Bella and Buggy’s Big Adventure, Part I

Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, “This is my message to you-ou-ou: “

Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don’t worry! “
Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing” – I won’t worry!
“‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”

Moving pets to New Zealand is not for wimps. The list of requirements and shots and deadlines and hoops to jump through and costs and more tests and “this must be done before that can be done” can make any person crazy. But then, we wouldn’t have moved to New Zealand if our pets (actually furry family members) could not have come.

It was grueling.

Bella is a large nine year old silver lab with lots of separation anxiety. Buggy is a very small and talkative ten year old calico cat. They grew up together. Well, more accurately, Buggy watched as Bella grew and grew. They love each other. Buggy is the boss and caretaker.


img_8454For month after month from before we left the states to our early months in New Zealand, the incredible folks at Asheville Highway Animal Hospital–our longtime vets in Knoxville, Tennessee–checked off requirements and waded through paperwork trying to help us get Bella and Buggy to NZ. Without Autumn Cowans keeping everything straight, I cannot imagine how we would have managed. I can’t say enough positive about AHAH.

The pets stayed at home in Tennessee, their routines the same but with a variety of family members and friends tending to their every need and desire. We talked to them through FaceTime. We constantly questioned whether we were doing the right thing, whether it would work, how they would do on the long flights, and fearfully, whether they would survive the ordeal. It was nauseating. It kept us awake at night.

Meanwhile, on the transport end, Mia at Pet-Express in California kept sending us must-do lists and tried to keep me calm through what may one of the most-stressful efforts we have undertaken. No, I am not kidding. I was a basket case. I know I was not fun to deal with but somehow Mia managed. This was worse than trying to get human visas.

We started the shots and paperwork in late January 2016. We finally got approval for Bella and Buggy to fly out of San Francisco on November 23, 2016. I planned to take the same flights.

From East Tennessee to San Francisco, California to Auckland, New Zealand (an 11+ hour flight) to Christchurch, New Zealand (another hour+ flight). Once we arrived in Christchurch, they would have to be in quarantine for 10 days.

If Bella and Buggy had flown to California, they would have traveled on 2 more flights. I didn’t want them to be scared before “the big flight” so the only alternative was to drive them across the US. Yep, one cat and one dog in one car for a distance of approximately 3000 miles. WHO IS THAT CRAZY?!


Yep. Me. Oh…and I conned our younger daughter Annie into traveling with us as far as the Grand Canyon. Directions: Interstate 40 through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, then go north to San Francisco. It is hard to get lost when you only travel one road. And by the way, I-40 from Oklahoma City to California parallels the historic Route 66.

Oh yes…it was quite an adventure! Bella and Buggy did remarkably well, and significantly better after day 1 when Buggy screamed a significant amount. She is vocal. She can be a drama queen. If she wants the air  conditioning turned up–she let’s you know it.


She thought she might get her way if she threw a fit. She didn’t so she gave up and joined Bella in her crate.


I’ve actually always wanted to travel across the US–and I’m happy that we did it.




It is amazing what you can see by driving across the US instead of flying.

But alas, all good things must come to an end.

Bella and Buggy were not exactly prepared for the fact that once we arrived in California, they would have to fly to NZ in crates, not close to me, in a special pressurized hold for animals. Bella wanted to stow away in my carry-on (actually that is a huge suitcase). Nope.


As we were driving to the Pet-Express office in Brisbane, California very early on the day of Bella and Buggy’s last vet appointments before we departed, my head was spinning. I considered turning around and driving back to Tennessee. Seriously.

The sun was just coming up and Bella and Buggy had no clue what was coming. To them, it was just another travel day. I turned on the radio to drown out my fears. The first song that came on was Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds.

“Don’t worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don’t worry!”

Tears rolled down my face and I began to breathe for the first time in days, weeks, maybe even months.

We arrived at Pet Express and met Mia face-to-face for the first time, as well as the rest of the incredible crew there. Bella promptly went and stole someone’s breakfast. Buggy entertained and explored. I looked down at Mia’s feet and (although I am typically not a fan of tattoos) she had gorgeous music rolling across her feet.


We talked music. In the conversation she mentioned that the music on her feet is…yep, you’ve got it: Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

“Don’t worry about a thing, worry about a thing, oh!
Every little thing gonna be all right. Don’t worry!”

So on that note, pun intended, Bella and Buggy continued their adventure to New Zealand. Stay turned for Part II of Bella and Buggy’s Big Adventure.


8 thoughts on “Bella and Buggy’s Big Adventure, Part I

  1. What a story, what makes it even better is that it was two pets, always more interesting than one and how they look out for each other. What stories they could tell!


  2. Loved your story. The question is how Do they like living in New Zealand? When do you plan to come back to the states, I should’ve said to Tennessee?

    My dentist, Dr Carl D Mabry told me you were his audiologist until you went away.
    Ceree Schiller


    1. Part III, not yet written, will deal with leaving quarantine and living in Greymouth. The very short version: they are doing wonderfully.

      About NZ, we have a 3 year commitment but 5 year visas.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s