Two Women on the Bummel (To Say Nothing of the Dog)
or how Arts of Estonia went to England

Let me begin this quite long story by thanking all of you who were a moral or physical support for me and Arts on this particular journey. Especially my Mom, who took this trip with us, Diana and Michael and their family who shared their hospitality and accommodated the weary travelers in their cosy home in London, Leelo who borrowed us a flight kennel, Viimsi Veterinarian Clinic for advice and help with documentation and our friends in Estonia and abroad who gave their heartwarming support or just simple advice!

You all remember the year 2007 when we were preparing to go to Crufts but had to cancel the trip in the last minute because of Estonian Air’s notification system. When it happened and all hope was finally lost I made a promise to go to Crufts someday at whatever price it shall take. I am usually stubborn enough with my plans although Arts of course would like to live with lesser show agenda. But I do believe that for all the work and effort I put into his fancy lifestyle, he owes me some show trips :)

As soon as the idée fixe was formed in my head I started to make a plan. First I had to have a route as I couldn’t go there with a direct flight from Tallinn and no way I was going to drive in a country where everybody is driving in an opposite lane. Other dog owners had  already formed their posses and my friends didn’t want to take such a difficult journey. I searched many possibilities but the best choice seemed still to be going via Holland as there is one of the few if not the only ferry line that takes also foot passengers with dogs. The plan was quite simple - direct flight with Estonian Air to Amsterdam, train from Schiphol airport to Hook of Holland harbour, then a Stena Line ferry to Harwich, England and from there to either London or Birmingham and finally a direct flight from London to Tallinn.

I knew the plan had one but important flaw - the flight kennel - it had to be dragged from Amsterdam to London. Tried to contact some luggage shipping companies but the prices given by them were quite idiotic. I had to have a travel companion. Then I remembered how Mom always wanted to visit London and meet our dear family friends Diana and Michael. Of course I also knew that a sweat-producing running across Holland and England dragging along a huge box wasn’t quite HOW she dreamed to travel to London :) Therefore I planned the trip so she could have at least some days in London for herself. She agreed after a quick thinking and I am still so very thankful to her for that!

Next thing to do was the budget. This was also the reason I chose Estonian Air to fly with. When the other flight companies charge you by the weight or have certain strict rules of time and method then Estonian Air only charges by piece i.e. the flight kennel with the dog in it. For the owner of a big dog it is a huge thing. The plane tickets for one person TLL-AMS/LON-TLL cost 140 EUR, dog was 100 EUR (50+50), ferry tickets for 2 persons and the dog were 90 EUR, train tickets in Holland were 14 EUR for 1 person, in England 26 GBP (from Harwich to London) and 14 GBP (return LON-BMH-LON). The hotel in Harwich was 65 GBP for twin room. Dogs were not charged neither on trains nor at the hotel. The registration to Crufts took some 30 GBP. So the basic travel costs for me and Arts  for the trip to Crufts were 307 EUR + 103 GBP = 6606 EEK. Our friends Diana and Michael were so kind to organize us the ride from London Liverpool Street Station to their home and later on Sunday from their home to Gatwick airport so we had no worries with that. Of course there were also the currant expenses but I personally think it to be quite ok budget for this travel.

With the budget in place and all the bookings made it seemed as we can relax and prepare for the trip. But as always this was when the problems started :) I had talked to Leelo Ratas from the Alphadirato kennel about borrowing the flight box already in December but then the snow started to fall and the roads were very hard to drive especially with me having M+S tires and Leelo living outside of Tallinn. Each and every time when I decided to go and take the box it started to storm and we had severe snowblizzards. Then I turned to my Mom who had nail tires under her car and she agreed to come with me to take the box away but the day before she crashed the car. It seemed as I was not meant to have this box, as if it was cursed or smth. Later of course with a little help from my friends I finally had the box just 10 days before the departure :)

