"When Shadow was about two or three years old, I had already decided that I would not have a baby." - Hema Watson

Preston suggested we leave Shadow behind. “It would be very hard for us to maintain him in Canada,'' he reasoned. The year was 2009. I had just gotten married to Preston - a Canadian, and this required me to split my time between Ahmedabad and Toronto.

“If Shadow is not coming, I am not coming”, I told Preston.

To be fair, Preston did have valid reasons. His apartment for instance, did not even allow pets. There were many who suggested that if I left him in India, Shadow would be happier. ‘He is used to being here’, I was told. I am sure my immediate family always knew that I could never leave Shadow behind, but many in the extended family assumed I was being stupid.

To me Shadow was my kid more than a dog. When Shadow was about two or three years old, I had already decided that I would not have a baby. If this was the level of attachment to a dog, how would I be able to deal with the attachment with my birth kid? There was no question of leaving my kid behind; that thought never even crossed my mind. Was it easy to bring him with me to Canada? Not at all!

The amount of paperwork needed was crazy. And then there was this requirement of a crate and micro-chip - things I had never even known about up until then.

When the time to fly came, Shadow was placed in the cargo. Back then, I didn’t know that it was possible to fly your dog with you and other passengers. Poor Shadow! I put a tag on his neck that read, “Hi, I am Shadow. I am very friendly and I do not bite.” The flight connection was from Ahmedabad to Mumbai to a European transit airport and then to Toronto. I could hear him bark during the flight. Not knowing how he was doing in there, made my heart sank. At the transit terminal in Europe, I requested the officials if I could see him. They brought him out. He was very hyper. I gave him some water. By the time we reached Toronto, he was full of anxiety and soon got sick.

He did recover gradually. It took almost a month for him to get back to being his normal self. For the first few years, I had to make at least two trips back and forth between Canada and India. But I made sure shadow travelled with me every single time. 2014 was a nightmare when India got a new central government. Suddenly they became super stringent about paperwork. I had to come back from airport and struggle for almost a month, using all the connections I could get hold of, spending a lot of money just so that I could take my own kid to my own country! But I did it happily. Not just India, I took Shadow with me, almost wherever I travelled, including USA. Shadow even got a passport.

About two years ago, Shadow passed away. He must have been 12 or 13 years old. My life will always be filled with his pleasant memories. The biggest thing that he taught me was that when you have an unconditional love for someone, everything that you do is pleasure and doesn’t seem like work, effort or responsibility. It really didn’t matter what anybody thought about my decisions to fly with Shadow or if they thought it was too wild a thing to do! After all, it takes strength to be wild, but for some of us that’s what makes us happy.

- Hema Watson , 40
  Toronto / Ahmedabad

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