We had been planning to go home for a while and show Micro to our families – somehow it felt really weird that they only saw the dog on pictures or via skype while he became such a big part of our lives. BUT (sorry for shouting, it HAS to spelled with capital letters) leaving or retuning to the island (as we call it) with a pet is not an easy task. The options if you don’t own a car are:
1) By plane. Should be ok, with the exception that no one knows if the dog is traumatised by the loud noise. Going to Germany would be fine, Lufthansa allows dogs up to 8kg (including carrier) in the main cabin, but coming back – that is a whole other story. Pets only travel as cargo to the UK and can only be transported by specialised firms (cost: about £800 each way for a small dog such as ours) and you can’t travel from every airport. For us that would have meant travelling down to Frankfort to be able to fly back. Plus, you need to be there 4 hours before the flight (or something like it). Not an option, then.
2) By train. One would think this an easy choice, however, while pets travel for free on trains in almost all European countries (depending on the dog’s size, you might need a children’s ticket), there are no pets accepted on the Eurostar (service dogs, of course, excluded). This is currently the only option to leave the island by train. Deutsche Bahn is going to offer direct trains, but despite having been granted permission and having run a trial in 2010, this is only pencilled into the diary for 2016. So for now, that’s a no, too.
3) Sharing a ride (e.g. via blabla car), a good option, however, with two people and a dog in a crate travelling together, plus luggage, it’s not easy to find a person which that much space, and of course you never know if you agree with how the other person is driving or if the driver’s going to be annoyed if the dog needs a lot of bathrooms breaks (which is difficult to predict with a young dog)… suboptimal solution, but possible.
4) Multiple trains and ferry to avoid the Eurostar – a lot of stress for everyone involved, not to mention that carrying the dog in the crate is not an easy task in itself. Suboptimal solution.
5) Book a rental car. Doable – except for the extra fee that you need to pay, because one does drive on the wrong side of the road (here or in the rest of Europe, depending on how you see it) which means that you cannot leave the car at any other rental point, but instead have to have special off-the-island roadside cover. Hertz offered us a good deal with no extra cost… until we arrived at the rental station and got forced to pay an extra £105, despite having a paper that said ‘price guaranteed’ and having being upfront when renting over the phone, that the purpose of renting a car was taking it our of the country … according to the person working at the Heathrow rental station, one needs a piece of paper authorising the person who rents the car to leave the country with said car – or one would be send back at the border. (Am I the only one who every so often gets the feeling of being lied to at these rental stations?) Bottom line: no one wanted to see this piece of paper when we left and re-entered the country, which was supposedly oh-so-important to have…. we’re working the small issue of wanting reimbursement for Hertz either mis-selling or outright lying to us – whichever it may be.
So, our road-trip started off a little tense, but as soon as we were on the ferry (despite being slightly worried to leave Micro all alone in the crate in the car) we enjoyed watching the sun bouncing off the water while happily chatting away.
Micro did great on his very first long road trip, managed to cope with being in a crate, going for small walks and eating on service areas or being driven around in his very own doggy buggy at the outlet centre.
In Germany, we threw a very small ‘big brother – little brother party’ for little A, which basically consisted of him unpacking presents over a longer breakfast. We had bought him a book and I designed a poster for his big boy room (see here for my inspiration). The heading was ‘Dragon Boy Found’, since this was his costume for carnival. He was also allowed to unpack the presents we had made for his little brother (onesies) and the nursing cover sewn for my sister.
We had sewn a onesie and a t-shirt and designed a matching dragon/dinosaur logo (first time ever working with freeze paper, G did an amazing job cutting it all out!). Becoming a big brother is definitely something that occupies little A’s mind and I got all sorts of questions at random times about what a big brother had to do (I’m the big sister), like would he have to look after his little brother. He would then wander off and ponder the answer in his little head. It must feel a bit surreal, since he can see his mother getting bigger, but he can’t see the ‘final product’ (if you want) just yet, though he knows babies and is generally good with them. Helping to get his future brother dressed in matching shirts was definitely something that he was looking forward to – one down, loads more to conquer, I guess….
G drove off to see her parents for a couple of days and took Micro with her, so they got to meet him as well and he got to play with their dog, Balou. He learned how to settle down by himself if he is tired, and generally gained a little more confidence. It was definitely weird being dog-free, since I’m the one who is usually around Micro all the time!
Now we’re back here (and in the midst of a tube strike) waiting for the first May bank holiday. Lots more road-trips to plan!