Next thing was the passport. I was so worried about having  something wrong with the documents that I sent the data in Artus’s passport to DEFRA and asked their advice if everything really was OK. In their answer they said that the result of first blood test made n 2006 was not correctly carried to the passport by the vet and they suggested to have a new passport made. There were some misunderstandings about who exactly can duplicate the data to the new passport and I donated some of my nerves for the issue but finally everything went ok and the passport was duplicated by our vet in Viimsi. I am actually glad that the passport got duplicated - thus it was possible to correct one other mistake in data - the  issuing vet had stated the wrong coat color there and it had bothered me for a while. The documents were the most important things - if they were to be wrong or not correctly formed we would not get to England with Arts (this being the best solution) or he would have to stay there in quarantine (this being a slightly worse solution). In the EU Pet Passport we had to have 1st the date when Arts was microchipped, then 2nd the vaccinations and 3rd the blood test for rabies antibodies. It was of vital importance that all these procedures were in the exact order - microchipping, vaccination, blood test. In case the blood test was successful you have to wait 6 months before entering UK. We had done 2 blood tests - one for England in 2007 and one for Sweden in 2008 because of the different time requirements that excluded the possibility to use the 1st blood test for Sweden. The 2 other steps that you had to take when bringing your dog to England were to choose the appropriate route under the PETS scheme that you can read about on the DEFRA webpage and to make the tick and tapeworm treatment for the dog no more than 48 hours and no less than 24 hours before checking in to whatever travel means that you have chosen to take you to England. If you have direct fligt you have to count down from the check-in at the airport, in our case it was the ferry check-in. The tapeworm treatment has to contain praziquantel and the tick treatment we used was Frontline. All this and also the clinical examination and passport duplication was made at 9 am on the 9th of March 2010 at the Viimsi Animal Clinic. After that we were ready!

Our flight was sceduled to leave Tallinn at 6.30 on 10th of March but in February Estonian Air added a stop in Vilnius to the flight and the departure time was thus scheduled to be at 05.25 am. That meant the buzz to go off at 3.00 am. I probably won’t have to tell that our Dad who had to drive us to the airport wasn’t so excited about the particular time :) We were at the Tallinn Airport at 4.00 am. I was a bit worried because this was first time both for me and Arts and knowing the negative attitude about dogs in Estonia I was ready for looks full of scorn and crankiness by officials but it was quite an opposite. Arts was very calm and friendly and the officials were surprised that a dog can be so calm and quiet before the flight. The attitude towards us by officials was also very friendly and they were very helpful! Finally there came 2 security guards and took the flight kennel with Arts to the elevator and me and Mom went to have a cup of coffee before departure. When I came to the plane’s entrance I asked the flight attendances to verify that my dog is on board of the same plane. They smiled and said that the dog is on board - they HEARD him :) Arts had finally understood, that I have betrayed him and he has to suffer yet another of my lunatic ideas and made an angry speech that didn’t go totally unheard. Fortunately I was calmed down by the experienced dog-owners that the dog is actually ok in the cargo room so I wasn’t so worried much about his condition there. Actually I even thought that it makes it easier for me to know where Arts will be brought in Amsterdam Airport as his howling can be heard from far away. Things were quite opposite tho. We arrived at 8.30 am (it was 1 hour behind Estonian time in Holland) Arts was delivered on the luggage trolley sitting inside his flight box to the luggage next to the luggage claim area of the flight. He was sitting there very calmly and staring at me and I could see the devilish plan forming in his little evil mastermind’s head and I knew that he shall have his vengeance soon :) The customs officer checked Arts’s documents and then we stepped to the busy life of the Schiphol airport. We disassembled the flight kennel and gave Arts some water to drink as he was a bit dehydrated. Then we placed the box on the trolley and continued towards the train ticket booths. It is simpler to buy the tickets from the special machines but I wanted to ask some questions and chose to stand in a long queue. Finally I managed to buy 2 train tickets and we took an elevator 1 floor down to the train platforms.   There are both escalators and elevators to the train station, next to them is the ticket stamping machine where you have to get the date and time on your ticket before descending to the platforms. On the platforms we just stepped out of the elevator and waited for a while until the right train arrived. We had to go to Rotterdam first and exchange trains there. For me it was also interesting to be in the city so famous by songs and by the shared image of the harbor town as is my hometown Tallinn. Of course we saw neither the sea nor the harbors, just the small train station under construction :) The trains are quite cosy in Holland, if you travel with large luggage you have to choose the car with the special luggage area with fold-down seats. It took approximately 1 hour to Rotterdam and 30 minutes to Hook of Holland. The only trouble you have to have is changing the platforms in Rotterdam. Arts took his first train experience very calmly - one might of thought that he was born onboard. When we arrived to Hook of Holland the passenger port terminal was right next to the train platform and we just had to carry our luggage a few meters. As we had time before the check-in I decided to take Arts to a little walk. Thankfully there was a green area next to the station and terminal and Arts left a lot of messages to the dogs of Holland :)

