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. 😀




A Rusty Update

I thought I’d do a Rusty update today since it has been such a Rusty filled day and I took so many cute photos recently.

We brought him to the vet for his annual check up and vaccinations. Had to do some research beforehand to figure out the American requirements vs what we have been doing back home in Singapore. Interestingly, the American system actually believes in giving less doses of vaccinations compared to Singapore. For diseases such as Parvovirus, Canine Distemper and Canine Hepatitis for example, they only vaccinate on a 3 year basis. But in Singapore, it is an annual affair. Unfortunately for Rusty’s bum bum, we vaccinated him as per what we did in Singapore since we want to be up to date with Singaporean practices when we do eventually take him home. But urgh… am really not looking forward to all the work that needs to be done when the time comes.

I’ve noticed that the American vets are a bit less educational, if I can use that word. They don’t really offer advise to the owner much unless you ask specifically. In fact, they don’t really check very throughly and rely on the owner to point out specific issues. Last visit, we had a vet who pointed at some rash on Rusty’s leg and asked ME what it was. Errr.. how would I know right? Contrastingly, I would imagine my Singaporean vet pointing it out and right away telling me if she suspects that if it is an allergy or if it is fungal related. The bill today for consultation alone was $65! I think I better ask more questions next time if I want to make my money worth. 😀

Spring has been a lot more fun for Rusty since the warmer temperatures mean he can go for longer walks and even 8 miles (12km) runs with his Papa! He can run further than me! According to the husband, he will still be raring to go even when the run is complete. No wonder we found out that he lost 1 pound (0.5kg) when he was weighed today.

It’s kinda cute seeing him explore the world in Spring too. He stops to smell flowers (and sneezes after lol) and tries his darndest to chase the squirrels or bunnies he spots. Of course we never let him. We never risk putting him off leash when we are outside.

He’s been having really cute moments at home. Like stealing my bra!! But he has also been quite a handful and has gotten into 2 fights with our neighbors’ dogs! To be fair to him, he was provoked both times. However, we did have some other near misses when he was the one who started growling first. Thankfully, no physical injuries whatsoever. The husband and I are the traumatized ones.

Rusty has also been very vocal recently and barking quite a lot. He can now hear and smell lots of things in our courtyard below since we used to close the windows tightly throughout winter. The only way to quieten him sometimes is to satisfy his curiosity and let him have a peek at what’s below. If it is not another dog, he is usually satisfied and will stop his whining. 

Other times, I do think it is a call for attention since I can go for long stretches not interacting with him on some days. I have no human children but perhaps it’s the dog equivalent of throwing a tantrum? I try to be more cognizant these days and will drop what I am doing to give him some undivided time. The other day, he just needed some cuddles and tummy rubs and all was well again. And trust me, having a dog sprawled on your lap is the best mood lifter that anyone could ever have.

Toto and The Wizard of Oz

I didn’t give the movie The Wizard of Oz much thought till a few years ago. To me, it was just another old children’s movie with creepy flying monkeys and a scary green witch. I even found the munckins pretty scary too. I suppose I was too young to notice the “moral” of the story when I first watched it as a child.

To be honest, I took a lot more notice of it when I got Rusty as a pet. Knowing that Toto and him are the same breed really excited me. And I squeal each time I spot Toto in the movie. I grab Rusty too and ask him to watch along as well. Not surprisingly, he will try to squirm away. heh

But you know, the story has a great meaning to it. And that is, whatever you are wishing for, you already have it.

The Scarecrow wished for a brain. But he ended up being the leader of the motley crew and devised a way to save Dorothy from the witch.

The Tin Man wished for a heart but he cared for his friends the most.

The Lion wished for courage but he bravely fought the witch and her henchmen to save Dorothy.

Dorothy had run away from home thinking that no one loved or understood her. She later realized the folly of her ways.

We caught the stage version of story just over the weekend in downtown Chicago. It was an ok production. I thought the sets were not particularly impressive. And maybe because we know the storyline, it was a little boring at some points. They used a real Cairn Terrier to play Toto though! The husband and I had a whale of a time watching the doggie actor on stage. I saved my loudest cheers for him when the curtain call came. 😀

It was pretty cute too that the doggie actor was acknowledged in the cast. Nigel the dog played Toto that day. He has an understudy too! And the understudy’s name is…. what for it… Loki! bwahaha… I thought it was pretty funny, but the husband thought Nigel was funnier. Guess we have a different sense of humor.

And I just couldn’t resist buying a Toto stuffed toy from the souvenir stand! Even the coloring of the toy is almost the same as Rusty’s, with little streaks of light brown in the hair.

