I had visited Jochen for two hours on Friday and told him that he was coming home in two days. This morning I kept saying, ' You are coming home. We are coming to get you.' As if he could hear me. Really!
Peter and I arrived with the box trailer bright and early. I pushed the green button, the small gate slowly opened whilst the big double gate creaked open to allow Peter to drive in. I had to sign some release papers and I was too fixated on getting to Jochen to think of taking my glasses out so I have no idea what I signed. I charged out and whilst Peter was still backing the car and trailer, I opened the car door, grabbed Jochen's lead and collar and raced over to Jochen's pen.
Jochen dragged me out of the pen and cross the yard to our car determined to GO HOME! I had no control whatsoever - I would have done Mary Poppins proud. He threw himself into the back of the station wagon whilst Peter loaded up his travelling crate. Tony, Aqis staff member who had shared the care of Jochen with Vicki, gathered up the rest of his belongings - toys, bedding and extra hammock bed and helped stow it all into the car.
It was not until Jochen was in the car and the door closed that I realised how stressed and anxious I had been to get my dog out of quarantine. As soon as I closed the car door, I felt this sense of overwhelming relief. I had always known that this quarantine episode would not be easy but it was harder than I had imagined it would be.
About half-way home he lay down and slept. Back home we unhooked the trailer, collected Liesel and drove to our training site where both dogs could run freely. This is the first time since the final walk the three of us had at Zurich airport on 31st October, 2012 that Jochen has been able to stretch his legs. it seems as if a life time has passed since then.
The grass on our training site is very long and after the carefree time in Switzerland where snakes are a non-issue, I felt very nervous and twitchy about being in this high grass at this time of the year. And sure enough, the dogs showed interest at a particular spot which raised our alarm bells. Just as we came to check, Liesel stuck her nose into the grass as if to grab at something. Stress, drama, heart attack, stroke all happening at once - and then sheer relief when we realised it was a blue-tongue and not a snake! The problem with that of course is that it could just as easily have been a snake. I might add that several years ago Jochen went for something in the gutter of an internal road at the Olinda Arboretum and up popped a brown snake. Sigh.......
JOCHEN'S WEIGHT CONCERN
With all the hard work and countless kilometres of trekking we had done in Switzerland, I had had a hard time keeping weight on Jochen. From Monday the 29th October when he had his final vet check to the weigh-in at the Melbourne quarantine station on 2nd November, he had lost 2 kg. This was a lot and the staff agreed to feed him twice a day to get some more weight on him. In a week he put on 600gm but that was about it. In fact, I think he lost that again and possibly some more.
I think the stress of being isolated at night, not being able to sleep with his 'family', especially after the almost three months we spent together, and therefore barking all night every night (as I was told he did) meant that he did not get enough sleep. In not getting enough sleep and rest, he must have burned up so much energy that no amount of extra feeding was going to make the slightest difference.
He was fine during the day, it was the loneliness and boredom of night time that he did not cope with. Even such a sound and even-tempered dog as Jochen does feel stress. If that sense of inner balance and well-being is missing, then the organism is going to suffer and Jochen is no exception. I always made a point of being very cool and matter-of-fact both when I visited him and when I left him. Jochen did not need me to weep all over him because he was in quarantine. I never turned around to look at him once I left him no matter how much he barked and I never made a fuss when I entered his pen. The time we spent together during visiting hours I also kept low-key as I figured this would help him best.
It was interesting to observe Jochen's behaviour once we were home. Naturally he checked out the whole back yard, sniffing, marking, making half-hearted attempts to play with Liesel, but he was not settled. He seemed a bit remote, he was not smiling, and at times he even seemed a little confused. I went about my business watching him but leaving him to find his own way to understanding and accepting that he really was home again. After I had mowed the lawn I settled into a chair in the back yard and he lay down close to me and finally stretched out on his side.
In the early evening Peter and I took our two dogs for a short walk in our local area. Well, I had forgotten how strong he is. I had him on the show collar and lead, he pulled as if he were in training for the National, his hind quarters dropped low and driving hard whilst his front was up and his head on a swivel. He was looking for action, man. This was another 'Mary Poppins' moment for me!
After this walk and his third meal for the day, he looked as if he now felt and believed that he was really and truly home. He has a lot of sleep and recuperative rest to catch up on and I am expecting that will help in putting weight on as well.
I cannot thank the quarantine management and staff enough for the care they gave Jochen and how they worked with me to ensure that within the rules and regulations they must abide by, they did the best they could. He was very popular with all the staff that had anything to do with him. BUT......quarantine is quarantine and I am very, very thankful that this episode is behind us.
THIS IS NOT THE END
The project that the German Shepherd Community and private persons so generously supported, is concluded with Jochen's release from quarantine. There will no longer be the almost daily reports of our latest train journey, crazy walking in the high mountains or chasing training days and workshops. Neither will there be those super photos of a most beautiful country, but Jochen's and my journey is not yet finished. We have more to do once he has had enough time to recover and just be a dog.
Jochen is fit and healthy and is good for a few more years of USAR work. So you wonderful people out there, please do check in on Jochen's blog as I will keep it up. The blog will of course take on a different tone but I will do my best to keep it interesting and worth reading. So do tune in and please, feel free to ask questions.
I am available for presentations and workshops on the work that we do should any club or branch be interested.