Mom and Arts in the ferry terminal in Hook of Holland

Our ferry was to leave at 14.30 and that meant that the latest check-in time was 13.30. It was also our moment of truth. We had to go to the port supervisor’s office who was supposed to check Artus’s documents and give him and us the clearance or ...not. And the supervisor took his time, looking at the documents, at Arts, at me, then again at the documents...I was afraid to breathe knowing that if something was to be wrong we would have to return the same way we came, defeated before we could fight :) But then the supervisor rose from his chair and give us the documents, clearance papers and advice for the luggage and sent us to the check-in. Yessss! We are going to England! The nice lady at the check-in counter registered our luggage and three very jolly customs and border officers checked our documents and made me take a flash quiz about Artus’s data :)

Finally aboard we went to search for the kennel room where the foot passenger’s dogs had to stay during the 6,5 hour journey. We had given the luggage away and were to receive it at Harwich. The kennel room situated outside and was closed with the code lock that was easy to use. The room was well heated by the small radiator, there were 6 metal cages in two rows and also soft blankets and water bowls to use and a water hose to fill the bowls. Arts was quite tired of the day already and didn’t oppose much the idea to have a good nap while me and Mom went to explore the ferry. It was called Stena Britannica and it had a small shop, bistro, casino corner, bar, cinema and lots of cabins. As Stena Line has also an overnight trip from Holland to England, the cabins are very necessary. We sat in the bistro and chatted for all the trip accompanied by good wine and excellent steak and kidney pies.

The bistro on Stena Brittanica

The arrival to Harwich was around 20.00 local time. Reminding that in Estonia it was 22.00 we already felt very tired but the day wasn’t quite over yet. First we had to go through British customs and immigration that I remembered as the toughest of the world. But whether they also were tired or they understood from far away that no danger will come to their homeland from two very merry ladies with the spotted dog and huge box, our documents were checked quickly and no questions were asked. I had planned to astonish them again with the explanation of where exactly I had met Michael in 2002 but I was not granted the pleasure this time. After picking up the luggage we went outside and were surprised...I had thought there will be taxi cab’s outside waiting for passengers but there was none :S Knowing that the hotel was a good 2 hours walk from the Harwich port terminal I began to worry a bit and the first taxi operator I called to didn’t make it better refusing to serve persons with a dog. Trying not to loose hope I dialed another taxi company - Harwich Taxi - that had no problems with us. We fitted all our luggage to the  car trunk and I sat next to the driver with Arts sitting between my legs. This way he was calmer and didn’t shed so much. Arts had chosen the calmness to be his middle name and he sat very nicely and quietly making the driver to pay more attention in patting him then driving :) And guess the tip the driver got at the hotel - I was really glad to solve the cab issue :)     

The hotel we had chosen was called Hotel Continental. It was probably the only hotel that allowed pets although on their webpage they also state that won’t accept pets. As Harwich is more a summer resort town and the season had not started yet, the things were taken  easier. The hotel was situated next to the beautiful and long beach promenade that me and Arts went to discover a bit later. First we dragged our bags to the small and cosy hotel, paid for room and ordered the full english breakfast for the morning. The room was tiny but well used - there was all we needed and even the flight kennel fit between the beds. Now we could have a good night sleep and you didn’t have to tell us twice :)


