In 1995, having just moved to Singapore, we went to the local animal shelter and chose Bonnie, our first Rottador (pictured here with a friend). She was with us for three years in Singapore and we couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her when we moved back to England, so she came with us – having to undergo the standard 6-month quarantine isolation required by UK law, despite the fact that Singapore had not had a case of rabies for more than 40 years! After two years in London, Bonnie travelled with us to Côte d’Ivoire for three years. Then it was back to England again and – you guessed it – another six months in quarantine.
We thought long and hard about how best to deal with the quarantine issue – whether to see Bonnie every now and then, to remind her that we still loved her; or whether to avoid seeing her, hoping that “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” was true. Either option is sentimentally difficult. During the first quarantine period, seeing her every couple of months was lovely for us all, but at the end of each visit we felt terrible having to leave her behind in her concrete run – I’ve also posted a photo of Bonnie taken during one of our visits to her – and she would have felt abandoned, having had her hopes built up that we were about to take her home. On the second occasion we chose the other option, not seeing her at all for the full six months. The old adage may sound good; but it doesn’t make things any easier and we felt Bonnie probably thought we had given up on her altogether. Certainly when we went to collect her at the end of the six months she was less pleased to see us than we had expected – her joie de vivre had left her. Bonnie lived a further year after the end of the second quarantine, dying in August 2004 aged 9 1/2 from, we believe, a condition she contracted while in Africa.
Long story short, there seems to be no absolute right or wrong about this issue. Rabies-related quarantine in the UK is with us for a while yet (except for pets from countries covered by the pet passport scheme – of which Singapore became one, less than a year after we left), and for years to come owners will be grappling with whether or not to visit their pets. It is said that more pets die of broken hearts in quarantine than from rabies. I wish we could offer some sound advice, having put Bonnie through it both ways. Neither option is ideal and if we had to do it again I really don’t know now which way I would choose to go. Happily, we are not planning to go abroad with Jack anywhere that would require quarantine on his return – so he, at least, won’t have to go through this emotionally draining (and expensive!) experience.