For the Eilback family, a life of travel is normal. Zoe and Guy Eilback, along with their children and their Dachshund named Pipsqueak, were on a four-year sailing trip around the world when COVID hit. With no warning, they had to pack up their 40-foot yacht and fly back to their home in Australia. The only problem was that Pip wasn’t allowed to come with. Australia has strict import rules for animals, so bringing Pip was impossible with so little time. Sadly, the family had to part ways with their beloved pup for the time being. But that time ended up being much longer than anticipated.
Pip joined the family in 2018 while they were in Sicily. The little dog quickly fell in love with the family’s life of travel. She enjoyed hanging out on the deck of the boat and being close to her family at all times. It seemed like the perfect lifestyle for all of them, but they never expected a worldwide pandemic to foil their plans. Suddenly, their relaxing travel experience turned into a panic. They had to think fast when it came to Pip’s care.
Pip Stays Behind
Zoe quickly found accommodations for Pip with her friend Lynn Williams, who lived on a bison farm in North Carolina. The family had docked their yacht in South Carolina, rented a car, and drove eight hours to Pip’s temporary home. From there, the Eilbacks flew back to Sydney, Australia. Williams already had two dogs of her own, so she couldn’t care for Pip for too long. At first, Zoe thought it would only be for a few short weeks. Little did she know, this would go on for months.
Once it was clear that Pip would be a long-term guest, Williams searched for a new caretaker. Ellen Steinberg from Hillsborough, North Carolina, was happy to take the Dachshund. Of course, Williams made sure the pup met her and fell in love with her first though. Steinberg was a bit confused about Pip’s situation in the beginning, but she quickly got to know the Eilbacks, and it was clear that they loved their furry family member.
Steinback kept Pip’s family up to date with all her latest adventures. Pip even got to video chat with them from time to time. But the longer the family was separated from Pip, the more they realized that this time apart would be longer than they thought.
“I was always taking photos all the time and posting them on social media,” said Steinback. “Pip started to develop her own fan base.”
Bringing Pip Home
Soon, Zoe realized that Pip would have to travel to Australia without her family. Preparing her for that was even harder than the family had anticipated. First, they had to make sure that Pip was up to date on all vaccinations and in good health. So, Steinback had to make multiple trips to the vet, which was difficult to schedule during the ongoing pandemic.
Finally, after gathering all the necessary paperwork, the Eilbacks got an import permit for Pip. However, the country soon announced that they were no longer flying dogs in. This was three months after Steinback had first taken the pup. Since then, Steinback went to visit some family, and she left Pip with her friend Stacey Green.
“When Stacey got Pip, she actually fell in love with her, to the point where I didn’t think I was going to get her back,” Zoe joked.
Eventually, Zoe found out that she could bring Pip home if the dog flew from Los Angeles through New Zealand to Auckland. It was a tricky task, but the family was determined to bring their dog home.
The Home Stretch
Melissa Young, an employee of The Sparky Foundation, offered to fly across the country with Pip. She met Pip first to make sure the pup was comfortable around her, and then they headed to Los Angeles. Pip rode safely under her seat the whole way. Then, in Los Angeles, Pip was given to Jetpets, who would help her on the final stretch of her journey.
Once Pip boarded the plane to Auckland, everyone anxiously awaited her arrival. Everyone involved with her journey tracked the plane, watching it inch across the screen. Sure enough, Pip landed safely in Auckland, but bringing her to her family in Sydney was still tricky. Many flights in Australia were canceled due to new restrictions.
Pip stayed with Zoe’s brother Rob in Melbourne for a 10-day quarantine period required by the country. Unfortunately, all flights to Sydney were canceled by the time Pip was ready to fly again. But luckily, Pip’s story was picked up by the news, and the Sydney Morning Herald agreed to help fly Pip home.
A New Normal
Pip arrived home five months after she’d been separated from her family. She recognized them as soon as she heard their voices. The Dachshund ran into her family’s arms, and she knew she was finally where she belonged. All of Pip’s caretakers throughout the journey still keep in touch with the family to see how Pip is doing.
As more time went on, the Eilbacks decided to sell their yacht. Resuming their 4-year trip didn’t seem possible anytime soon, especially since the boat was way back in South Carolina. Instead, they moved to Scotland Island, an island north of Sydney. That way, they can keep their water-loving lifestyle even during these difficult times.
They now travel back and forth to the mainland on an aluminum fishing boat, which Pip has quickly learned to enjoy. Eventually, they’d love to continue traveling the world, but for now, this is their new normal.
“Pip is embracing that because she’s a boat dog at heart,” said Zoe. “She’s gone straight back to what she loves best, which is lying on our deck and contributing licks and joy.”
You can keep up with Pip’s adventures on the family’s Instagram page: No Plans Just Options.
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Featured Image: @noplan.justoptions/Instagram
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