Harwich in the evening

Next morning I took Arts and went to see what the promenade looks like in the broad daylight. The air temperature was ca +10 Celsius and it was a beautiful morning. We had a long walk and discovered that the other dogs are having the same ideas also. There was approximately 6 dogs on the beach at the same time and Arts left more messages for them than ever. Coming back to hotel we woke up Mom and refreshed ourselves a bit after which we went downstairs with Mom to have our breakfast. Although we had ordered it last night for 9 am in the morning and also paid for it there was no sign of breakfast or even of making one. Confused we sat there trying to figure out what happened to the hotel staff when one of the hotel workers came and gave us hastily the menu. When we told that we had already ordered it for a fixed time, I heard one of the weirdest explanations in my life: apparently we had been so quiet that the owner of the hotel had said that we had probably left and there is no need for breakfast :S Finally we still had our full english breakfast and it tasted very well. Although we had considered before the trip whether to save money by taking the night ferry and leave the hotel and breakfast out of the trip budget we were finally very happy to have sticked with this plan as the hotel really helped us to rest from the previous day’s effort. And then again it was time for us to hit the road. As the Dovercourt train station was 5 minutes walk away we called the cab for Mom and luggage and I took Arts for an extra walk in this small and nice town. I had bought the train tickets already in internet and now I only had to collect them from the ticket machine outside a small station building. We were ready but unfortunately the train took it’s time and arrived 20 minutes late :) It takes 1 h 30 min from Harwich to London. The train leaves every hour from Dovercourt, calls at the Harwich International station at the passenger port and arrives at the London Liverpool Street station. We took the 11:06 am train and arrived at London at 12:33 (+20 min of course). A bit waiting at the station and we could finally see our dear friends Michael and Diana coming towards us. We had seen each other last 2 years ago when they visited Tallinn briefly being on the cruise but since I had Arts I hadn’t had chance to visit London anymore, the town that I do love from all of my heart. I probably cannot express enough our gratitude for the chance to stay at our friends’s place in the nice London suburb, where the streets were quiet, the owls made the waking call and cats fought for the kingdoms of backyards with foxes who were urbanizing fast.


Harwich in the morning

Arts in Harwich


Hotel Continental and the wake-up call

Diana and Michale took an excellent care of us - superb lunches and dinners and Michael driving me and Arts to a walk in the nearby park. Arts took this for granted and took off whenever he could. He stopped tho after being fooled by a nice lady labrador behind a bush that contained another, male, labrador. Arts was terrified of the incident and returned very quietly :) We slept with Arts in the room next to the garden exit and Arts had the chance to go out whenever he needed. We had long sleeps and when we overslept the owls and relatives were sure to help us to get up :) We were introduced to a young lady named Elsie who was Diana’s and Michael’s granddaughter and deeply fond of Dalmatians. She had a very brave attitude towards Arts and she was bold enough to take the walks with us. Arts loves Elsie and sends his greetings to her as also to Elsie's brother Albert for a good sofa company!!!

On Friday there was supposed to be the day for my Mom. Diana took her along with her wonderful friend Alice and they went to the London City. Mom took an excursion bus around London and was very satisfied with that. At around noon I left Arts to Michael and Elsie and went to meet Mom at the National Gallery. I love London. London is easy. London is all about Tube stations and planning, London is old and full of history. London is MY town! I was there on time but Mom was late. I got to the Medieval ages in the National Gallery before she came. Next we went to the newly opened place called The Crypt at the St. Martin on the Field Church. It was a nice restaurant that was very popular and full of tourists. After eating we went to the Madam Tussaud’s wax museum as Mom wished. I had been in Mme. Tussaud’s some years earlier but I didn’t remember the long queues there. We had to stand there for over an hour before getting out tickets. Then we walked through the exhibitions and also the chamber of horrors and had the cab ride thru London’s history.  Afterwards we visited some shops in London and returned at 8 pm being tired yet happy. Arts had whined for me but calmed down later when he was offered some yummies for his misery :) Me and Arts went sleeping early this evening as tomorrow was the most important day for us.

Next morning I woke up at 4.00 am. It’s 6 am for you back in Estonia. Arts wanted to sleep and was angry for me to push him to the garden where there are dangerous owls and cats. you know! I had to woke Diana and Michael also. Michael had to take us to the nearest tube station and Diana prepared coffee and sandwiches for us. The train left from London Euston station at 6:25 and we had to be there in time. The tube station was not opened yet and we had to wait some minutes. Being first at the tube station I used the time to buy myself a day ticket. The dogs get to ride free you see. In some of the tube stations there are elevators, in some tube stations like ours there were additional stars but at the Euston Station Arts had to take the escalators. They ask you to carry the dogs on escalators but the 32 kilograms of Arts really made the difference :) Arts was fine on the escalator tho, first he was afraid but then took the stand of a real lion and arouse thus above the level creating a surprise at the Euston station :) I was also worried about the trains in the tube. They arrive with such a speed that they make you hairs to stay straight up. I was watching for Arts when the first tube train in his life arrived. He only turned his head a bit as if to wonder the arrival of a fly :)
The train was waiting. We had to show our e-ticket at the platform and get onboard. We were lucky-the train was not full so Arts had some space that he used primarily for sleeping. Again we had lot’s of admirers who were very surprised to see a dog so calm on the train. I had bought the train tickets beforehand - it cost 7 GBP one way and 14 GBP return. The Virgin Trains are issuing e-tickets and you can easily print them and it’s all that you need.

