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Death or Glory

Some years ago I was hiking -- in Wales, funnily enough -- and trying to take an "alternate route" off the mountain and back to the trailhead. I'd asked a map-bearing gentleman at the summit if he'd heard of the trail my inn's host had mentioned at that morning's breakfast. He hadn't but consulted his map. Together we were unable to find the spur trail. He asked if I thought I might try to find it anyway; I said I might. He paused a moment, shrugged, and said "Death or glory, then," and returned to his family's picnic lunch. [Aside: Another feather in the cap for the Brits, basically saying, "Oh you might die, then," weightlessly tossing it over one's shoulder as if death really has no consequence.]

I started back down the trail and veered off toward what looked like a promising trail-like path through the mountainside foliage. Unfortunately, the path became steeper and steeper, and began to resemble not so much a trail as a drainage ditch for the ridgeline. Hmm. Turn around and go back, or keep going? Well, fairly quickly I realised true tragedy might lie ahead were I to continue -- if not death, then surely an extremely inconvenient and painful injury. So I turned around and started to make my way back up toward the true trail. Or, I should say, I tried to. Spoiler, because I'm writing this now: I made it. But it was a bit dicey. Maybe more than a bit. I was grabbing clumps of moss and leaves as if they were climbing anchors as I realised just how vertical the slope had become in a fairly short distance.

Today's events reminded me a bit of that day in the Welsh mountains. You see, today I learned that a piece of my UK-Move puzzle -- and a fairly important one at that -- was far more complicated than I'd thought to even ask. And it involved the most important part of my life: my dogs.

Back before COVID, I'd been emailing with another American veterinarian who'd also practiced in the UK for a time. I was picking her brain for all the logistical questions like about healthcare and buying a phone and setting up a bank account. And about her taking her dog to the UK with her. She assured me that we as veterinarians didn't need to enlist the services of the pet transport companies, that we could just sign the health certificate and give the required deworming meds, no problem. Similarly, I'd spoken to others about transporting their pets across the Pond, and while some people chose to use a pet travel agent, others did it on their own. Again, no problem.

So today felt as if I hit an invisible wall whilst running at full speed. I didn't even see it coming. My work visa had been approved and I'd been given the go-ahead to start booking my travel arrangements. So I giddily hopped on the computer to start looking for phone numbers to call to book the dogs' reservations. Instead I found: United is not flying pets at this time. Delta has embargoed their pet flights until further notice. KLM just has a "Page no longer found" on its website.



So I called a pet transport agent and started making enquiries, only to discover there are essentially only two airlines still flying dogs at this time, and that my fifty-pound dogs are considered "giant breeds," requiring specialised shipping containers which not every airline will fly even when the entire world isn't experiencing a global pandemic. So as it happens, no, I cannot fly out of the airport nearest my house, nor even the international airport at SeaTac.

No matter where I turned, all I was hearing were negatives: No, we don't do that; No, that's not possible; No, you can't order the crate you need off the internet because it's on indefinite backorder everywhere. No. No. No.

Meanwhile, I looked at my To-Do list for the day, made before I knew I was going to be spending the rest of today doing exactly this: the dogs-flying-to-London part. On my list, I had things like booking the movers, and replacing the lock at my storage facility, and talking to the UPS clerk about shipping boxes ahead of me to Wales (Could they be in individual boxes or do they all have to be packaged up together?). Because, you see, I've already sold this house. Today Habitat for Humanity took my sofa and dining room carpet, leaving me with a tiny loveseat I can take to the dump myself in those final few days before I move out of this house forever ... in about a week and a half.

After I move out of here, I'm driving up and house-sitting for a friend in Seattle. You see, before today's news, it was all working out perfectly (in my mind): I sell the house in Bend. The dogs & I camp out at our friends' house. Then when my friends return, we hop a plane at the local (massive) airport, and bid farewell to the US of A.

Except now, that's not happening. So suddenly I have no place to live, and no plan for the next step after my friends return from their trip.



How did it get so steep so quickly? And, more importantly: What now?

Do I keep forging ahead, hoping there's a path out of this danger? Or do I behave sensibly and turn around, retreat, return to something safe and known, like my old job, and just accept that maybe now is just not the time for me to be trying an international move with two dogs. The truth is, they will die eventually (they're already nine & ten years old) -- so maybe I should wait and go then.

Or maybe what I need to do is understand that I'm lost. That I'm in a perilous situation and need assistance, someone ahead on the trail, someone who's done this before, maybe lots of times. Someone to call ahead and lead me through this sticky part. Never mind about all that sensible stuff like not having a place to live and not having an income just now while the expenses continue to mount. Never mind all the fears of navigating large international airports entirely alone, with two dogs, and possibly four dog crates plus my own baggage. Hmm. Seems daunting. Don't look down. But for now, keep going.

So, then: Glory, perhaps.


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