I am a confirmed List Monster. There is no hope for me. I make lists of lists. Then colour code them, and scratch out items, and make the list all over again.
Imagine my joy when I stumbled across this amazing site called Listbean. Unless you love making your lists from scratch each time (and that is perfectly understandable, no judgment there!) this gives you a headstart into the serious business of making your list.
They allow you to customize pre-populated checklists so you can use them to suit you. I haven’t tried it yet myself but the premise- as well as the basic checklists- look good.
"Monica Bing had nothing on her."
So you want to take your dog along when moving countries.
At this point, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome you to the trial that is the world of live cargo. Here’s a basic checklist that could help, based on my experiences:
>Assess whether you and your pet are better off if he stays back home. Factors you’ll need to consider are the quarantine regulations, the duration of the journey, whether he is too old to handle it, how you’ll take care of him once there, and his quality of life if you leave him behind, and of course, who you’ll leave him behind with and whether they have the time or knowledge to take care of a dog. Your parents possibly don’t need the extra hassle, and it’s not fair to your pet to leave him with friends who have never had a dog! Bear in mind that keeping a pet is often more expensive abroad than it is in India and you will probably need to take out good pet insurance to cover medical and other costs. There will be a monthly premium and the excess may be too high to cover things like claw clipping and general checkups. Of course, if like me you have every intention of dragging your pooch to wherever you go, the choices become easier!
>Check export requirements. I remember that we had to get (a) a vet’s assessment together with certificate (b) vaccinations (c) a license done before we could despatch our own bag of slobbers.
>Check quarantine regulations. The UK at present has a 6 month quarantine period, and other countries have varying amounts of time. The relevant government site for that country should be able to give you the details.
>Check which airline flies pets. British Airways came to our rescue. The way the quarantine mechanism usually works is that the quarantine kennel will have to come and pick your dog up from the airport and take him straight to the facility. So you’ll have to coordinate flight timings with the quarantine kennel. They may (a) not be able to pick up your dog at particular times or on particular days (b) be fully booked and not be able to take in your dog at during a certain period (c) have a preference as far as airlines are concerned.
>Check what the airline needs from you. IATA guidelines require them to carry live cargo under certain conditions only. You need to pay to get the actual text of these guidelines from the IATA site, but I assume you are not a professional transporter and the airline site should suffice! What we did do- and it’s a PAIN and a half- is get the container and take it down to the airlines office to show them the size and the specs, together with the dog. You ideally want to avoid a situation where it’s 2:30 am, you’re at the airport with your dog and the mammoth container, the airline refuses to take him because the guidelines are not met, and you’re leaving in 2 days yourself. The only course of action I can then see would be to (a) pull out all your hair strand by strand and possibly (b) call in your favours and take a loan because by gad, you’ll need it for the reschedulings and rebookings that you’ll have to do for yourself and your dog.
See if either the quarantine kennel or the airline can make do with a certificate so that your dog is not vaccinated twice for the same thing in the space of a few days.
>It’s a good idea to use a moving service that deals with pets as well so you can at least outsource some of the fiddly bits like obtaining the crate and getting the domestic paperwork to them.
>The flight is likely to be at an unearthly hour so make sure you can reach there with your dog and the container. If your dog is anything more than a tiny terrier, your container is likely to be massive, so make sure your car can take all of you at the same time! If you are going by taxi, check in advance that they will take the dog and the container, because you don’t want nasty surprises at the nth hour. You will have to reach the cargo area, so it’s a good idea to do a dry run. Very few people will have visited the cargo area before- it’s often got heavy security so if you know what to expect on the day you could factor in enough time.
>Keep your pooch calm. It’s a good idea to put in used clothes of yours with him to calm him down with the familiarity. Check with your vet whether sedation is recommended. Our quarantine kennel advised us against it due to the chance of suffocation and also loss of control (due to which a dog can hurt itself in the cage), so we didn’t sedate our dog. I’d recommend getting him used to his crate in advance by keeping it in your house for a few days, so he doesn’t panic when you load him onto it. It was the hardest thing I did, loading mine into that crat and sending him off- in my case the chap who carried the crate into the bonded area had clearly had a drop too many, and almost dropped the crate. That was not a salubrious beginning.
>Once your pooch is loaded up safely, don’t be shy- follow up with the airline if you are concerned. We kept following up with them and the pilot was good enough to inform us that the temperature in the cabin where our dog was kept, was at a constant 17 degrees centigrade because that is what was recommended for labrador retrievers in their Standard Operating Procedure Manual! Now our pooch was a dog who spent his growing months barking at the AC for it to be switched on, but nevertheless 17 degrees was a bit cold for a dog who grew up in the scorching heat of Delhi. We had to ask them to crank it up a bit. We were very grateful they had bothered to consult a manual though.
Our pooch did arrive safely despite a delay at the airport before customs. He managed to make it to the quarantine kennel, where he promptly proceeded not to eat or poo for three days. But that’s another story.
The world isn’t necessarily a kind place to a bookworm. Read a book while walking across a road, and you might get knocked over (was almost there). As a child, sneak in a pile of books into the loo- after getting emboldened by efforts to sneak in a book at a time- and you might get a clout from your mother (been there).
Moving is no different. Your movers, like mine, might wonder why you have so many books piled up. “Strange people”, they said, scratching their heads in amazement, “they have more books than anything else in the house”.
Yes, moving is a time when a judgment will be passed on you. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
But don’t, for god’s sake, take all your books with you.
Don’t take that tatty volume of Housman that you haven’t read forever and will never read again, and only keep because it makes you feel more intellectual. Don’t be tempted to take that moth-eaten copy of Essays of Elia because you like the way the hardbound cover looks. Please pause a moment and spare a thought for the moth infestation that you will carry across continents, possibly to a wooden framed house. Dump your hard bound coffee table volumes on Monet because you ain’t going to get artistic inspiration from them if lightning hasn’t struck you in all the five years you’ve had ’em.
