An Interview with Sara Graham, Author of How To Make Big Moves
By Si Si Penaloza
As our Get Leashed community grows, we're fielding more queries and quandaries from readers interested in travelling with pets. Inspired by this rising interest in all things jet-set pets, we reached out to Sara Graham, editor, yoga teacher and author of How To Make Big Moves: Relocate Without Losing Your Mind. A Canadian currently based in Sweden, Graham shares with us inspiring tales from living abroad with her two frisky felines, Tigerlily and Dragon.
Your guide delivers on exactly what it promises -- a one-stop shop for every obscure question or panic-stricken scenario that a potential relocator could imagine. How did you approach structuring the book to be most relevant in a real-world context?
Well, thanks! I think you just inspired my elevator pitch with that synopsis. While it's impossible to cover all relocation scenarios, I wanted to structure a guidebook that would kick start the thought process for the most important relocation tasks and issues. I really tried to come from a place of pure practicality. The anecdotes, from 17 globally based contributors and myself, provide actionable information, as opposed to fluffy roundabout "advice."
Travelling with pets can be quite a trip; share some funny or endearing episodes from your time as a pet parent on the road.
The first time was a mess. I flew with Tigerlily from Toronto to Halifax to visit family before leaving for Prague and she handled it better than I did. Assuming it was a good idea, I tried to give her a break from the carrier from time to time, but just ended up tripping over her leash. I also lost my less-than-a-year-old smartphone somewhere along the way!
In terms of long-haul travel, getting from Canada to the Czech Republic, Tigerlily handled the first two flights (Halifax-Montreal-Frankfurt) well, but by the third leg she was literally chewing her way out of the carrier.
Does a pet's healthy and successful relocation boil down to their own unique personality, or do you find the preparedness of the owner plays as big a role?
Regardless of a pet's personality, an owner has to be 100 per cent prepared or the whole thing will be a nightmare for everyone. Attention must first be paid to the pet's disposition and unique health issues, which will determine if they can even handle endless hours in transit.
Then an owner has to consider, what is the best possible way to get the animal from A to B? Should we drive or fly? If it's the latter, you don't want to show up at the airport without researching and pre-booking your pet space on the flight. Every airline is different when it comes to pets. Most have an in-cabin quota and then others don't let them on board at all. Moreover, it can all totally change depending on the aircraft type.
I am very against putting a pet into cargo and I go into this more in the guide. However, if an owner has no choice, then at least look for an airline that offers climate-control from start to finish. Meaning, pets are last to board and first to come off the plane; avoiding wait time on hot or cold tarmacs.
Then there's the paperwork. There are rules and forms that must be completed for both the country you are leaving and the country you are going to. All my forms were translated in both German and Czech. If you really can't get your head around this, or just don't have the time to deal, then there are professionals that relocate pets for a living. Not a cheap option, but an option nonetheless.
Care to weigh in on how either Johnny Depp and Amber Heard - or on the flip side Australian officials - could have handled things better in the diplomatic Yorkiegate debacle?
The missing puzzle piece, insofar as what I have read, is how the dogs bypassed customs in the first place. Yes, Amber Heard admitted she lied on the declaration, but the dogs were reportedly in plain sight of the officers. Seems like a gap in the Australian customs process to me. There would have been, at least in normal, non-celebrity circumstances, some kind of security check. Yes, it's a criminal offence and celebs should be treated the same as everyone else, but threatening to have the dogs put down was overkill. Barnaby Joyce came off looking like an aggressive grandstander. Heard and Depp's apology video had zero sincerity. It did make for a hilarious parody by Stephen Colbert though. That I would watch again.
Given your own anecdotal experiences and the depth of research you put into this fresh new guide book, what are some of the easiest countries to travel or relocate to with a pet? How about the hardest?
The degree of ease any human has traveling or relocating anywhere has much to do with their passport and the related visa freedoms and restrictions. That's number one. Then it depends on the breed of your pet, as every country implements controls on certain breeds. Some are banned outright. PETOLOG.COM has a comprehensive list of banned dog breeds by country. Government websites will also make it clear what cats and dogs are not eligible for import.
Once those two pieces are sorted, and if you've got your pet paperwork in order, my experience is that Europe is easy to get both into and around. Going from Prague to Sweden was a breeze. The EU has designed these smart little pet passports that make so much sense, as opposed to the mess of forms that the rest of the world uses. When I say Europe, I don't mean the U.K. Any country where there is a mandatory quarantine will add another layer of stress to the move.
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