My dog the expat
Hallie immigrated from Canada to England in 2015, when she was 12. We decided to bring her here as we had no idea how long we would be living in the UK, and we didn’t want to leave her behind.
Shipping a dog (and a cat) to England is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It involved a very difficult and specific government-endorsed process that I never want to go through again. It was easier for four humans to emigrate from England to Canada than it was for a dog and cat to move from Canada to England.
In the weeks before we left Canada, Husband L mentioned our pet plan to a neighbour, who looked at L like he was crazy, and then said, “Don’t they have dogs in England?”
Hallie came into our lives in 2004 (when I was in my 30’s!) and from that day onwards, she has been by my side. She is one of the family. The cat Chantz came into our lives about 6 months before we left Canada, but we had a sentimental attachment to her, so she wasn’t getting left behind either.
This is the difference between a dog and a cat though (and I adore cats): When we collected Hallie the dog from Heathrow after her flight, she was ecstatic to see us. We were instantly forgiven. The cat, on the other hand, was furious. She never really forgave us, and in fact she refused to hang around, and ended up voluntarily decamping to a nearby farm.
Hallie, though, is a bit more loyal. She is now 15 and a half, and is the main reason I still live in England; I am repaying that loyalty.
A year after moving to England, she experienced something called a Vestibular attack. It is essentially a reaction to an inner ear infection; it causes stroke-like symptoms including lack of balance and mobility, and dizziness. She did recover but the outcome was that she could no longer travel far, and that included ten hour plane journeys. So, naturally, her jet-setting days were over, very soon after they had begun.
Not an option
This meant that when my husband and kids “abandoned“* me to return to Canada, I did not feel able to join them. I just did not want to leave Hallie, after uprooting her and disrupting her life when she was already in her twilight years. It just never felt like an option for me. And so, I have stayed in England, and I have re-built a life here, away from my husband and children.
*It’s in quotation marks because then it looks like I’m joking.
Hallie has been beside me through the past three years in England, through my dad’s passing, through a difficult business situation, through two operations, and through my endless to-ing and fro-ing across the Atlantic. When I have taken my Canada trips, I have been lucky enough to have good friends and family looking after her, and she has waited patiently for my return; never once has she complained or punished me when I came back.
Secret to long life
She is still pretty healthy (for a 108-year-old), and although slowing down, she still insists on a daily walk. She’s never had any shots (apart from a compulsory rabies shot when she emigrated); she takes a daily dose of turmeric and the only “drug” she takes is CBD oil, every day.
If you could ask her what her secret to long life is, I think she’d say this, in her best English accent: “Being an expat has given me a new lease on life. I have experienced a whole new culture, and this has provided me with experiences that I could only dream of in my suburban life in Canada. This whole moving to another country thing has essentially kept me fit and young.”
Just kidding. I don’t think she’s got an English accent.