Immigrating with one’s dog

Chica & Pudding make Yukon ‘home’

Many of us experience the urge to settle down once we start planning a family, land our first serious job, or perhaps after traveling the world a bit. For Chica Mishima (pronounced “Cheeca”), it was the acquisition of a four kilogram lap dog that caused her to do an about-turn, apply for Canadian Citizenship and move to the Yukon with said k9 sidekick.

A steadfast companion and no princess. Seen here ‘supervising’ chores

Full disclosure; Chica is my neighbour. We live out of town. Pudding proudly protects her roughly 400-foot cabin from all intruders except, unfortunately, mice. Chica is a “blue jugger.” She lives without running water and, like many of her fellow Yukoners, chops wood to feed her stove in a continuous attempt to keep her and Pudding warm, especially with our sub-30 and 40 temperatures of late!

This is all a very different life than the one Chica had in Japan (where she was born and raised), and also in Ireland, where she lived for several years immediately before becoming a Canadian resident. It was in Ireland that Pudding (as she named her partner in crime and immigration) came into Chica’s life. And quite by accident!

Chica was looking to rent a room in a house where the previous tenants had split in a hurry, leaving their eight dogs behind. All but one were brought to a local animal shelter. Pudding literally came with the place.

It was Chica, not her roommates, who soon began feeding and exercising the tiny papillon mixed breed who was underweight and had obviously been abused. “At first, I didn’t intend to take the dog,” said Chica. “I thought ‘I’m not the type of person who should have a dog. I travel a lot’… but I also thought ‘I can give her a nice life while I’m here, maybe for half a year.’”

Referred to simply as “doggy” and sometimes “princess,” the dog didn’t even have a known name. Chica found inspiration in the first syllable of “Princess,” which translates as “pudding” (of the custard variety) in Japanese. Hence, Princess was rechristened Pudding. And honestly, she is sweet as can be, and not at all a princess!

The two quickly bonded and became inseparable. Pudding would even accompany Chica for a pint at the local pub. “She’s an Irish dog after all!” laughed Chica.

She opened an Instagram account (with the handle “adventurepudding”) and adventures they had! With her European “pet passport” Pudding went along on travels to neighboring countries, traveling by car, bus and train. They even took the ferry to Spain and hiked a section of the Camino!

A young and venturesome traveler, Chica loved Europe and was hoping to work for a while in Ireland before going on to travel extensively through Africa. Pudding changed her game plan.

When an Irish bylaw came into effect requiring all dogs to have microchips implanted, Chica took the necessary steps, linking herself to Pudding via the pet database. Although Pudding had initially been spared from the shelter by the landlord, it was Chica that had become the loyal, and now official, owner. Her nesting instincts kicked in.

Chica’s African dreams faded as she took her pet ownership seriously and knew it would be far more complicated, and dangerous, to travel between African states with Pudding in tow.

Together, they had lived in Ireland for more than three years, but Chica’s desire to stay there was dampening with the weather. Nor did she feel excited to return to Japan, even in the interim, as it requires extensive paperwork totaling tens of thousands of Yen for entry with a dog.

Chica felt the need to settle down and acquire permanent residence somewhere. Somewhere drier. Somewhere that Pudding would be welcome too.

Chica set her sights on Canada, having lived previously in both Toronto and the Yukon. Somewhat ironically, she’d arrived in Ireland directly from Canada, having left because it was too cold. She’d done her homework and knew agreements were in place which made it relatively easy for an Irish dog to immigrate to Canada.

But Chica got nervous awaiting the fate of her immigration application. She spent precious savings on the papers needed for Pudding to enter Japan, “just in case.” She also applied for a German visa and soon had a job offer there. The Candians initially denied her visa and she had to scramble to extend her Irish one while she reapplied. Then, as happens in life, both the Germans and the Canadians granted her visa requests. It was decision time.

A diet and packing ensued shortly thereafter. Pudding, who had gone from four to eight kilograms with Chica spoiling her, would need to lose weight to travel as carry-on baggage to Vancouver. Pudding cut a pound and a half and made the cut to fly coach with Chica in September 2018.

Having never traveled well by road (Pudding often threw up), it was with some trepidation that Chica bought a used car in Vancouver and started the long drive north to Whitehorse. She made Pudding a perch in the passenger seat, so she could appreciate the view, and somehow, they both made it.

Chica was lucky to find pet-friendly accommodation. Not only was there a cat in residence at her first place, but both her roommates had huge dogs. Welcome to the Yukon!

Now, about a year and a half since their Canadian arrival, Pudding was comfortably sprawled across a sheepskin throw on my couch as I conducted the interview for this article. They are at ease- both at my house, (where they house sat recently), and in their new country of residence.

My aging Shepherd, normally grouchy towards others on his turf, apparently feels unthreatened by a now plump Pudding. (She’s regained weight, keeping warm and aging well in Canada. Really, it’s rather absurd for a dog named Pudding to NOT have a little extra girth, but I digress.) The two old dogs have even become friends, just as Chica and Pudding have bonded with so many Yukoners. The pair are just so cute together; truly endearing and inseparable.

Seldom seen apart, Pudding continues to be Chica’s “plus one.” Pudding sits proudly in Chica’s backpack while hiking. She perches herself atop the pile while Chica chops wood, sometimes donning a down coat and booties. Popular with clients, she would go to work with Chica, when she was employed at a local tourism company.

“If I hadn’t gotten a dog, I’d still be traveling. I wouldn’t have applied for permanent residency … Sometimes when I wake up, here in Canada and see Pudding, I think ‘wow, is this real?’” said Chica.

One never knows the twists and turns of life. Who would have imagined that a little Irish orphan canine would be rescued by a Japanese national? And that said lapdog would be the catalyst for the intrepid traveler to move from Ireland to northern Canada? It was the nudge that cemented the most permanent move in Chica’s life, albeit a young one.

The two have been inseparable for 5 years now. I hope they stay in the Yukon! One thing is for certain, wherever Chica goes, Pudding follows, pet passport and all.

Chica & Pudding enjoying their new ‘backyard’ in Canada

What it takes to be Canadian


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