Mike Dooley refers to the human desire to know exactly how things can possibly work out as the ‘cursed hows.’ He’s right. So often we think of a desired outcome and then scupper our ability to attract it by trying to work out how on Earth it could possibly happen.
We fuss about possible outcomes, what other people have to do to make it happen (and often don’t trust them to do their part and even try to take control ourselves) and we so often come to the conclusion that it is impossible.
Nine years ago, I did the impossible by legally bringing the first ever dog back from the USA to the UK without quarantine. It was about the time that Passports for Pets was setting up in the UK – but only for animals from Europe; America was excluded. This is how it came about...
For the Love of Dog.
‘Don’t make me choose,” I said miserably.
'You shouldn’t even be thinking of choosing!' he answered.
But at that horrible moment I knew that a psychological life-or-death decision was necessary. Life meaning my authentic self, death being the life another person wanted me to choose – no matter how well-meaning he might be.
He wanted me to take my 10-year-old beagle, Didcot to the Humane Society to be re-homed, then come home to England and forget our ‘failed venture’ of emigrating to Montana. Bringing the dog home was not an option.
The only available answer was the one so often quoted in spiritual circles – 'Let Go and Let God.'
To cut a very long story short, we had emigrated to Bozeman, Montana from London, England to run a cafe. But my husband’s US business visa had failed after less than a year and he was back in England. I had my own visa and could stay in the USA while he tried to sort it out with the American Embassy in London. The phone call that day was to tell me that their answer was ‘No.’ As a couple, we had no alternative but to try and sell the business and go back to England. If I chose to stay, the marriage was over.
In those days, the Passports for Pets scheme which enables a pet to change continents without six months in quarantine was not available from the USA to England; the scheme was due to set up in Europe only in one year’s time. So, Didi could not go from the USA to England without six months quarantine in a cage. She was too old to cope with that even if I could.
I bought Didcot, Didi for short, two months after my first husband died. She was a sassy, loyal and incredibly cute beagle – and she was an immutable part of the package when I got married the second time. And I knew, that if I left her, and the marriage – which had been badly scarred by the Montana experiment - failed anyway, then I would lose on all counts. Much as I loved my husband – and much as his intentions were honourable – this was an impasse. I was not leaving Didcot behind.
Since coming to Montana, we had both attended Unity Church in Bozeman every Sunday and loved its energy and the vibrancy of the minister, Philip Zemke. In the UK we’d heard of Unity – and read a lot of Catherine Ponder’s work – and this particular church was truly inspirational. I knew too about Silent Unity and, after putting the phone down on that horrible call from England, I went to see Philip
He listened to my tearful ranting and then said: 'Honey, don't tell the Lord what you don't want. Tell Him what you do want.'
'I want to get Didi back to England without quarantine,' I said. 'I want to sell this cafe in less than three months. I want someone to help me run it in the meantime because it was my husband’s cafe and I have no experience.'
'Well let’s pray!' he said and we did.
But it was at the end of the prayer when I started the worrying and fussing again that Philip said the words that I will remember forever – and I always pass on to anyone who might be in a similar situation.
'Honey,' he said. 'Get outta the Lord’s way! You’re standing right in his way and he can’t get around you if you block his path. All you gotta do is ask for what you want; then you just gotta let go and have some fun. Go riding quarter horses in the sunset and watch the eagles. Just get outta his way and your prayer will be answered.'
On this particular occasion, as everything I wanted was verging on the impossible and I was so terrified that I hardly knew how to breathe, I didn’t really have much of a choice. It was trust or give up.
So two days later, on Sunday morning at Unity in Bozeman, I stood up and said:
'I need a buyer for the cafe; I need a cafe manager to help me run a business that I don’t understand with the Taste of Bozeman Festival in two weeks’ time. My dog can’t go to England but she could go to Europe, so I need to find a dog-lover who lives in Europe who would look after her there while I go back home and work something out. I need somewhere to stay here in Bozeman as I have to move out of my house in a week. I need help to work out US to Europe immigration for a dog. And I need someone to lend me a quarter horse so I can go riding in the sunset and watch eagles.'
A hand went up at once and Charles Carrell, the Unity Musical Director, who had catering experience and didn’t need to earn money at that time, volunteered to act as unpaid manager for the cafe. And beautiful Robin, the actress, offered to introduce me to her friend Charlie who need help exercising his three quarter horses.
What a start! Emboldened, I started talking to people on the backstreets of Bozeman when I walked Didi in the mornings. 'Cute dog,' they’d say.
'Do you know anywhere we could rent?' I’d answer. 'Do you know any dog-lovers in Europe?'
Within two days, two people had offered us accommodation, and someone’s cousin had telephoned me from Spain to say she would care for Didi, She said something very important too: ‘Now you know someone can help, you can relax. I don’t suppose for a moment your dog will need to come to us but the fact that you know she can means that something better can turn up.’
She too was saying ‘Let go and let God.’
And each evening, Charlie and I rode his quarter horses in the sunset, watching the eagles.
But the cafe didn’t sell.
