A Note From New Zealand

The Doc’s been acting a little strangely lately. I mean, he gets weird at times but this is different. He’s been going on and on about something called Ebola and he’s been spending a lot more time at the place he works. He says he’s making plans in case this Ebola thing shows up in his emergency room, then he mumbles about travel bans and quarantine. That’s when he got my attention. Quarantine.

A long time ago I got a letter from Phoebe, a border collie who’d just moved with her family to New Zealand. It was tough. A long plane ride locked in a cage in the baggage compartment, then as soon as she landed they put her in prison for a number of weeks. She wrote asking me what it was all about. I admitted I had no idea, so I asked the Doc.

He said it wasn’t prison, it was quarantine. It’s what some countries do to my guys when they show up at the airport or seaport or wherever from another country. Something to do with spreading diseases. He said they keep you separated from other people, and dogs, and, I assume, squirrels, rats, and everyone else until they’re sure you don’t have whatever it is they’re worried about. He wrote Phoebe a nice letter explaining all this. I never heard back from her. I just assumed everything was OK. Now I wasn’t so sure, so I sent her a note asking how she was doing and whether or not she’d heard of this Ebola thing. I hoped she’d write back. She did, and this is what she had to say:

Dear Kaya,

So good to hear from you! Sorry about not staying in touch but it’s been busy down here. Yes, they finally let me out of prison after what seemed like forever. Tell the Doc thanks, and that he was right. My folks said it was only three months. I reminded them that for me it was almost two years. They came to visit almost every day but in a way that made it even worse because then they’d leave and it felt just like it did that first day. It took a while for us to get back to normal once I was free again.

New Zealand is great! Beaches, mountains and about a zillion sheep. More sheep than people which for someone like me is heaven. Some things required a little adjustment. For instance it’s November, which was always in the winter where I grew up. But here it’s in the summer. I asked if they just used different names for the months in New Zealand but I was told no, it’s the same November as back home but a different season. I said that didn’t exactly clear things up. Then I was told it had to do with being in the southern hemisphere and seasons were the opposite of those in the northern one. Still a little fuzzy, but no matter. After the first year I got used to it.
About Ebola. I have, in fact, heard of it. Some kind of disease that has the humans pretty worked up. I also heard they have a quarantine here for people coming from places where the Ebola lives. Serves them right. If it was good enough for me, it should be good enough for them. They can stay in prison until we’re sure I’m not going to catch something. Hah!

I hope this helps. I’ll try to be better about staying in touch. I’d say come visit, but my guess is you’d rather not spend three months in prison, despite all the sheep.

All the Best,


I was relieved to hear she was out of prison and having a good time. The Doc happened to be home when the letter arrived so I passed on the thank you. I told him about the quarantine down there for the Ebola thing. He just grunted. I then asked if it’s the same quarantine he’s been mumbling about recently.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he replied.

No problem. We walked for a while, me sniffing and doing a little territorial maintenance, him not saying anything. I didn’t push. I figured he’d talk when he was ready.

“OK,” he said finally. “It’s like this.”

Then he told me that the quarantine concept was the same for Phoebe as it was for the humans. If you’re worried someone has something bad that’s hard to treat you keep them separated from others until you’re sure they don’t. Problem is, he went on, that not all countries see things the same way. Here, apparently, we have a quarantine in some states, but not in others, and the way it works is different from place to place where we do have it.

“But that makes no sense,” I said.

“No. It doesn’t. Like a lot of things these days.”

I let that go. I wasn’t in the mood for one of his socio-political rants. I decided to change the subject.

“Have you ever thought of moving to New Zealand? I mean, you seem to like the way they do things there.”

He got quiet again. I went back to sniffing and marking. Good fences make good neighbors and all that. Then he made a big sigh.
“As a matter of fact, I have.”

I waited. He seemed not to want to discuss it. Good luck with that now.


He stopped, I stopped. You know, the leash. Not much choice there. Then he got this serious look on his face.

“I’ll tell you, but I don’t want you blabbing to all your friends. OK?”

I wagged my tail and gave him the dumb look. I figured he’d assume that meant ‘yes’. We know better.

“OK. So I looked into it. They need doctors like me so I figured it would be easy. Not too many people there, a lot less craziness, and they speak English. It would have meant putting you in quarantine for a while, which is why I didn’t mention it. Thought I’d let you know when we had the details worked out. I wrote to two consulates to get the ball rolling. Then they said ‘No’. They said I couldn’t apply for permanent residence because, get this, I was TOO OLD.”

It was all I could do to keep from howling. I could tell it was making him nuts so I decided not to rub it in. He’s nuts enough as it is. Wait till the next time he makes some old lady remark about me.


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