Success!  On 3 December, I got a call indicating that our visa had been granted, and that we could come up and get our passports, with the visa included therein.  So on 4 December, we drove back up to LA, doing the same drive we’d done a month prior, but without any of the memory lane stops this time around.  We went up, grabbed the visas, thanked the people in the consulate profusely, and then drove straight back to San Diego.  Indeed, we were back in time for lunch at Puerto La Boca, where I toasted to our success.

On 5 December, we knew there was an impending shutdown coming to San Diego, because COVID numbers were on the rise again, and this was likely to be the last weekend where we’d be able to enjoy anything before leaving for Spain.  So we grabbed brunch at the Waterfront, and drinks and holiday cheer in the afternoon at Polite Provisions, with Heidi.  It was nice to be in the festive mood, but speaking for myself, it was more of a “goodbye for a while” vibe than a holiday vibe.

On a whim, on 7 December I flew up to see my brother, his wife, and their two little ones.  On 8 December, I about gave my mom a heart attack when she arrived to my brother’s place, expecting only to see her grandkids and daughter-in-law, not her two sons.  My parents would hang out with their grandkids every Tuesday, so I figured I’d join them this Tuesday, and my brother Adam and his wife Christina decided to join us as well this day.  At lunch, we all surprised my dad as well, who was equally shocked, but rather than a heart-attack reaction, he seemed genuinely confused, like the streams had been crossed or something.  But a good time was had by all, and I said all the relevant goodbyes (not forever, just for a while).  Also on 8 December, I pinged Charlotte about specific dates she might be able to nail down for early January, as that would be sufficiently long for us to pack everything up and get our stuff in order to move abroad.

On 16 December, Charlotte wrote back and indicated she was able to get 6 January booked, if we wanted it.  Whilst this was a little shorter notice than we were hoping for (or a lot, if you ask Crystal), we didn’t have as much of a choice as we thought we might.  Charlotte indicated the issue was that there were only a couple of days of the week where the LAX-FRA flights matched up with the FRA-TFS flights in terms of not being a multiple day layover, and most of those dates were on weekend, when there weren’t people to handle the dogs at one or both of the airports.  While this seemed weird to me, I figured she knew this, as it was her business, so we bit the bullet and agreed to 6 January.  The plan was that I’d fly out with the dogs, and once we landed (successfully), Crystal would quit her job, sign the rental contracts with the property manager in San Diego, and follow us to Tenerife.

On 17 December, I reached out to our local vet, telling them of our impending 6 January flight, and asking for their assistance in getting the necessary paperwork and tests for the dogs.  A year or two prior, I’d coincidentally been in the waiting area when someone else was doing this, and I remember thinking that the vet seemed well-versed on the subject, and filed that away for later.  Well, today was later.  The vet took down our info and made an appointment for right after the New Year.

On 24 December, we put together the language and photos for our rental listing – even if we couldn’t agree to a rental contract until the pups and I landed – and got that back to the property manager.  We also had one hell of a nice sunset, which we’d actually had a couple of in the last week, almost like San Diego was trying to convince us not to leave. On Christmas, Crystal's family came over, and we enjoyed some food and drinks. Sadly, the most memorable thing, for me at least, was Lola. I'm not sure if she had a stroke or some other issue, but she started to have a noticeable head tilt, and she seemed like she was going to fall over a couple of times. She was supposed to get on a plane in less than two weeks, and frankly Crystal and I weren't sure she'd make it to 6 January. We were doing everything we could, but she was not healing correctly, and her body clearly had not re-regulated itself post-surgery. It was really depressing, and we had many long conversations that week. We decided to just keep moving forward, and hoped for the best.


On 27 December, we got a “traveling mailbox” to handle things whilst we were away.  I’d read about this, and it seemed perfect for our purposes.  Basically, you change your address with the USPS to a physical address that is owned (or leased, I guess) by the traveling mailbox company.  All of the clients have a different “unit” number at the physical address.  Once the mail is physically at the traveling mailbox location, they send you a scan of the front of the envelope, and you can choose whether you want to open it, hold it, or toss it.  If you open it, they scan the pages and then let you know when the scan is done.  Depending on how many pages are scanned on a given month, there are differing prices.  We signed up for either the least expensive or second least expensive, as we didn’t think we’d have too much stuff.

On 29 December I contacted APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) to confirm the process for the EU Health Certificate that the dogs would need.  Our vet visit was scheduled for Monday the following week, and I wanted to make sure I had everything correct.  I’m very glad I did this, because our vet did not have their act together.  APHIS told me that they’d need 48-72 hours to process everything once they got it from the vet, and that they’d be closed Friday the 1st and over the weekend.  I realized immediately that we needed to get the dogs' appointment moved up, so things could be sent overnight, so that APHIS could send stuff to us before they closed for the long weekend.

I immediately contacted the vet and told them what had transpired, and pleaded with them to check out the dogs ASAP, as the 6 January reservations had already been made and there wasn’t a viable alternative to that date.  They re-arranged some things and managed to squeeze us in.  The health check was thankfully a non-issue, even with Lola not being in great shape.  But when I pinged APHIS early in the morning on 31 December to check on the status of things, they told me that our vet had not uploaded the information correctly, and they had nothing.  So I hung up with them and called the vet every 30 minutes, calmly but firmly telling them I needed them to get their shit together ASAP, but I kept getting put off.  After, I’m not exaggerating, 6-8 calls, the vet finally got everything in order, but by this time it was the late afternoon, and APHIS told it might not get endorsed until Monday.  I pleaded – pleaded – with them, telling them that we were leaving Wednesday morning, and couldn’t chance the thing getting sent from Sacramento on Monday to arrive on Tuesday, as too much was at stake if it didn't arrive Tuesday.  Even though it was late in the afternoon on the last day before a holiday weekend, people in APHIS took pity on me, and the people in Sacramento got the LA office to do it, and we celebrated wildly.  Thanks to APHIS, I thought this might actually happen after all.

I'd been packing stuff up for weeks at this point, putting stuff in boxes, and boxes in our storage sheds down in the garage. It seemed like all the boxes were going to fit, or at least come very close. There were a couple of boxes for the most valuable/memorable stuff that we put in Heidi's condo, but 90-95% of our things were in boxes in the garage. As the house got emptier and emptier, the impending move became more and more real.

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