Leopold’s Big Journey

Leo’s journey to Australia began over six months ago in Miami, Florida. Lying the air conditioning all day and hanging out with us at local happy hours wasn’t a bad life. He grew to adore the vet after being the center of attention on a raised examining table for multiple vaccinations and blood tests, which made the mounting vet and paperwork bills a little less painful for me. At the end of our year there, I packed all our stuff in the Jeep, most of which belonged to Leo. He went to say goodbye to the neighbor lady who would always spot him from blocks away and scream out, “Leopold!!!” He didn’t know where we were going, but wherever it was, he wanted to make sure he was in the Jeep when it took off. He slept the whole way to Kansas City, except when we stopped at gas stations to look up directions.

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When we got to Missouri, he recognized my family members, jumping on them and barking excitedly, and he quickly made himself at home. After a year of living in an apartment, he rediscovered his favorite pastime of rolling in the grass.  He especially enjoyed creeping into the neighbors’ grass. My mom spoiled him to death with all kinds of treats and attention after I left, and he became comfortable with life in Missouri. But after 10 weeks, he was uprooted again.


One day his gigantic new kennel arrived in the mail. He hated it, and he ripped his new water and food bowls off the door in protest. He knew that something was up, and he didn’t like it. On the last Sunday morning of October, my parents took him to the airport cargo terminal, and that day he flew to Minneapolis and then to Los Angeles. In LA, a pet travel agency picked him up, gave him a bath, and kept him overnight. There he found a privileged spot from which to observe the other dogs.


The next night Leo flew from LAX to Sydney, where the Australian government picked him up and took him straight to quarantine. He was there for the mandatory ten days, ten days in which I couldn’t think about anything else. We were excited when we flew down to Sydney to pick him up, having packed plenty of treats and bones for him (and his rubber chicken, of course). But at the same time we worried that he would come out shaken by the whole experience. When we went to the quarantine station, we discovered that it was out in the middle of nowhere. There were numerous wooden buildings that almost looked like military barracks and lots of dead grass but no dogs in sight. We walked into the facility and asked for Leopold, and as soon as we spoke we heard a familiar howl from another room. They had already put him in his kennel, and he was waiting to be picked up. We let him out and he went nuts, peeing out of excitement and jumping on us. The next minute we were on our way to the car. His happy prance out of there is a sight I will never forget.


As a welcome down under, we took Leo to an iconic Australian spot: Bondi Beach. He loved the feel of the ocean breeze on his floppy ears. He walked along the cliffs with all of the other tourists looking at the “Sculpture by the Sea” exhibit. It was such a breathtaking view, but we couldn’t stop watching Leo.




That night we stayed with friends in the country. I still don’t know if Leo realized he was somewhere completely different, but he was happy just to be with us again. The next evening we had to put him on yet another flight, this time back to Brisbane. He flipped out at the cargo terminal, whining and clawing at the kennel door. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch, because we knew he thought he was being abandoned again. When we picked him up in Brisbane that night, he seemed okay, and he was relieved to see his kennel finally dismantled.


Now Leo has been in his new home for a week and a half. He gets fairly anxious when we leave for work, but I think slowly he’ll figure out that we’re not going to abandon him again. He certainly has had no trouble getting comfortable on his new couch! I wish that he didn’t have to go through such intense changes and abandonment to get here. But I’d like to think that he’s happy he made the move to be with us. As I finished writing this, I heard a sleepy groan emerge from floor between the sofa and the coffee table. It’s still crazy to think that he’s here.


The unsettling feeling of settling into a new city


Photo taken by Katie Orlinsky, NYT

Getting used to a new city is something that I always expect myself to be great at, since I should have acquired so much cultural sensitivity and flexibility from my life experiences so far (HA!). But I suck at it. No matter how long I distract myself by finding a place to live and decorating the place and figuring out basic things like where I’m going to buy groceries and how I’m going to get to and from work, there comes a time when it hits me that I’m here with no friends (except, of course, my loving boyfriend) and it’s going to take a long time before this city feels like it wants me to be here. The feeling of having all of my belongings in this new city but not belonging here myself is pretty unsettling. The only thing that makes it bearable is the knowledge that somehow life has a way of working out situations like this one, and before I know it (waiting, waiting…) I will feel a connection to this city. I’ll be sad to see its distinguishing features pass underneath me when I fly somewhere else, like I was every time I flew out of Miami and saw my college campus, the Biltmore Hotel, Latin Cafe on Le Jeune, and Miami Beach pass below me. I will get annoyed about the things that people here get annoyed about and I will revel in the little festivities that people here revel in. I won’t have to sheepishly look at Google Maps on my phone while on the bus to figure out if we’re near my stop. And I won’t feel particularly American or particularly new; I’ll just feel like everybody else who once moved here and now calls it home. Until then there are growing pains.