As most of you know when we moved over to the US last year we bought our two west highland terriers, Jess and Bluey with us.
When we found out we were moving over here, there was no question as to whether or not the dogs would come with is, it was a definite YES :) To come into the US they didn't need any vaccinations (as rabies isn't present in the UK), all they needed was a certificate from our vet to say they were 'fit to fly'. Coming the other way they would normally be subject to quarantine, and this was a concern of mine if we suddenly had to return to the UK with them. So I went ahead and got both of them a pet passport. This basically involved them having a rabies vaccination, then a few weeks later they had to have blood tests to check they had an adequate amount of the vaccine in them, only when the blood test results came back and were good enough were they issued with passports. This means as long as they receive regular rabies vaccinations and their passports are kept up to date they can enter the UK without quarantine.
They both seemed pretty un-phased by the whole moving process, I on the other hand was a wreck! We flew here with virgin and the dogs were on the same flight as us, they had to travel in the cargo hold in crates, they also had to be in separate crates too. We dropped them off at cargo at 7am that day, filled in all the paperwork and said our (very tearful) goodbyes, their crates were secured and would not be opened until they were reunited with us. Luckily the flight was on time, and I made sure I told every virgin person I saw that I needed to know my dogs were on board, I wasn't getting on the plane until I knew they were on board. Once assured by three people they were on board I boarded the plane, I then had two separate people from the ground crew board the plane and confirm with me the dogs were fine and on board. By the time we landed I was stressed and eager to see them and if i'm honest, confirm they were still alive - I had trawled the internet prior to the flight and found a few horror stories of dogs dying on flights!! Once we had cleared immigration and customs we had to go and collect our rental car, then off to cargo we went, we had to pay a release fee and then we got given our customs forms which we had to take to another building so that the they could officially be stamped and cleared into the US, once we had this we were back to the cargo and finally reunited with them. They were so pleased to see us, they had been in the crates for a total of 17 hours, they had peed but luckily not pooped (not feeding them 12 hours prior to the flight had been a wise move), so other than being a bit damp they were fine. We then drove to our house and they were able to explore their new surroundings, they were a little quiet that night but other than that there were no side effects from the journey.
One of my main concerns about moving here was dog parks, again I had trawled the internet and found the horror stories of dogs who had been mauled in the dog park, luckily that doesn't seem to be a common thing, and we have been to various dog parks in the bay area and not had any problems. Dog parks are definitely a good idea, especially as you aren't allowed to have your dog off leash in any public place.
We go to the beach most weekends and my two love it, they are constantly racing around, and they have made so many new dog friends here. People are constantly stopping us to ask if they can pet the dogs and tell me how cute they are. That is another good thing about being in the US, every child we have met has asked if they can pet my two before approaching them, which I think is fantastic, children in the UK don't seem to have any respect for dogs, and no wonder there are so many child related dog bites. My two love children and are always happy to oblige and be petted, especially Jess who loves attention from anyone.
I would say approximately 80% of the friends I have made here so far have been people I have met whilst walking my dogs, at the dog park or at other dog related events.
Jess is going to be turning 4 this Sunday and as she is now a Californian dog, she is going to be having a doggie party, she has 8 dog friends coming over for cake and cookies - i'll be baking a special chicken and bacon dog cake, and apple and cinnamon dog cookies.
If anyone is reading this and concerned about shipping their dog abroad, don't be, as far as Im concerned they are part of the family, you wouldn't leave your kid behind, and as my two have proved, they have adapted so well, and especially here in California there are so many things you can do with your dog too, as it is so dog friendly.
One more side note to mention: dog insurance is a must here, Jess has had surgery twice, once on her knee and once on her bladder, its cost about $8000 in total, and luckily we have been able to claim $6000 of that back, however you do have to pay a copay with most policies (typical american money making!)