Living the nomad expat life, getting a pet of any kind is a big decision. That’s not to say that it isn’t always a big decision, but there are factors that might make it bigger than a different kind of life, like, say, living in your home country with family around.
In the past 15 years, The Haggard and I have had 7 cats (I think). The first one, Frodo, came with us from the States to Venezuela and then back to the States. Frodo found a home with a friend in the States because at that time I couldn’t imagine him traveling 35+ hours with us to Thailand when we moved to Phuket.
In Phuket, our first cat, Suzy, was super cool. Fun, loving, adventurous. So adventurous that she disappeared one day and we never knew what happened to her. Maybe she found a new home, maybe she was eaten by a king cobra or a monitor lizard in the lagoon behind our house. Who knows. We were sad.
Our next cat in Phuket, Sang Som, is still alive, as far as we know, and is living the dream in our old neighborhood. Our dear friends and neighbors “The Brits” took him after we left and he joined the pack of friendly dogs on Soi Namjai. But again, we left him behind.
In Saudi, we tried having cats with kids. The first one scratched my 6-month-old on the face and went straight back to his owner. The second one, “Mr. Kitty,” was sweet but older and simply did not suit our lives. He found a home with a former school employee who really needed a friend to keep him company in his new apartment.
Then we moved to Jakarta and got the most perfect cat: Jaka, named for our new city.
Jaka came to us as a kitten and was like a dog from the beginning. He followed the kids around, let my son carry him by the neck without scratching him, loved to play and be near us, and seemed to love us.
He was adventurous and would occasionally leave for a few days. He liked to be out at night carousing, but it seemed like he would always come back. Until he didn’t, this past December.
The Dog Decision
Heartbroken, I thought–this is it: time to get a dog. A dog will never leave us. Over the past years, we have seriously weighed the difficulty of this decision. Specifically:
- We are travelers–what do we do with the dog when we travel?
- Summers–we leave for 7 weeks plus. Again, is this mean to the dog?
- Time and effort–all the regular questions. Who will get up with her? Who will walk her? Are we ready for the commitment?
- Money–I think the FIRE community knows that dogs are a luxury expense, but if you are overseas, the costs are exponential when it comes to moving. Our dog is most likely going to live for 12+ years, and we probably have two more countries left in our careers. Is this something to seriously consider? Are we ready for the visas, paperwork, and possible quarantines that are in our future?
These are big things to think about, and because we recently moved, we put the decision on hold. But, after living in Jakarta for almost two years now, along with the sad disappearance of Jaka, we took the plunge, and enter sweet Adelle.
It seemed like we made the decision rather quickly, but we were able to only because we had done the research earlier and thought we understand the costs (time, money, effort).
It’s not unheard of for expats to have dogs, but it’s not the norm. We have never been afraid of being different, so here we are.
So far, here are the answers to our difficult questions:
- Travel: We’re leaving her with the maid.
- Summer: Same as above.
- Time and Effort: As expected. Yes, it’s a lot, and it’s mostly me (the mom), which comes as no surprise. She is basically my “accidental child” who is making me young and tired again, but worth it in the end. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself).
- Money: So far, not so bad, but she is tiny (still 4-5 pounds) and we are not moving. That expense will come later, and we will suck it up.
Living abroad is not always easy, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t live a full life, which in our case at this point in time, involves owning a dog.