Dog stranded by COVID reunited with Australian family 5 months later

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- A dachshund left behind in the United States when her owners had to fly home to Australia amid the COVID-19 pandemic was reunited with her family after five months and a 10,000-mile journey.

Zoe and Guy Eilbeck said they set out for a yacht trip around the world with their sons, Cam and Max, and the family adopted Pipsqueak the wiener dog -- affectionately known as Pip -- in Messina, Sicily, in 2018.


The Eilbecks were forced to abandon their sailing plans in March, when the coronavirus pandemic led to several international borders being closed. They docked their 40-foot yacht in Hilton Head Island, S.C., and had 48 hours to fly home before the Australian border closed.

Pip was unable to accompany the family on the flight due to Australia's strict rules for the importation of animals. Pets need to have a U.S. government declaration that they are in good health and have been tested for rabies.


The family departed the country March 27, leaving Pip with friend Lynn Williams in North Carolina.

Williams, who already had multiple dogs, placed an ad to find another temporary home for Pip. The dog ended up at the home of Ellen Steinberg in Hillsborough, N.C., on April 4, before moving again to the home of friend Stacey Green when Steinberg had to leave town to visit family.

The Eilbecks got an import permit for Pip, but airline Qantas announced around the same time that it was suspending its dog transporting services.

Zoe Eilbeck worked out a plan to import Pip through New Zealand by working with Australian pet transport company Jetpets, but the scheme required the dachshund to depart from Los Angeles.

Eilbeck posted on social media seeking someone flying cross-country to bring Pip to California, as most U.S. airlines had suspended pet transport on cargo flights from May to September.

Melissa Young of dog rescue foundation The Sparky Foundation responded to the post and volunteered to bring Pip with her to Los Angeles, where the canine was handed over to Jetpets.

Pip arrived in Auckland on July 23 and was in quarantine overnight before taking a flight to Melbourne, Australia, where she was put into mandatory 10-day quarantine.


The dog was cleared to fly to Sydney and was booked for an Aug. 3 flight, but the flight was canceled when the state of Victoria closed its borders with New South Wales.

Zoe Eilbeck's brother, Rob, took Pip in at his Melbourne home for a few days, and the dog was booked on multiple flights to Sydney that all ended up canceled.

Pip's story was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald and came to the attention of officials at airline Virgin Australia, which announced it would fly Pip home.

The dog finally arrived at Sydney Airport on Aug. 11, five months after being left behind in the United States. The Eilbeck family had an emotional reunion with their pet.

"She's part of our family and it's been five months and that's a long time to miss anybody," Guy Eilbeck told Virgin Australia officials.

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