GEELONG -A well traveled pooch has seen more of the world than most canines after his Drysdale adopter decided she couldn’t leave Thailand without him.
Joanna Sherwell, a former model, business-owner and life coach, met Sunny at an Elephant Rehabilitation Mission in Chiang Mai where she volunteered before working as manager of the park’s dog project last year.
“I was depressed and grieving from losing a close friend and my two dogs back home, and one day Sunny wandered into the park and kept turning up at my little hut,” she said.
“I tried really hard not to make a bond with him because my bosses and I knew the process of trying to get a dog from Asia into Australia was huge.
“But he kept following me everywhere and I realized I was actually happier with Sunny around than I had been in a long time, and thought if he likes me and I like him and I can find a way to make this happen, then why not try.”
The decision sparked months of research, a ‘Bring Sunny Home’ Facebook page and Possible fundraising campaign with a target of $6000 to adopt the now three-year-old Korean Jindo to Australia.
“I told myself I’d do the fundraising page and if it made money I’d continue it, and if it didn’t go anywhere I’d cancel it and put a stop to the whole thing,” she said.
After making $800 in the first couple of days Ms Sherwell, 34, was on track to reach her target, but two days before deadline the campaign was $700 short.
“If you don’t make the full amount Pozible cancels the whole thing and you don’t get any money that’s been pledged which I think is a tough but fair policy, because if you only raise half you’re obviously not going through with that project but you’re still getting people’s cash,” she said.
“I put something on my Facebook page and all of a sudden someone had donated the full $700.
“Turns out it was my very first client as a life coach, who later told me I had changed his life and he wanted to do the same for me.”
After a rabies vaccination in Thailand Sunny was fit to fly to America, where the quarantine process simply requires the dog to stay in the US for six months before leaving, and drops Australia’s six-moth quarantine down to 10 days.
“When bringing a dog from an Asian country to America, their canine diseases are very similar so there’s really nothing to quarantine as long as they’ve had their vaccinations and tests, but to then get to Australia there is a 180 day process of blood tests, vaccinations and paperwork,” she said.
“I had to follow that to the date.”
The American stint saw the pair stay in six different places in six months, including an olive farm in southern California, a city apartment in San Francisco, a suburban home north of San Diego and The Exorcist’s Linda Blair’s Los Angeles mountain ranch where Ms Sherwell cared for the animals.
The pair was separated for the first time in nearly 12 months when Sunny was taken directly from the airport to a quarantine facility in Spotswood, but were reunited nearly a week ago and the placid pup is settling in fine.
The journey has equipped the former owner of Model Success with the experience to pursue a career in animal therapy working with disadvantaged youth.
“The process is doable but it’s extremely expensive and it’s a long, drawn out ordeal,” she said.
“There were some bad things and some very stressful things that have happened along the way, but still I’ve been safe, Sunny I have always had a house, we always had money and food to get through it, and I always felt like we were meant to get home.”
Since her return Ms Sherwell and Sunny have spent some time at Geelong Animal Welfare Society where she adopted her previous dog from, and will be at the Moolap facility’s Open Day on October 4 to help unveil the two new dog obedience training paddocks.