun and energy that surrounded us. Rusty especially enjoyed the extra treats given to him. Though I’m quite sure he was overwhelmed most days as well and appreciated the quiet moments when everyone is out of the house.

Singapore Day 10-14

I don’t have that many photos of my last few days in Singapore. Probably reflective of the fact that I tried to stay home as much as possible since the parents were back from their holiday. Wanted to be a “guai” (good) daughter and show face at home. But you know what, I was “abandoned” for half a day on Saturday, so I went out to do my own stuff alone, on my own. The solitude I had was actually very much welcomed!

One thing I really hate seeing in Singapore is the scene of domestic helpers walking their employers’ dogs. I don’t know why people have pets when they throw them to their helpers to look after. The poor dogs are often used as an excuse for the helpers to head out of the house to make their phone calls on the sly. These furry cuties don’t get to explore, play and walk much. Many of them end up sitting on the pavement, sometimes in the scorching sun.

I don’t really blame these helpers because they too need their private time away from their employers and this is usually the best opportunity. I blame the employers, the pet owners who don’t look out for the welfare of their dogs.

Love this photo of Elsa and the mouse. I had forgotten that I had given my ex-boss the mouse as well, so it was a surprise when she posted this photo of my gift of Elsa to her. Am glad they both went to someone who really appreciates them, and to a boss that I appreciate for all her help and generosity to me.

When I did actually hang out with the parents, it was always about the food. I am definitely my father’s daughter as we both live to eat! My dad really travels for good food, even bringing us to JB when we were young. We had the most decadent of dishes, this cold crab with abundant roe was one of them, and the simplest of fish ball noodles. Although for the latter, I had to wake up at 6.30am to go beat the queue with mom and dad!

Suggested that they go try out FIX today, a new cafe in the Balestier area. The donuts with 流沙 sauce were da bomb. Made hot and fresh with a wonderful sweet/salty egg custard dipping sauce. Dad said it was better than eating the bun version from dim sum restaurants as you can control the amount of sauce you want. Mom was seen mopping up the sauce when all the donuts were gone. Looks like they enjoyed this place that I introduced them to.

On my day alone, I decided to head downtown to run some errands and pick up some yummies to bring back to the husband. He had a short list of requests and I made sure to fulfill them. 🙂 Popped by one of our favorite sushi places for a one person lunch. This place is by far one of the cheapest conveyer belt sushi joints around. Quality is clearly not the best but I don’t mind it much since it is so cheap. And if you stalk the belt long enough, the aburi salmon sushi is really quite yummy. But terribly illusive to eat since you cannot order it off a menu at all!

Missed the husband very much this day. We used to eat here fairly often and it was always fun to just sit there and hunt down our favorite sushi plates together. Even the aburi sushi didn’t taste so good without him around you know? Missing him terribly and so glad I am heading home to Evanston soon!

Singapore Day 7-9

I am getting to the end of my social tether in terms of my appointments in Singapore. Some people might find this hard to believe, but I am actually an introvert at heart, or at least slowly and surely becoming more of one when I get older. Feeling that I just want to stay at home and chill for the next few days! And also counting down the days to heading back to quiet Evanston where I feel less harried and rushed. It’s not that I don’t enjoy meeting up with my friends and all but after being away from them for so long and suddenly condensing all engagements in one week is pretty overwhelming!

Woke up bright and early on Sunday to head out for breakfast with the brother. We ended up at this prata place that we’ve been eating at since we were young. We’ve not had many opportunities to spend time alone together so this breakfast was quite special to me. I don’t think I have ever had him queue and buy food for me before, so it was a pretty sweet feeling.

I was introduced to Coin Prata, a new invention of sorts in the prata world. Essentially just miniature sized versions of this yummy fried Indian pancake. They were extra crispy on the outside and nice and doughy on the inside. I think I prefer them to the normal ones. Each set had 6 pieces and it was easily polished off.

Did my envoy duties and trooped down to the in-laws for dinner. As expected, I had a feast waiting for me when I arrived. And mind you, this was only for 4 persons including the helper. My in-laws eat really simply on normal days, like a bowl of oats, porridge or just some boiled sweet potatoes. But they always become OTT when the husband and I head over. He wasn’t with me this time but the quality and quantity of food was no less! While I really wished they didn’t go through all that trouble, I do feel terribly loved by them. And that is such a blessing when it comes to relationships with in-laws, I know not everyone has that!

I did have to sit through a few hours of non stop talking though. The MIL was evidently very excited that I was back. Perhaps she hasn’t had many people to talk to for some time, so I sat through a really long spiel. I told the husband that I wished he was around then. He’s really the best person to help control the situation. 😀

I made time to meet a special bunch of people this trip, a group of women bloggers I was introduced to online several months back. It’s been a community that I have really appreciated being part of. Everyone is just so nice and we share fun/funny conversations as well as issues relating to our blogs and real lives. All of them have awesome blogs, some award winning no less. So I feel fortunate to be included into their fold just because I happen to keep a humble blog that is an embarressing mish mash record of my life. Even though I have never met them in real life before this, our lunch together was not at all awkward and seemed like a gathering of old friends. If ever I need to cite an example of a successful online community, this is one group that I will definitely talk about. haha 职业病

Took time to make everyone little brooches since I had been sharing photos of my craft works with them. Loved how the brooches turned out with all the different color permutations I made. Thankfully there were enough pieces to go around in the end as the attendance for our gathering really ballooned! Am so grateful that so many made time to meet during my short trip home. Thank you!

To be quite honest, I don’t really miss living in Singapore a whole lot. But after meeting an old neighbor for morning coffee and walking around my old hood, it felt kind of sad that I wasn’t living in my old apartment any more. I miss my neighbors especially, the best kind anyone can ask for in HDB style living. In modern apartments where closed doors are the norm, interacting with your neighbors, sometimes even knowing their names is a rarity!

I hear that the kids no longer play at the lift lobby outside my home as the new tenants on the floor (including mine) are not so friendly and find them noisy. That’s sad because it’s the funnest experience I find living there, to hear kids play, laugh and enjoy each other’s company in the communal space. I have great memories of Rusty sitting by the door and watching the kids play, longing to join them as well. And me handing treats and berries to the kids so that they could command Rusty to do his repertoire of tricks. Amazing memories.

Where I can, I have been trying to catch up with the husband over FaceTime. Of course I try to talk to my darling Rusty too. But it has been difficult. Dogs don’t seem to get video chatting much. lol 😀 And the computer must distort my voice quite a bit as Rusty doesn’t hear or acknowledge that I am there even. Can’t wait to give him hugs and kisses (which he absolutely hates) when I am home. In the meantime, I’ll just live with hearing stories about him from the husband and staring sillily at old photos on my phone.