Should he stay, or should he go?

Look at his front paws.

Talk about jumping thru hoops! I didn’t expect this to be easy. But after a preliminary look at the requirements and expense necessary to import an adult dog into Kenya, I’m almost ready to give up and leave Hamlet here.

He’s quite precise, but not particularly quick. Yet.

Now from the beginning, this has not been an easy decision. Hamlet is turning 12 this summer, and his sensitive nature makes stressful situations harder on him in his old age. He shakes and trembles at the vet’s office, or if there’s thunder in the air. During hunting season, he’s a mess–even a distant, muted gunshot brings him trembling to my side, delicate paw raised, head turned. He hates being apart from me. Sometime I’ll lure him into the study with food when I’m leaving, and he would rather go with me than eat.

I’m conscious of how stressful such a long trip will be. I just got his geriatric blood analysis, and the good news is that his levels are normal, and he’s doing pretty well for a 69 year old guy! (A dog his size ages at about 5.75 human years per dog year, according to the chart I got.) What do you expect from an old dog who learns new tricks in the agility ring every week!

So I’m trying to weigh the options, and neither one is good.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

Option One. Subject loyal, sensitive, older dog to the trauma of a two-day flight from Dulles to Nairobi. I’m not sure how strictly the Kenyan rules for travel will be enforced, but according to their import rules, Hamlet is not allowed to leave his crate or the baggage area at any time during transit, even during a layover, to ensure that he does not contact any other animals and pick up a disease. A Captain’s Affidavit is required to document his isolation. SO . . .  he’ll have to be in his crate for the entire two-day journey.

If he makes the trip successfully, he must then adjust to a different place, different environment, different food, and different cultural expectations for a pet dog. Then three years later, when he’s 15,  he will have to survive the return trip!

Option Two. Leave loyal, sensitive, older dog with my good friend Brett. (Brett’s mother is Jorie, who owns Bianca, mom to Litters C and D.) I can see Hamlet moving to Illinois with Brett and Jake, a Basenji, and keeping Brett company while he earns a PHD in public health.

Christian, Andrew, and Hamlet, 2001

But I can’t see my next three years without Hamlet! Here’s the rub. Although I’ve shared my life with four kooikers, Hamlet is my “heart dog.” He came to us between boy #2 and boy #3, and has been one of the guys for 12 years. He was with me through the deaths of my father-in-law (2002), my first husband (2005), and my father (2005). He was with me when I married Bruce in 2010. I can’t imagine going on this next adventure in my life without him!

What would Hamlet want?

Bruce with Hamlet and Yorick, 2009

3 comments to Should he stay, or should he go?

  • Nina Vanwonterghem

    Jeezes, this is a hard choice to make. I would leave him in the caring hands of Brett. My kooikerhondje Renske is aging too, and has about the same issues as Hamlet. Don’t put him through this ordeal. You are the mature thinking person, you can make this decision for him and give it a place in your life. He would not.

    I hope you make a decision that you are good with.

  • Liliane

    Oh Rose, what a hard decission to make. That is really a though one.
    To put your own feelings a side and think about the best for Hamlet is the best you can do right now.
    2 days of travelling will be difficult for him. Can you visit him during isolation or is he going to be all by himself? Can he adjust to the weather/climate in Kenya?
    You are the only one who can decide for him. The only one who really knows him.
    And yes, you would miss him terribly. But if that would be the right thing for him then you have to do it.
    He would adjust to a new family. And you could get photos. But that is not the same as having him around.
    He is 12, he may not live to get 15. How would you feel when you are not with him to say goodbye? And how would you feel to leave him in Kenya?

    I wish you so much wisdom and strenght to do whats best for Hamlet.

    Love from the Netherlands,

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