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  • Writer's picturerachel jackson

The Great Escape, the incredible tale of the quarantine jail break.

Updated: Aug 30, 2019

We don’t have kids. Hold on mom, before you panic, they are on the bucket list - just not yet.

In the meantime, we have our fur babies. I feel like they are great training until kids come into the picture. They are expensive, needy, test your patience, depend on you for survival, need to be bathed, taken to the doctor, make you laugh / cry and hold a special place in your heart. Also, like a proud parent, I love showing off and talking about my dogs, so here they are, Merlyn and Milla.

Milla "The Monster"


Before we got married, I had Merlyn and Sean had Milla. Merlyn is a cockapoo, who has had his own special journey. He was my first dog. I found him, paid for him and flew back from Houston with him under my seat at 8 weeks old. I always tell Sean that when I went to pick up my new puppy, Merlyn wasn’t the one I originally picked. I had picked out another puppy, but when I got there, the puppy I picked slept quietly on my lap. Meanwhile, Merlyn was pulling on my shoe strings and barking his little puppy bark to play. Thus, began the love for my little cotton ball. Fast forward about 4 years, and Merlyn began to get sick and wasn’t getting better. His belly began to swell and his fur started falling out. When getting a second opinion, I was told he needed to see a specialist immediately. At the time, I didn’t even realize there were vet specialists. Turns out, Oklahoma has one of the best vet hospitals in the country. Without going into all the detail of his treatment, I’ll just say I’ll be forever be thankful for the OSU Vet Hospital.

While Merlyn was sick, I met Sean. One of our first dates was driving to Stillwater to see Merlyn in ICU and to eventually take him back home. Thus, our first dog jail break. Little did I know, I’d be meeting the Clyde to my Bonnie. Sean was pretty amazing during this time. He spent many hours listening to me worry, cry and complain. He supported my decision to spend the next 6-8 months making weekly trips to Stillwater (3 hours of driving) and bleeding money to fix Merlyn. I think everyone else thought I was crazy, but I wasn’t giving up on him and it paid off. Merlyn is a happy, healthy pup.

Before and After pictures of Merlyn. The first picture on the left was when all of his hair was falling out and he was skin and bones. The one with the bandana was the day they told us he was officially in "remission." The second set shows his normal belly on the left and his pot belly on the right.

Fun fact: When I found out Sean had a weenie dog or as they call them here, sausage dogs, I knew it wasn’t coincidence. We had so much in common already, of course he would have one. My family only owned weenie dogs growing up and breed them occasionally. I have a picture of me and my older sister in a bed full of weenie dog puppies, just living our best life.

I fell in love with Milla right away. Milla is the absolute opposite of Merlyn. She makes you earn her love, while Merl will give it to anyone. He’s the type of dog who would leave with a stranger, while Milla needs you in her line of sight to be comfortable. I earned it, but not without many nights of snuggles and treats behind Sean’s back to get it. Another fact about Milla - she loves Sean. I know dogs love their owners, but Milla has a fierce bond with Sean. Their first order of business when Sean gets home from work is to chase each other around the house. It’s hilarious.

So with this background, it’ll help you understand why we decided to bring them to New Zealand. Initially, I didn’t realize what all went into importing our pups, but wow, it’s a lot. If you're thinking about moving to a different country, you should definitely look into their biosecurity laws, rules and costs. New Zealand just so happens to have some of the most stringent laws in the world. Originally, I thought I could navigate all the rules, fill out the permits, etc. by myself. Turns out, the only airline (Air New Zealand) that carry pets from America to New Zealand, require a pet relocation company. Thus, I broke down and did a lot of research on different companies. We decided to go with Pet Relocation ( They were pricey, but totally worth it. The quick responses to questions, anxieties and overall logistics was awesome. I genuinely felt like they cared about our dogs and getting them to NZ safely - we had lots of back and forth emails. I think I counted a total of 327 emails all together.

When you import a dog into NZ, the most time sensitive piece is getting your dogs chipped and the titer tests started. Since they don't have rabies here, they perform multiple tests to ensure your dogs are free of any diseases, specifically rabies and heart worms This takes 180 days. So, if you know you are moving, it's important to get this started as soon as possible. Luckily, we have great parents and they watched our pups for us when we left. Thanks Kenny and Shanda - we love you. :)

We spent four months without our dogs due to the testing requirements. And it was a long four months. Once all the testing was completed and they were cleared, the dogs boarded a flight to LAX. They spent the night in a doggy lodge and went through one more final check with the vet in LA and got their final clearance for New Zealand. The pups took the red eye and finally arrived in Auckland, but alas, still no pups for us. We had to wait 10 days for them while they remained in quarantine.

Quarantine reminded me of what it might be like for dogs if they were in Litchfield Max, but with nice CO's. They have to stay inside in a kennel run for 10 days - no grass or sky, but they did get quite a bit of play time in their kennels. We could have done visiting hours, but we would have had to "suit up" and only see them for a short period of time each day. Which led us to the decision of not visiting the dogs while they were in the 10 day shoe. We knew it would be really hard and ultimately more confusing for them. So, we waiting the grueling 10 days to break them free. But man, what a feeling driving to go get them. I was so excited and couldn't wait to see how they reacted. We were going to film it, but I felt that I needed hands free availability to love on our pups. While they were stoked to see us, I think they were way more stoked to be able to go outside and move around.

Note: the quarantine facility we chose (Auckland Quarantine) was amazing. They gave us facebook updates on the pups daily, well priced and great at communication. I would definitely recommend them. Two thumbs way up.

As a family, we are starting to feel genuinely settled. The dogs have their beds in our massive windows, their blankets are spread around the house and the love terrorizing the birds and people walking to the beach.

I think(and hope) they are really enjoying their new home. Merlyn is obsessed with the ocean and beach life. I think he'd spend all day chasing the waves, if I let him. Milla still loves napping and the sun, not much has changed except the color of her bed. It was totally worth the money, stress, anxiety and logistics to get them here. They definitely complete our family.

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