As the coronavirus pandemic led cities to shut down quickly and without warning, many families ended up separated around the world – including this little dachshund that ended up traveling more than 10,000 miles from South Carolina to Sydney, Australia all to reunite with its owners.
“it was just amazing,” mom Zoe Eilbeck told Inside Edition. “The happiness in just everyone and when Pip recognized us and quick came running to us.”
The Eilbecks, including Zoe, her husband Guy, 8-year-old max and 13-year-old Cam, were in the middle of their round-the-world sailing trip in March. They sold their home in 2016, purchased a yacht in Croatia and have been on the seas since. But when U.S. and countries abroad began announcing closures, the family had less than 48 hours to dock their 40-foot yacht in Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and fly home to Sydney, Australia.
They had brought Lil Pip into the family during the trip, when meeting her in Messina, Sicily in 2018. They knew Australia had strict border regulations, and anticipated bringing Lil Pip home would require more coordination, so when the Eilbecks were forced to abandon their trip and head home, they thought it would be easier to leave Lil Pip with a friend temporarily, and come back for her when lock down regulations lifted.
“Originally, we only expected to be gone six weeks and come back to continue the journey,” they said.
But border closures and quarantine regulations ended up lasting much longer than anyone had ever expected. The Eilbecks originally put out feelers to see if there were any local families that would take in Lil Pip temporarily as they worked out the paperwork to get the pup to Australia.
With new COVID-19 regulations, that ended up being more complicated than ever. "To export a dog from America, you need to get a U.S. declaration to say the dog is in good health and has had particular blood tests to do with rabies," Zoe told CNN Travel. "This was being done in New York, which was now closed, so trying to get anything like that done was extremely difficult."
Meanwhile, Lil Pip went from one home to another, including temporarily living on a bison farm.
When they finally received a permit to bring Lil Pip to Australia, their next challenge was finding transportation. Qantas, an Australia-based airline, announced they were no longer flying dogs, but the family discovered they could fly Lil Pip from Los Angeles to New Zealand, before hiring a pet transport company to bring the dog to Australia.
The next challenge was getting Lil Pip on a flight that would be safe – as it becomes too hot in cargo in the summer months for dogs – and one that wouldn’t be cancelled. Which was when yet another volunteer stepped up, and offered to fly across the world to get Lil Pip home.
Pip finally arrived in Australia at the end of July, and spent nearly two weeks in quarantine. But by the time Pip was ready to travel again, internal border closures posed another challenge in getting Pip to its family in Sydney.
But by then, like Pip, the story of the dog's journey had traveled from far and wide, and Virgin Australia stepped in and offered to fly the pup home.
Five months and 10,000 miles later, Pip was home. “We are so incredibly grateful,” Pip’s family said.