Best case– you’re adding to the number of things you have to unpack and store.
Worst case– To add insult to injury, your employer isn’t paying for your movers and you’re paying to give up the additional storage space in your new home.
Moving across continents is, I find, a very spiritual exercise in assessing just what’s important to you. A forced purging of worldly goods and streamlining your existence.
From bitter experience, the things that you will need to remember are:
- To pay off your mobile phone bills and terminate the connections. Easier said than done, especially if you had a household with two people and four mobiles (two for you guys, one for your driver and one for the help, but all in your name)- which is quite typical in India. Mobile phone companies don’t always coordinate things properly, and bills have a strange way of coming back from the grave and biting you on the ass months later, when you thought you were home and dry. And then you have to make long distance calls to the India helpline number asking them to terminate the connection. If you do find yourself in that boat it’s best to somehow obtain an email address (no, they won’t proffer it voluntarily, and yes, it will be like pulling teeth from them, but it will make the job easier once all your letters to them are recorded). Check for hidden costs. Ask for a breakdown of all charges. And do ask for a confirmation that all your dues have been paid. You don’t want another set of charges hatching for another 12 months and coming back with interest and possibly threats of civil suits.
- Ditto for internet connections. Don’t forget the internet connection and the wireless dongle.
- Terminate the gym membership (if like me, you went twice in four months, this wouldn’t be something you’d remember about straightaway).
- Let the help go. Give them some severance pay- chances are, they’ll get another job soon, but on the flipside they’re faced with financial uncertainty too. It’s helpful to try to find them an alternate post with family or friends, but I wouldn’t be too bullish on their sticking it out, or even landing up. They might be shy about saying it, but they simply won’t land up. Our live-in lady took the view that she had simply made too much money from her years with us and could now retire happily (she didn’t land up for the job we had found for her). Our driver took the view that he might as well try his luck in a different city (he took an advance from the friend we had recommended him to, and jazzed off without a by-your-leave). It’s best not to expect too much. A measured recommendation might go a longer way than singing their praises. Else you might find you’re in hot water later when your proteges let you down!
- Sell or give away stuff. Perhaps your parents had a second flat where they needed a fridge. Or they needed a bed for the spare bedroom anyway. If not, sell it (don’t give them stuff they don’t need – (a) they had enough of your junk when you were growing up (b) you’ll never hear the end of it. You’d be surprised at the level of enterprise in India. There is a buyer for everything. Pots and pans, crockery, furniture, furnishings, paper, glass, old electrical appliances, inverters, everything, I kid you not. Your help can get hold of the neighbourhood kabadiwala. Sell him everything, and keep the money. It might pay for food for the first few days before your bank account gets set up in the new country! If it won’t come to that much, it might just pay for the taxi fare to the airport!
- Terminate your lease on time. And remember to extract your deposit from the landlord.
- Send your stuff on ahead. The best way is to clear up shop about a week or two before, send your stuff on ahead (by sea is cheaper and takes more time, so there’s not much danger of it reaching before you do). Assuming your stuff takes four weeks to reach, you will have two weeks to find a place to stay before you are reunited with your beloved odds and ends and accoutrements. Con an unsuspecting kind friend or long-suffering family into putting you up over the last few days.
- Get any documents you need from your ex-employer. It’s hard enough chasing them when you’re not employed with them, than to have to chase them from a different time zone altogether.
- Have a chat with your accountant and settle your finances. Get copies of your tax returns and bank statements. There’s a very good chance you’ll need them. And get his phone number and email address- these will be your lifeline before the next tax filing!
- Make lists! Make a list of lists. Worship your list every morning when you wake up, and before you go to bed at night. Hang that pencil from your neck to tick off each point on your list. The List Monster Rules.
It’s always difficult moving lock, stock and barrel (and in our case with live and quite vociferous baggage) across continents. It’s like a massive war effort on several fronts, especially if one had anything like a running establishment already.
If like me, you’ve never done that before, you’re likely to make the same mistake I did, which is- (a) try to take too many things with you– either because you are under the mistaken belief that they will come in handy (yes, that means that bed which will not fit, that bedsheet which you will never use again, and the tea cups that are merely decorative and serve no useful purpose to man or beast in a household where no one drinks tea. I’ve learnt the hard way that there’s no point being endlessly optimistic about the weights that you will never use again, or sentimental about the vase you got at your wedding that you hate.
(b) try to pack your own things, in a mistaken control-freaky belief that you, and you alone, are capable of packing the stuff that matters to you in a way that will not destroy them! That very smart idea (or so it seemed at the time) you had of packing your crystal in cotton wool and then in cuff link boxes will backfire spectacularly when you can’t remember where you packed the damn box in the first place. I think it’s better to leave it to the professionals- they know what they’re doing, and even if they don’t, it’s wiser conserving your energy rather than sweating the small stuff. God knows it’s stressful enough! If it’s that precious, leave it with family, or put in your hand luggage on a later trip when there’s less to transport.
(c) try to pack up all your stuff before you’ve read what is and isn’t allowed as cargo– yes, this includes the bottles of perfume you’ve been hoarding since the ninth grade and never found it in your heart to use, and the bunch of dried wildflowers you pinched from your mum seven years ago. Show me a country that will allow you to send in liquids and plant matter as part of personal cargo, and I’ll.. well, I’m basically confident it’s never allowed.
(a), (b) and (c) all have one inevitable outcome, as I am painfully aware. Clutching your forehead and trying to soothe your raging migraine, at a time when you would be far better served having said headache by getting gloriously drunk with your mates before you leave!