The train called at the Birmingham International train station at 7.30 am. There was a pedestrian tunnel from the train station to the show pavilion. Arts was very excited of the new scents and tried to score already at the station :) We arrived to the entrance of the show and presented our documents. I had Arts’s passport, entrance ticket, catalogue voucher and the removal pass. The removal pass is the paper that you have to have with you for all the time. Usually you can leave the show venue starting from 16.00. You can leave earlier only if you have a really good reason to do so and this has to be mentioned on the removal pass. Even if you’re leaving after the 16.00 you have to present the removal pass at the exit.
There are rows of benches for each breed at the show. Normal size crates can be fitted in these. As we travelled light with Arts we had to survive with lesser means. My jacket served as the bottom layer of the bench and I was the doors :) Arts took things really calmly and made me no trouble. I want to mention a nice lady from the Irish Dalmatian Club that came by to ask me to one of their shows a week later on St. Patrick’s Day but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. I was also given the annual review of the North-England Dalmatian Club.
The classes by the way will not run by dog numbers so you have to know exactly your class number to be at the right place at the right time.
When our turn came closer I became to worry. It was the first time I was going to use the golden choke-collar on Arts and also I knew his coat was not in it’s best. I didn’t panic because of the show as I knew now that Crufts is just another show with the usual show ground and the usual people inside of it, I was more worried about Arts’s behavior. And I was right. Arts was ready to pay back for all these hours in the airplane and the train and the tube. He refused to stand and to run. Everyone of you in the dog business can imagine what it means if you have practiced long with the dog and everything is perfect and them at the vital moment, the dog just won’t do it :) Well, get used to it :) The judge loved Arts and she tried to get him more chances but Arts just didn’t take them.  The judge compared Arts many times but she had to surrender also.  Yet the result was surprising for me. 3rd in a class! Me, an ordinary dog owner with an ordinary dog! Not a breeder, not a famous handler. An ordinary dog owner with an ordinary not-behaving dog :). We were compared in this position with the top dogs in Europe, multi World Winner dalmatians, presented by known breeders and handlers! This is my message for all of you ordinary Dalmatian owners in Estonia - YOU CAN DO IT!!!! You can take your dog and make it the Dalmatian of the Year , you can take your dog and be successful at your first Crufts, just you and your dog, no breeders and handlers included...just you!

Later, when the excitement had worn out we had to wait until the 4 pm to get away from the show. It is the rule - you can ask for earlier removal only if you have REALLY good motives for it. Otherwise you have to wait until the 4 pm but even then you have to present the removal pass at the exit. Therefore keep in mind to have the documents present at all times. I had a nice surprise at the Birmingham International Station later seeing that Virgin Trains had installed there a drinking fountain for the dogs. Later it came out that the train was really crowded but Arts didn’t mind and fortunately so didn’t the girl sitting next to us and again everybody came to wonder how come a dog is so calm on a train and on the Tube :)
We arrived to our friends’s place at around 7 pm. Diana and others greeted us with a nice dinner and cheers. Diana had taken Mom to Notting Hill and Portobello Road the same day and I was so jealous of them as this was my dream to do once.


