A few months ago, while surfing the web, I came upon a litter of Irish Wolfhound puppies. I did not know
what kennel they came from, just that they were in Poland and that I liked some of the kennel names in their
ancestory. I decided to email this breeder for more information. This led to many more emails, that
sometimes took quite a while to get answers back.....Barbara's English was limited and with the long
emails, she needed some help translating. My Polish is non existant. Barbara's name was ringing a bell but
we could not figure out why....One day Dot was looking in Mary McBryde's "The Magnificant Irish
Wolfhound" and there was Barbara.....Barbara Strzalkowska of Sagittarius Kennels. She has been
breeding Irish Wolfhounds for many years and has raised many champions.
It was not long and we decided we wanted a puppy from her. She agreed as long as we could get the
puppy safely to Canada. We looked in to shipping companies and pet moving companies.....in the end I
decided to travel to Poland and get him myself. Babara put us in contact with a lady from Germany who
was getting a puppy too. Dorota knew German, Polish, and English. We started emailing each other too.
Dorota worked part time in Warsaw and she offered to meet me and be my "tour guide / interpeter". The
flight was soon booked.
All the flights were booked through Lufthansa airlines. They were great! About 2 minutes on the phone with
them discussing bringing back a puppy and it was all booked...But....the last leg of the trip was on an Air
Canada flight....8 hours of phone calls with them, every person there, gave me a different answer...fed up
but thinking I had the problem solved, I let the travel agent fight with them somemore.
I had to get a passport and International drivers licence (so I was told). Booked a hotel, a car and started
reading up on Poland. It was soon time for my 1:30pm flight out of Calgary. I did not sleep much before the
flight but was not tired....too many things going on. Through customs with no problem and on to the plane.
The crew was super nice, I had a German beer, ate shnitzel (veal) and drank lots of tea. The salad (I
thought) smelled good but different...a couple of fork fulls later I figured out what it was.....sushi....did not
taste that bad but what an after taste....yuck!
We landed in Frankfurt Germany, after about 9 hours of flight. I have never seen such a place. It dwarfed
any other airport I have ever seen. I went through customs there and was met by a big, old, grumpy looking
German. After looking at my passport he started tapping it and shaking his finger. I had forgotten to sign it.
He let me through and at the next wall I was signing it. It had now been about 13 hours of no smoking....and I
was sick of the gobstoppers I had been sucking. There was big signs all over saying this was a smoke free
airport. I could not go outside unless I wanted to go through customs again....what I found was even better.
Little cubicles, about the size of a garden shed, with big ventilation fans in them for us evil smokers. They
were a little crowded but everyone was happy. I got in line for a coffee....this was no Tim Hortons...Half an
hour later I got my coffee....3.50 Euros for a half full small cup of coffee.....it was strong enough to make your
eyes pop out. A couple hours later we took a 5 minute bus ride to get to the next plane. Off to Warsaw.
This was different, their airport security was military. They were all very nice. Found my luggage right away
and went to look for customs.....I could not find it so I went to the info desk...They said I could go... no
customs... I went to find my car rental place and could not find it, so I took a taxi to my hotel. It was the
scariest ride of my life. Painted lines on the road meant nothing...neither did the red lights. My hotel was
way nicer then what it looked like on the computer. I am sure I was the only person there in running shoes.