Rusty wasn’t very impressed. But at least he didn’t think it was a real dog and try and bite it or anything. I love looking at him and his mini-me.

Beautiful Days with My Manja Rusty

If you know my Rusty in real life, you will notice that he is not a particularly affectionate dog. In fact, most people get rather disappointed when he doesn’t respond to their pats and cuddles. These days, he has taken to hiding under our bed a lot throughout the day. Probably a nice and cosy place under there for him to chill and take naps, but so very anti-social. Only appearing when there is food to be eaten, where he stares down at you using his jedi mind tricks to make you share food with him.

Something changed this past week and we had a really good time being close and bonding together. Spring had turned the days warm again and we were able to resume our long walks to the lake.

The weather was particularly beautiful last Friday and the lake so blue, so still and tranquil. It just beckons you to stare, to breathe and be peaceful. I think Rusty felt that way too and stayed quiet and still beside me, staring into the blue and the horizon beyond.

We continued as 2 peas in a pod at home as he climbed all over my legs and stepped on my tummy to squish himself in the tiny space between the couch and me. And then, he promptly fell asleep. Heart melting moment please!

Our sweet moments continued for quite a few days. But he’s back under the bed again today.

Oh my funny and fun little guy. You are so unpredictable sometimes. But I love  the sweet and manja you the most!

Spring Break 2014: Rusty’s Farm Stay Holiday

Whenever we head for vacations, the first task to cross off our list is always to settle Rusty. We have a regular boarder back home in Singapore whom we’ve grown comfortable with to put our little precious there each time we go away. Now that we’re away from home, I had to hunt down a suitable place for him again.

I didn’t manage to find many boarding options over here. Most of the services offered were pet sitters who would come into your house a few times a day to walk, feed and play with the dog. But effectively, the dog would still be alone most of the time and at night. I didn’t really like that as Rusty is a sociable dog, so I know he would be very bored spending so many hours in so many days home alone.

Luckily, we have many neighbours here who own dogs and we were able to get a good reference to a pet boarding company located on a farm. It promised cage free care and lots of running about in a large fenced up area. It was also a joy communicating online with Sasha the owner, who asked for photos of Rusty right away to have a look when we made enquiries. That’s how we ended up with Canine State of Mind.

Holidays have been bittersweet for me since getting Rusty. I don’t know why but I felt especially sad when he was sent away this time. Perhaps it’s because it’s a new boarder or maybe because we are in a foreign land and things are still so unfamiliar to us and to him. We hugged tight and cuddled until his transport came to whisk him away. His “lost” look as the car door closed was heartbreaking.

As our flight was in the morning, Rusty was picked up in the afternoon of the previous day. So we spent one night without him in the house. It felt really weird not having my little shadow following me around. I ate a plum that night and felt sad that there was no one fighting to share it with me. These are the little moments we share together.

As I sat at the boarding gate wondering about him, this text came in. Showed the husband and we just burst out laughing. Trust our Rusty to be enjoying himself so happily and with a friend that had such an ominous name! We knew then that he was in good hands and that we should just relax and enjoy our upcoming holiday.

We later found out that Bone Crusher was a friend’s classmate’s pet dog! What a small world! The owner is a transformer fan.

Was thankful we had updates almost everyday that revealed what Rusty was up to. We grinned at photos of our little explorer, the little black speck in the field, trotting away to look for his next adventure. We also laughed at his sleepy eyes, concluding that he is probably super exhausted from playing all day everyday.

A little blemish in this was that Rusty had to stay an extra day on the farm due to transport scheduling issues. We weren’t particularly happy about it since we were so looking forward to have him home again. But I guess it worked out for the best as we ended up having a day free to run all our errands.

Rusty came back looking like a wild child. I guess that’s what happens when you’re running in mud all day. The stay doesn’t include bathing yo. 🙂 My husband said Rusty smelt like what he used to smell like after he played soccer in secondary school!

We welcomed Rusty home with a full scrub down. We thought he must really hate us by now; for taking him away from his friends and grabbing him for his least favourite activity, bathtime!

His papa did the full works of brushing teeth and cleaning ears too. But we did feed him a yummy hot meal, so he probably forgave us. 😀

As with all his previous boardings, Rusty is usually quite subdued for a few days at least. We suspect that he’s recovering from all that activity he had for all those days playing. But at least this time he didn’t try to ignore us and sulk, which is what he usually does when he comes home from his own holiday.

Welcome home baby! It’s great to have you back! Share a plum with me later ok?