We arrived at Schiphol airport the following morning around 11h00, but could only collect the dogs about 5 hours later that day. So, the period of separation from the dogs was only 24 hours in total. The assistant at the animal and pet travel department at the airport was friendly and helpful. We needed all the dogs' documentation in order to collect them (a file full of documents, much of which was prepared by the pet travel agency). We went back at 17h00 that same day after having rested and eaten something at home. I was anxious to see them, of course, and especially curious about the emotional and physical state they would be in. We were sent to the customs section where they verified whether these were in fact my/our pets by asking me – in a very friendly, matter-of-fact manner, mind you (I did not even realise that they were in fact running a check on me) – for the dogs' names, genders, colours, breeds, etc. Once the customs official was satisfied that these were indeed my dogs, he signed and stamped a form and off we went to collect them at long last. There was a little bit of back-and-forth between departments at the airport, but nothing too unwieldy.
FINALLY!!!!! - we could pick the dogs up and see them after all this time!!!! We returned to the animal and pet travel department with our signed and stamped customs forms, and were taken to a large garage/warehouse type door which took forever to open up. Once the doors were open, it took two more minutes and there they were!!!!!! Reunited at last. They were in one piece and seemingly happy to see us. Well... Chandra was smiling from ear to ear and seemed calm about it all (that is highly consistent with her nature), but Hiro literally screamed and screeched his head off at me for the next 45 minutes! He was clearly not happy to have been separated from me for that long. I imagine he was also affected by being in a separate crate to Chandra, as he usually seeks comfort by lying against her. Chihuahuas are known for separation anxiety and I could easily empathise with what he must have endured on the flight as well as before and after while being separated from us. He calmed down soon enough though, but I really felt as if he was also scolding at me for having put him through the ordeal.
At home later that day, the dogs ate and carried out their bodily functions quite normally. It was icy cold and a very light snow was falling outside, so when I took them out for a walk, they were appropriately wrapped up in coats and jackets. There has been much for the dogs to adjust to here in their new country: the weather and climate, the new routines (they walk much, much more here than they ever did in SA, as we live in an apartment on the third floor without a garden that they can easily access), the new noises and smells and sights of living in the centre of a fairly busy and noisy city, etc. In the beginning, on their very first walk to the closest public park (Vondelpark) on an icy cold day, Hiro gave me a serious scare by suddenly dashing off after a gaggle of geese and ending up in the freezing pond water! I had to take his wet, cold coat off and huddle him inside my jacket. He and I both ended up arriving home stiff and shivering from the cold!
I´d say they are relatively well adjusted by now. Hiro has been for some training as he used to bark hysterically at other dogs on the street and elsewhere which we found unsettling and embarassing. The trainer told us his stress levels were excessively high and that the move had traumatised him. We went through a number of months of following the trainer´s guidelines in order to reduce his overall stress level. These days, he still barks at other dogs whenever he sees them, but he barks less hysterically and for a shorter amount of time, so I am assuming he has recovered from the trauma by now. Hiro has also had an accident falling down the stairs in the apartment, but thankfully on the day he was wearing a thick coat and was therefore well cushioned and did not injure himself. Consequently, he now gets carried down that first flight of stairs from the apartment space to the front door; he manages to negotiate all the other stairs, both ways, beautifully!
I am extremely grateful for Hiro and Chandra and the role they play in my life. I am especially grateful for the fact that they help me to feel connected to my life in SA in a very concrete and also an emotional way. They ground me when I need it and give routine and structure to my days. They have been a pure blessing in my own adjustment process and I absolutely know I could not have done it without them! There was a moment during the planning phase before leaving SA when my husband and I spoke about leaving Chandra behind as we were unsure about whether she would cope without a garden as she is a very outdoors-oriented dog and whether she would cope with all the stairs in the building. We sometimes still wonder about whether she would not have been happier being adopted by a family on a farm or smallholding in SA (or even here in The Netherlands), but my gut feeling is that she is happier to be with us and compromise some of the outdoors than the other way around – that´s what I´d like to think anyway! Besides, she is a stair master!
Hiro and Chandra are a joy and a blessing and if that is how anyone feels about their pets, they should do everything they can to emigrate with them. To me, they are akin to having children and children don´t get left behind when their parents move countries.