Pip the yachtie dachshund was due to fly into Sydney on Saturday afternoon following a five-month pandemic-induced separation from her owners.
The Eilbeck family was eagerly awaiting the homecoming of their sausage dog, who has been on a 17,000 kilometre journey which started in South Carolina in March and took in numerous temporary homes and periods of quarantine.
But at the last minute Pip’s flight was cancelled on Friday, putting paid to what was meant to be an emotional reunion with the Eilbecks at home on Scotland Island, Pittwater.
“I spent hours arranging to get her home and it has cost a lot more than it was supposed to,” Zoe Eilbeck said. “I said to [husband] Guy: ‘Am I still doing this?’ He said: ‘But it’s Pip, she’s part of the family’.”
Her eight year old son Max added: “We’ve waited so long. Pip’s going to be so sad.”
Mrs Eilbeck, Guy and sons Cam, 13, and Max, 8, sold their Frenchs Forest home in 2016, flew to Greece and purchased a 40-ft yacht in Croatia for a literal seachange. They later welcomed Pip, then a puppy, aboard when they were moored in Messina in Sicily in 2018.
In December that year they crossed the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Barbados then sailed the east coast of the US. They were tied up in Key West in March planning a Pacific crossing back home when COVID-19 disrupted their plans.
Australia closed its borders and Florida asked all non-residents to leave. The Eilbecks sailed from Key West to South Carolina, where they abandoned ship to fly home. As it would take time to organise the necessary paper work to bring Pip back to Australia, they put out a call on social media for people to look after her in the meantime.
Ellen Steinberg, who lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, fostered Pip for most of her stay in the US. “The real hero in the story is my dog Frankly who was the kinder side of tolerant with Pip,” said Ms Steinberg.
“Not best friends but not arch enemies either. Pip, of course, loved Frankly unconditionally. Such is life.”
Last month Pip flew to Auckland via Los Angeles before reaching Melbourne on July 24. She spent 10 days in Mickleham quarantine facility and should have flown on to Sydney on Tuesday but that flight was cancelled. She then stayed with Mrs Eilbeck’s brother in West Brunswick.
“We were going to drive down and pick her up because she had already done four flights, poor little dog,” Mrs Eilbeck said.
However the closure of the border between Victoria and NSW prevented this.
Mr Eilbeck said: “I can’t believe we’ve managed to get her all the way across America on the kindness of strangers only for her to get stuck in Melbourne.”
Mrs Eilbeck has now rebooked Pip on a flight to Sydney for Monday night.
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Tim Barlass is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald