Angels often come in the shape of ‘dogs’. The deeper meaning of this statement would not reach those who never had a dog. I am one of those. The same goes for Arpita, the human mother of a lovely dog named Georgette, who one day suddenly came into Arpita’s life in the village of Roches Noires in the north of Mauritius and she never left.
Georgette has travelled with this family to four continents, namely Asia, Africa, Europe and earlier this month, they were in Australia. Actually, the family had to get an Australian visa for Georgette. The law says that the dog should pass through a low-rabies country to get a visa to no-rabies country. Here is the incredible story of Georgette, the Mauritian dog with the lovely Boyd family, the story of Georgette who crossed the borders with the dedication of a loving family. The story of an adopted street dog.
Dog was a big NO
Arpita never had a dog in her life. She says, “Growing up in Mumbai, India, a city of 20 million people, there's hardly any space for humans to live properly, forget a dog. And stray dogs in India seem pretty crazy. They chase you in such a way that you may think they are going to take a bite out of your ankle, especially when you are going fast on a bike.” That's the conditioning and experiences that Arpita grew up with. Even after she moved overseas in 2001 and married an Australian, Gary Boyd, who was extremely relaxed around dogs, she never had the urge to play with pet dogs of family and friends. For years, her two kids Oliver and Elvis nagged her to get a dog, though she never allowed it. Till Georgette came.
Entry of Georgette
The Boyd family moved to Mauritius in 2016. Arpita shares: “I used to be scared of the stray dogs on the island, too. Until, on a blistering summer day, a limping, dehydrated, thin dog arrived at our gate. I knew a dog was sitting outside the gate for hours in the hot sun but assumed it would go on its way. Finally, I tried to shoo ‘it’ away. I had such minimal idea of a dog's physiology, did not even know if it was a male or female. Anyway, this dog refused to move. Although, the dog looked scared. There was a pack of stray dogs barking at it from across the road.”
Falling in love
After hours of trying to get rid of the dog, Arpita tried to give it a closer look. “The dog looked up at me with it’s beautiful brown eyes and I felt an instant and deep connection. It was unexplainable. As if it was communicating silently, and I just fell in love at first sight.” Her heart melted and she invited her in for some water and a French baguette and the boys were also happy to see a new guest in the house. And just like that, the family had a feeling that this dog was going to be part of the family and she was here to stay. “That's how Georgette came into our life, toilet trained, self-sufficient and street smart. Later, the vet said she was about six months old.”
“I still remember how she enjoyed chasing birds all day long on the beach, swimming in the blue waters, going on kayak rides with random strangers and gate crashing beach BBQ parties where she often pulled an all-nighter stealing sausages, long after we had gone to bed. She even had a holiday home up the beach at our dear friends Alistair and Brenda Starker.”
Fast forward a year later, the Boyd family decided to leave Mauritius for India. They had a difficult decision to make, that of leaving Georgette behind or take her with them to India. “If we took her to India, then we should commit to taking care of her for life. But the boys were already so much in love with Georgette and vice versa that it eventually became an easy decision to take her along. Georgette joined the family for her first-ever international trip.”
“India is so much different from island life, especially Mumbai. There, Georgette became one of those crazy dogs that chases bikes in India, and she loved all the different aromas of food. Our family, especially my parents, brother Gautam Ankhad and sister-in-law Sonia Gehlot Ankhad felt a profound change of attitude towards all dogs after interacting with Georgette every month. Our maid Nanda specially brought home-cooked meat for Georgette daily, as we are vegetarians.”
It was in India that the family realized the world is divided into ‘No-Rabies’ (United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Mauritius), ‘Low-Rabies’ (USA, Canada, most of Europe, parts of Middle East) and ‘High-Rabies’ (India, Indonesia, Turkey, Ghana, etc.) countries. The checklist was overwhelmingly long, 21 pages of detailed instructions, tests and processes that would take up to a year to complete and to relocate Georgette from India to Australia or New Zealand. They got started on the dog’s tests and vaccinations with help from their vet in Mumbai.
A part of the one-year process also involved moving from a ‘high rabies’ country to a ‘low rabies’ country for at least six months before they could eventually be accepted into a ‘no-rabies’ country. Think of it as semi-quarantine.
Selecting low-rabies country
So, the discussion started within the family for the selection of low-rabies country to stay for next six months. Arpita is a personal trainer and she is also home schooling both her boys. This made it possible for the family to take this decision to take a 6-month trip to get Georgette a visa to Australia.
Arpita says: “We have always loved Italy. We saw these six months as an opportunity in disguise to travel to Europe. Georgette has given us a chance to tick off my bucket list dream of living in Venice for three months, followed by three months in Croatia, that is my husband Gary’s dream. We had to come back to Italy for a short period to complete Georgette’s final tests to get the visa for the no-rabies country, New Zealand, which was going to be our home base, as Gary is an Australian native.”
“We found an incredibly helpful team of local vet in Venice City, government vet and a lab with lead vet Dr. Alda Natale, who helped us coordinate all the blood tests, export paperwork and timeframes. The whole process to relocate Georgette cost us tens of thousands of dollars, but that never mattered. She is after all, a part of our family, a part of me. And a commitment we made to always be there for her.”
Arpita was not ready to share the cost, but I insisted so that dog lovers out there can have this extra information and knowledge of dedication the Boyd family put into this whole affair.
The process to transport Georgette from Mauritius to India cost around USD 200 with Air Mauritius. There was also some export paperwork to organize in Mauritius and import paperwork to organize in India prior to arrival.
When the time came to travel to Europe, export paperwork needed from India and import papers to Europe needed to be arranged. Also needed were rabies test. Results were to be tested in UK lab which cost about USD 200. The transporting of Georgette from India to Europe by Swiss Air travel cost around USD 400.
They spent three months in Croatia. The family had to undergo a simple process which needed a letter of confirmation from the local Italian government vet and it cost around USD 50. From Croatia back to Italy, the cost was nil for Georgette.
“We had decided that New Zealand was going to be our home.” New Zealand is more exotic with its stunning beauty. It is a cross between Canada and Switzerland in the South and sub-tropical in the North. New Zealand is however very similar to Australia in many ways. The culture and the schooling are the same, as the boys Oliver and Elvis do need to return to a traditional school to complete high school. In other things like tax, business, banking, shops, brands, infrastructure, the two countries share extremely close bilateral ties.
“Although the process from Italy to New Zealand was extremely costly, we had to do about 10 different blood tests and vet appointments. As per New Zealand law, Georgette was required to be transferred from Italy to New Zealand as a cargo via Emirates Airline, whereas in previous flights, she was transferred as excess luggage bag. All other costs including medications, export agent in Italy, government vet permits, etc. and finally a 10-day quarantine costs in New Zealand was around USD 10,000. But when we met Georgette after 10 days in New Zealand, her happiness to meet us and our pleasure to meet her was all worth the effort and money.”
Georgette arrived in the Southern Hemisphere early this month. It’s the 4th continent she will reside in, after Africa, Asia & Europe. A Mauritian stray dog who travelled the world.
Arpita says, “The last three years with Georgette and her relocation has taught me amazing life lessons which I share with my weight loss clients: Keeping patience is important. Yes, have a plan but do not assume everything will go according to plan. Life happens. Be committed. Be ready to make the effort. Because it is going to take a lot more efforts than you originally anticipated, but it is so worth it when you get to the end of the tunnel, you'll never have regrets, only joy.”
“My mother wisely says that perhaps I owed Georgette a debt from our last birth and it is my opportunity in this birth to care for her and repay that debt,” affirms Arpita.
Today, when families break apart for small and silly reasons, seeing the bonding of the Boyd family with a Mauritian street dog is overwhelming. Seeing them, I remember the famous saying that “Being a mother doesn't mean being related to someone by blood. It means loving someone unconditionally with your whole heart,” even if it is a dog.
Thankfully, I have a successful online health & weight loss coaching business that allows us this flexibility to be able to do this for Georgette and for that, I am thankful to all my clients, past & present in 20+ countries worldwide. Special gratitude to my clients Linda Jenkins Van Arsdale, Erin Rooney Burns, Christina Purba, Ruchi Shah, Ashwini Deshpande and my brother Gautam, all who offered to care/foster care for Georgette if at any stage our visa in Europe expired in the process of completing Georgette’s tests,” Arpita concludes.
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