Lessons in Agility from Arya

You might have noticed that I’ve been a bit obsessed with agility over the last few months. Not the physical agility required for sports, but mental agility that enables people to survive disruptive situations, and keep progressing. It all started with everyone’s favourite pandemic, which forced us to change the way we worked and lived..and intensified with each passing month, as we embarked on our startup journey, and Adaptiv’s focus on learning agility as one of the most important durable skills required to succeed in the new economy. I’ve read several research papers, and case studies, but the biggest example of agility over the last few months has been Arya. 

It all started early this year when we uprooted her from the only home she has known since she entered our lives seven years ago, to a new house in a completely new neighbourhood across the city. Barely a month later, she found herself at a friend’s house since we had to leave for France. It was supposed to be for 45 days, but the separation lasted for over 3 months, thanks to the (in)famous French bureaucracy. 

Reunited after the longest time spent away from us, she had settled beautifully in her new routine in the not-so-new-anymore neighbourhood, when we started training her for an even bigger move. This time not just across the city, but across continents! When we first decided to take Arya with us, little did we know what all she would have to go through to be with us.

First step –  getting a microchip inserted beneath her skin and an antibody titer blood test to prove that she’s free of Rabies – her vaccination records weren’t enough, of course since she’s an Indian dog! A process that went very smoothly thanks to our wonderful vet, Dr. Kashyap and Siva from Global Pet Relocation who helped us with the entire process. 

The report came back, clearing her for international travel, and labeling her (much to our great amusement) an Indian Mongrel! Well, this Indian Mongrel was now set to conquer hearts in la belle France!

Next step – crate training. Given her innate fear of everything new, the arrival of the crate caused much anxiety, but patience and tiny morsels of spring rolls had her accepting the crate within days. But the biggest challenge was getting a dog who had never been confined, to accept the crate as a safe place. She surprised us by taking to the crate within a few weeks, and even sitting there quietly when strangers came into the house, watching from behind the bars without much protest at all. Helpful tips about anxiety reducing medicines from well wishers and the kind people at Stay, Pet Boarding helped us prepare her even better.

The final step – the actual flight. But before, a trip to the Animal Quarantine to prove that the microchip details matched the chip sitting under her skin! A 3 minute job for which she had to wait for over an hour in a crowded reception area with scores of people walking in and out. But that was nothing compared to the day she finally traveled. 

We reached the airport early, armed with her papers and ours. After checking in our bags, the Air France staff escorted us to a separate section where they scan luggage – yes, she traveled as accompanied baggage! They scanned her crate without her, and then again with her inside to ensure that we weren’t using her to smuggle diamonds or drugs. And off, she went into the waiting area, till it was time for boarding. 

We were on tenterhooks till we got proof that she had been safely boarded, and her crate had been secured. A sight that brought with it the twin emotions of relief that she was fine, and anguish at what she was going to endure to be with us. Even the very comforting “She will be fine, ma’am. We will take care of her” from the efficient ground staff of Air France didn’t appease me, and I had to fight hard to regain my composure before we boarded. 

Just as luck would have it, we landed in a very rainy Paris after an extremely turbulent flight. As I stared out at the horrid weather, my heart squeezed further, and I crossed my fingers that the Air France and CdG staff would make sure that no water went into her crate. 

We hopped impatiently in the overly long immigration queue, and raced through the airport to discover that she was just coming out on the baggage belt, peering out from the side curiously. 

After a brief reunion, we hopped into a taxi for the final part of the long journey, and were finally able to release her from the crate at the AirBnb a full 18 hours after she had stepped in…and she promptly pulled us to the nearest bush to relieve herself! 

No signs of anxiety, after what was definitely the most enduring experience of her life. She greeted our AirBnb host with much affection, and promptly went around the house sniffing curiously. 

At each step since the beginning of the year, I’ve braced myself for a battle as Arya had to unlearn what she knew, and relearn new, modified behaviour patterns..and at each step, she has surprised me by adapting faster than we did, and without any struggle at all.

Forget Elon Musk, the truly agile being is Arya!


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