Notting Hill and Portobello Road  

Sunday, 14th of March - our last day in London. It starts with the similar way as previous ones. Arts has sneaked into my bed although it is not polite to do, he stretches out and I let him to run in the small garden hoping nobody hears the squeaking sound that the door makes. I do need some sleep and Arts needs to have some fresh air. The cats and the foxes are not there and Arts feels bored. It is an important day in England - a Mothers Day and Diana expects her daughter’s family around this day. I feel ashamed as I have to steal her from her family to drive us to the airport. Our plane leaves at 18.00 and we have to be at the Gatwick airport at 16.00 and I have no clue what I have to do there. We decide to take walk with me and Mom and Arts to give Diana a chance to prepare her lunch. We have ended her supplies of sloe gin anyway :D
The walk in London suburbs with Arts turns out to be a disaster. He pees on the street 4 times and when I introduce the possibilities of trees and bushes to him, he just yawns and walks away. The neighborhood is full of muslims and Indians and I have no idea what their religious views are on the dogs that pee on the street so we try to walk fast :) When we get back to the house I am tired and angry but Diana offers us yet another wonderful lunch so that the troubles just disappear.
Right after the dinner Michael puts our things to the trunk of their car and starts driving towards the airport with Diana by his side and three Estonian stooges on the back seat :) We don’t know that the flight to Tallinn will be 3 hrs delayed otherwise we would have time to go and collect the spray collar for Arts that I had bought from Crufts and forgotten  on the table earlier. But we drive very calmly to the airport and there we see our dear friends off once again.

Gatwick airport is easy. Yet again nobody says anything about the dog. I have still not accustomed to it. As I’m not ready yet to meet the fellow Estonians. To be honest I hate to travel with Estonians. They are usually petty, bullying and self-centered. But we have to. So when arriving to the Gatwick airport we stop and assemble the flight box again. Then we will search for the queue where the grumpiest people stand. And we are right - these are the Estonians for the Estonian Air flight to Tallinn.  Arts gets some surprised looks and whispers. I feel myself as an animal torturer. Then we reach to the end of the queue and while the 10 Koreans before us are talking fast and taking pictures of Arts we step in front of the check-in counter. Arts steps on the luggage belt with the front paws and the girl behind the check-in counter lets out a scream...a happy one! :) It comes out that the girl at the check-in counter has a sister who has Dalmatians. She talks to Arts for 20 minutes. The guy at the other counter gets an order to call some other officials to meet THE DOG and the nice ladies with uniforms come to see and pamper Arts. Arts is noticeably taken of such an attention and the queue of Estonians is getting grumpier. Finally we are told that we have to wait a bit and take Arts to the same place for check-in after 1 hour. We use this hour for coffee and dog walking. Meanwhile I have assurance to my opinion about Estonians when I take mu backpack to oversize luggage office and the ONLY person who just steps ahead of the queue like it is the everyday thing, speaks in Estonian. Fine, maybe she really has an emergency :)
At 7.30 pm (remember, the flight was late for 3 hours) we came to the check-in counter to give away our precious Arts. Two security officers come to take him away and before taking him to the luggage area the thorough drug tests were made on his flight kennel. When we were walking towards the security check room Arts met two beautiful ladies coming from the arriving flights. They dropped on their knees and hugged and kissed Arts. The security guys were astonished but Arts was not surprised as this was totally normal for him :)
We finally got onboard of the plane at around 10 pm that is 4 hours after the plane was supposed to take off. Arts was taken there earlier on a special cargo train. They said that the plane was late due to the weather conditions yet it came out later that the weather had been ok. Anyway the previous passengers on plane had to stay there for approximately 6 hours. The air in the plane was thick and smelled for the sweat for those 200 persons before us. Everybody was eager to take off, to get home so the people were directed to the plane before the air was cleaned. And our nice trip to England thus ended in the true Estonian spirit. When we had sat down with Mom, there came a woman who was supposed to sit besides us, she looked on us and said very confidently that one of us stinks as hell for sweat. Well, maybe she had bigger hopes for the tiny room where 200 persons had sat for 6 hours and later she calmed down but I am still sad she ended our trip in such way.

We arrived in Tallinn at 3.00 in the morning. I was going to work early in the morning so I had little sleep ahead. Our dad met us at the airport, Arts was delivered and we stepped out to the freezing air of Tallinn - 5 days later and a lot wiser :)

As I said, this was a mad trip but also an interesting one. Getting to England and to Crufts is really easy and as you could see, even an ordinary dog with an ordinary owner has a chance. So I dare you all to try your chances! Best of luck!!!!

PS: Almost a month after our trip I received a letter from the British Kennel Club saying that Arts will be featured in The Stud Book 2011. We also don't have to qualify to the Crufts anymore - the Stud Book number is enough to certify Arts's quality. I am very proud of this achievement and will look forward to it!

The Stud Book entry certificate