Quarantine? Really??

I got a note from Phoebe that has me more than a little upset.  She’s about five years old, a Border Collie mix, and was thrilled to hear her family was moving to New Zealand.  She wasn’t sure why, something about this country going to the dogs, which hardly seems like a good reason for any of my guys to want to leave, but hey, she’s got those Border Collie genes and New Zealand must look like heaven what with all the sheep down there.

Anyway, it’s a big deal, very complicated, more than you probably want to know and certainly more than I have the time or patience to discuss, but moving day finally arrives and off they go to the airport.  Right away Phoebe smells a rat.  Not a real one, though there were probably a few in the area.  There always are.  But something’s not right because as soon as they arrive she’s put into a cage, (a CAGE!), and sent off to the baggage compartment of this giant plane.  She was terrified, and not just a little insulted.  Baggage?  Fortunately there were a couple of other cages with similarly abused dogs inside.  They didn’t seem happy, either, though it was hard to tell how felt because, according to Phoebe, they slept almost the entire time.

Apparently New Zealand is a long way from LA because poor Phoebe was in that cage for about 18 hours—which in dog time is almost a week.  No walks, no treats.  Finally, the plane lands and one of the baggage guys hauls her cage out of the plane and into the terminal.  Her family is there to meet her, and though she’s angry with them she gets over it right away and starts wagging her tail in anticipation of freedom and a new life of chasing sheep.  Wrong.

Her family smiles and waves, but no one makes a move to let her out.  They pat her on the head through the bars, and say ‘Goodbye”.  “Goodbye!”  ARE YOU KIDDING?  Then two guys in uniform pick her up, cage and all, and take her to prison.

Somehow she was able to smuggle a note past the guards, the one she sent to me.  What, she wants to know, is going on?

I have to admit I was stumped.  Prison is a human concept.  It’s not something we canines know much about.  I figured I’d better ask an expert, and who better than my housemate.  He’s smart.  He’s a doctor.  He knows a lot of stuff.  So I did, and this is what he had to say:


Dear Phoebe,

So sorry to hear about your predicament, but I can assure you it won’t be forever.  You are not in ‘prison’.  You are in ‘quarantine’.  You are there because you came from a country in which there are diseases dogs can get that are relatively rare in New Zealand, and the authorities there want to make sure you don’t have any of them before letting you run free.

The disease they worry about most is rabies.  Yes, I know, you’ve had all you shots.  But no vaccine is 100% effective and for every thousand or so dogs that get vaccinated there will be a few for whom it doesn’t work and can get the disease.  It’s not possible to tell which dogs those will be, and the, excuse the expression, ‘animal control people’ want to make sure you’re not one of them.

Humans are very paranoid about rabies.  Even if you had a blood test to check for rabies antibodies, (which you probably did), and it was positive, meaning the vaccine worked, (which it probably was), they are still going to keep you in quarantine for a couple of weeks ‘just in case’.

By the time you get this response your quarantine should be almost finished.  Best wishes for a full and happy life Down Under.


J. V. Pagano, MD

So I guess that’s it.  They make the rules and we have to live by them.  Meanwhile they let each other fly in coach or business or wherever, free as birds, except for the not being able to fly thing, and no one gets put in a cage unless his head starts spinning around and blood starts squirting out his eyeballs.  Go figure.


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