She’s a 4 year-old pug/lab (dragon/bat?) mix. My best friend, Amit, adopted her from a rescue shortly after moving to Seattle. While she had a terrible life before her rescue, Kabuki is one of the sweetest and silliest dogs I’ve ever met. I watched her a couple times while Amit was out of town. She enjoys burying under blankets and chasing light reflections.
We were good buddies, but I never expected that she’d end up becoming “my” dog for a while, or that I’d miss her so much when she was gone.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, Amit accepted a job offer in Hong Kong. There were a lot of logistics involved, but the biggest one was: how to get Kabuki there.
The first thought was using a pet relocation company. They’d done this thousands of times, and they knew the ins and outs of country regulations and pet safety. But they were expensive! The quote for Kabuki was $3,800.
The pet relocation company quoted $3,800 to move Kabuki.
The second thought was doing it ourselves. The biggest parts were filling out paperwork, getting it signed by the right people, and booking a flight for Kabuki. It was completely uncharted territory, but I had a lot of faith in Amit. He’s a pro-researcher.
Amit needed to be in Hong Kong, establish a residence, and get an official ID before moving Kabuki. That’s where I came in.
Both of these options had a drawback, though. Amit needed to be in Hong Kong, establish a residence, and get an official ID before moving Kabuki. In other words, she couldn’t simply travel with him. That’s where I came in.
The Longest Stay I’ve Ever Had
I’m a house sitter on Rover.com. I enjoy taking care of pets in their normal environment—their home. I had watched Kabuki before, but only for a week or so. When Amit asked me to keep Kabuki for him, he said it might take a month or two.
I was nervous. Was I cut out to watch a dog this long on my own?
I was nervous. Was I cut out to watch a dog this long on my own? I always had two or three family dogs growing up, but that was a group effort, and we lived in the country, so the dogs could go out at any time. Most of my house sitting clients had yards. I was in an apartment. Would a dog be happy staying with me?
While I was plagued with doubt that I could provide the best care for my friend’s dog, I was also dealing with losing one of my dearest friends. The Internet is amazing for keeping in touch, but we wouldn’t be able to have our weekly video game nights or random late-night movie viewings.
At the end of all this emotional turmoil, I agreed to watch Kabuki for as long as needed. I decided I could handle it—or at least, I hoped I could.
A week before Amit left Seattle, we started setting up my place for Kabuki. We brought her bed, toys, and lots of treats. He spent the night a couple times to get her comfortable there. Kabuki seemed to like my apartment, but there was one big problem for her: light reflections. With too many shiny things and too much sun, she couldn’t chase them fast enough. I ended up hiding a lot of picture frames.
Then came the big day. Amit’s place was completely empty, save for a couple giant boxes, some luggage, and Kabuki. She was completely riled up: so much change! We worked together to get everything a taxi and then Amit said goodbye to Kabuki and to me.
I didn’t cry until I got all the way home. Kabuki shoved her stuffed ball into my face as if to say, “enough sad times! Throw this for me, will ya?”
New Schedule & Training
And just like that I was a dog owner, albeit temporarily. My schedule revolved around Kabuki. I woke up early to make sure she got a good walk and that we could ride the bus before rush hour. If I did anything after work, it had to be after I fed and walked her. What I thought would be a tough transition for her was actually a tough transition for me!
What I thought would be a tough transition for her was actually a tough transition for me.
The other tough part was crate training. Kabuki wanted to be in my lap, touching me, or next to me at all times. It was incredibly endearing, especially when I was having a rough day, but Kabuki needed to get used to the crate for her flight.
I started off with training her to like her bed. I put treats in it and rewarded her every time she laid in it on her own. Then I transitioned to having her sleep on her own (no more spooning with her every night.) She hated it the first night, but started getting used to it.
Once I got the crate, we started going through the motions again. I slowly transitioned to a full crate with the door closed. Soon, all I had to do was turn off the lights in my living room and she’d walk into her crate to sleep.
Regulations and Forms
While I was working on the training, Amit tackled all the paperwork. Kabuki’s information had to go through the USDA and the AFCD of Hong Kong, which was tricky because there were many unknowns about her past. Kabuki was rescued from a terrible situation, so even her age was a mystery.
The paperwork required attention to details you wouldn’t even think of. Are all the dates Day/Month or Month/Day? Is the weight in lbs or kgs? Is everything spelled out, in case the same acronyms aren’t used? To top it off, the forms had to be signed and stamped within a specific time frame of the flight.
Getting everything coordinated took a kind of magic. Amit got a special stamp made for the veterinary hospital so all the forms would meet Hong Kong regulations. I called to make appointments for the vet and USDA office almost a month in advance.
The Final Sprint
When I felt like I had settled into a normal routine with Kabuki, suddenly it was time for her to go. Leading up to her flight was a gauntlet.
When I felt like I had settled into a normal routine with Kabuki, suddenly it was time for her to go.
First, she had her final vet checkup. This involved a routine exam, picking up all the additional paperwork, and signing all the forms. There were last-minute changes and I was trying to coordinate between Amit (who was 15 hours ahead) and the AFCD. The whole appointment took an hour and a half.
Next was getting all the papers signed and stamped by the USDA. The regional office was an hour’s drive from my house. I was nervous. What if I forgot a form and had to turn back? What if the USDA decided to not grant the export? In the end, going to the USDA was the easiest part of the whole process. I handed the forms to someone behind a glass window, I got a free lollipop while I waited, and the papers were handed back to me signed and stamped.
The final step was getting Kabuki to the airport and making sure the crate was up to the airline regulations. Some airlines have a limit on the amount of blankets in the crate or require a certain type of water bowl. A couple days before, I was triple- and quadruple-checking to make sure everything was up to snuff.
Kabuki got many hugs the following week. My friends and coworkers were sad to see her go, but happy she was going to be reunited with her owner. It was bittersweet. I was going to miss her sitting on my bed while I got ready, chasing reflections around my apartment, and snuggling with me while I watched a movie.
On a sunny Wednesday, I drove down to the airport with Kabuki and her crate in tow. She was excited to go on the ride; I don’t think she had any idea what was about to happen.
On a sunny Wednesday, I drove down to the airport with Kabuki and her crate in tow. She was excited to go on the ride; I don’t think she had any idea what was about to happen. We pulled into the air cargo terminal and I took her out for a walk for the last time. I was surprised to see multiple dogs and their owners getting ready to do the same thing as me. There was an older black lab that flew every year from Japan to D.C.!
After handing over all the paperwork and getting in some final hugs with Kabuki, she was taken away with the other dogs. She was surprisingly calm, and I like to think she knew she was going to be reunited with Amit.
I was crying as I drove home from the airport.
By contrast, I was crying as I drove home from the airport. I was worried that she wouldn’t get there safely, I was happy my friend was seeing his dog again, and I was sad that I wouldn’t have her in my life anymore.
Kabuki in Hong Kong
Kabuki got to her destination safe and sound. She was incredibly excited to see Amit at the airport, and immediately fell asleep in the car on the way to his house. He lives near a dog run and takes her on the ferry in a doggie stroller. Of course, Amit is happy to have Kabuki back in his life. After all, his dog is his baby.
I still miss her. There are days when I’m wondering why my apartment is so quiet, and I realize, “duh, Kabuki isn’t here.” I’m thinking about getting a dog of my own. I understand the responsibility more now, and I’m taking everything into consideration before I go to the animal shelter. In the meantime, I’m still house sitting and enjoying time with my Rover dogs.