Everyone was wearing suits and fancy dresses. This hotel cost less then the Super 8 in Calgary. I was very
impressed and despite my attire, they treated me like royalty. It was about 1 pm when I got my room. I lost a
day flying and had not had any sleep since leaving Calgary. I had a 3 hour snooze and then met Dorota. I
had never seen her so was wondering how this would work...She spotted me right away and said I looked
We went up town and bought a kennel. I got one made by Atlas, way nicer then a VariKennel. We went
back to the airport and found the rental place right away, I must have been too tired and missed it. I let
Dorota drive.....I was still thinking about the taxi ride. The car was a Nissan Altumura....a little 4door...I had
upgraded, I would have hated to see what the cheap one was. This car had electric windows and locks,
delay wipers and that was it for options.....not even power steering. Back at the hotel I sampled a Polish
beer, it was good but expensive....17.00 PLN (zoloties) about $7.50 for 500ml. I also had a steak
sandwich, which was actually a sandwich....very good
The next morning we were off to Barbara's, which was about 600km away. Dorota drove for about the 1st
hour and then we stopped for coffee.....the coffee was about the same as Germany's but more of it. I drove
after that. I had read that Poland's roads were the worst in Europe....I have driven on a lot of worse ones
right here in Saskatchewan. The Polish drivers are a whole different story. Fast and in a hurry. Single lane
hi-way, with a shoulder, can sometimes have 4 wide traffic at 130 kms an hour. Mirrors are missing each
other by inches. If someone wants to pass, they just start to pull out...everyone just moves over to give them
room. You also have to watch out for tractors and horses pulling wagons.
I drove through Gdansk, which is a huge city, without crashing. It was secondary hi-ways after that. No more
shoulders on the road....instead they had huge trees every 30 or 40 feet, that were not more then a foot
from the pavement. It also started to snow and it was dark by 4 pm. We finally made it to the small town
near her place. Off the pavement and on to a small back road covered in snow. Of course, we missed a
turn and got lost. Good thing for Dorota's cell phone. (my phone was no good in Europe and Sasktel only
sells 1 phone that works over there...an expensive BlackBerry) I think we got to Barbara's around 6:30. We
were greeted by lots of barking and howling.
It was great to finally meet her and all of her hounds. Supper was waiting for us and I got to have home
made perogies (the best I have ever had). Red wine, which I never drink, was also good. Dorota and I got
to meet our puppies. We were both very pleased! The evening was spent playing with many puppies, dogs,
and chatting. I also "had" to have a shot of whiskey (1st time in over 15 years) as there was an Irish
Wolfhound on the bottle. It was great talking about wolfhounds and puppies. I got to see many of Barbara's
numerous awards and trophies. She also had many beautiful pictures and portaits. I had a great sleep, it
was a good thing because that was the last good sleep I had for some time.
We did not get away from Barbara's until noon. It had snowed all night so I got to shovell the car and the
driveway out. We got stuck about 3 times just getting out to the road. I had to back onto the road and there
was a cliff right off the side of it....took a while but we made it. The little road was pure white with no tracks
yet, so it was hard to see were the ditch was. There were many "S" curves and a lot of drop offs. We
eventually made it back to the hi-way....which was covered in snow and ice....10.5 hours to go 600 km.
Poland is also full of round-abouts (traffic circles) Didn't do a Chevy Chase....
We made it back to Warsaw late. We had a quick supper and chatted. Gintaro was great both in the car
and Dorota's. 3 hours of sleep and then off to the airport. It was weird having a little puppy in the airport, lots
of people coming up and wanting to talk and of course, play with Gintaro. Thankfully, Dorota was there to do
the talking. I watched as Gintaro was loaded on the plane in Warsaw. In Germany, Air Canada had me mad
in about 2 minutes....but I got to see him loaded there too. About 16 hours later we were back in Calgary.
The customs officer was very nice and asked all about my puppy. When her shift was over she came and
found us just so she could see him. Gintaro had pooped a little in his crate so he did not smell so great.
That did not stop people from coming to see him, even asking if they could hold him. My luggage did not
make the trip back (it did get to me 8 days later....damaged). We had no problem getting Gintaro through
the decleration process...he had his own passport and Barbara had all the correct things done and filled
out. The officer may have felt bad for me, poopy puppy and no luggage. We both got cleaned up and then in
to the Dodge for the trip home. The trip went fine, Gintaro loves riding in the truck. Once home and after
everyone had checked each other out I finally got to sleep. I had gone 51 hours with 3 hours sleep....and got
to sleep 3 hours before I had to go haul grain...
I think in the end, I traveled 19,156 km to get Gintaro and bring him back. Well worth it!
Thank you so much to Barbara for letting us bring Gintaro into our home!
Without Dorota's help none of this would have been possible....I owe her big time