I telephoned the Ministry of Agriculture in England and asked whether taking a dog to Europe from the USA and then registering it as a European dog meant that Didi could be eligible for Passports for Pets when it started up.
‘We’d never thought of that!’ said the woman at the other end. ‘I’ll check.’
She called back, quite excited. ‘We’ve had a lot of Americans upset that the scheme doesn’t work for them,’ she said. ‘But your idea of taking your dog to Europe and staying there for seven months while the process goes through is fine. I’m telling other Americans that already so thank you.’
My goodness – we were even helping others!
That very night, an old friend of my husband’s emailed out of the blue, revealing that he actually owned a little house in Andalucia, Spain. I phoned him asking if I could possibly rent it. He was outraged. ‘Rent?’ he said. ‘Rent? Mi casa es su casa! I will not charge you rent! You stay in my house for as long as you need. And your husband too if he wants to. Rent indeed!’
I booked a flight from Seattle to Malaga for two months’ time.
But the cafe didn’t sell.
There was another problem: Charles the unpaid cafe manager was doing brilliantly but he was away at a convention for the weekend of the famous Taste of Bozeman and neither I nor the cafe staff had the slightest idea what to do. We couldn’t pull out – I desperately needed the revenue to make the wages and the cafe’s rent. We could sort out food but knew nothing about Heath Inspection requirements or what equipment to use outside.
On the morning of the great event, Katerina, one of the Unity church congregation came in with a card for me – nine years later, it’s still in my treasures box. It said ‘God is looking after you. Just trust. Let go and let God.’
I think I was just about getting the hint!
An hour later, Al Kilmurray, a former chef and a member of Unity Church, walked into the cafe and simply took over. He organised it all; we just had do what he told us to do. By lunchtime he’d sorted it and gone.
Apart from accidentally shutting the Health Inspector in the freezer for half an hour (she had gone in to test the temperatures) we were all set. But just as we were about to put up our stall in the street, it began to pour with rain. A total disaster for The Taste of Bozeman as not a single stall could go up. Oh God! What was I going to do about the wages and the rent?
As Robin, the staff and I watched the floods in the streets, Al walked in covered in plastic sheeting.
‘Tea!’ he bellowed. ‘Make tea! People need tea not coffee at a time like this and you’re a Brit; you know how to make tea!’
He went outside and started yelling ‘Warm yourself up with a cup of English tea!’
And they came – the people whose dinner had been rained off, came in for a cup of tea. And stayed and ate all the food we had prepared.
Robin, Al and I worked like ten people and by midnight, the rent and the wages were paid. I never saw Al again. He just went back out of state. He died last month, and by one of those strange sychronicities of life, I was privileged to be able to attend his memorial when I returned to Bozeman two weeks ago,
And every night, I rode Spuds the quarter horse with Charlie and watched the eagles fly.
And every Sunday I went to Unity where Philip and the congregation continued to pray for Didi and me.
But the cafe didn’t sell.
Let go and Let God...
All the officials taking care of Didi’s paperwork were so helpful (although every bit of it was new to them). When I realised it all had to be translated into Spanish, Katerina from Unity translated it for me. When I found out that we were six days out of time for Didi’s required Rabies vaccination, the kind vet ‘accidentally’ back-dated the certificate.
‘Your dog is already immune from the vaccine she had less than a year ago in England,’ he said. ‘It’s not a problem. It’s obviously God’s will that you are going to Spain.’
One hitch – completely my fault – I forgot to send the $3 dollar fee to the Spanish Embassy in California for Didi’s export visa. Without that, they couldn’t issue it and we had only three days left before we flew.
My loving hosts, Ris Higgins and Joe Esparza, who run Leadership Outfitters, an amazing executive coaching business that includes horse whispering, tried everything – they called everyone they knew in LA asking them to drive $3 round to the embassy; they phoned a flower delivery company asking for a bouquet with $3 in it to be delivered. They asked a courier company to courier round the cash if we paid for the courier price plus $3. Everyone said no.
We were stuck.
‘No we’re not,’ said Ris. ‘We pray! And then we call the Embassy lady back.’
So that’s just what we did. And when I called her, she said that she’d been thinking about the sweet little dog. And if we FedExed the $3 to her with FedEx reply-paid and faxed her a receipt proving that it had been sent, then she would release Didi’s visa.
The next morning my ride to the airport in Seattle arrived ... Of course we had a lift for the two-day drive to Seattle! I hardly even bothered worrying about that one. My friend Lisa Jeffers from Unity offered to drive us - and Didi’s huge Sky Kennel - in her 4x4.
Just as we were loading up, there was a phone call from the Real Estate Broker.
The cafe had sold.
There was just time to stop off and sign the sale papers before I left Bozeman...
Seven months later, Didcot the beagle was the first dog ever into the UK from the USA, via Spain, on the British Passports for Pets scheme. She lived happily with me in London for four more years.
Thank you Silent Unity and Unity of Bozeman. You taught me how to let go and let God.
In loving memory: Alan Kilmurray.
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