We left Tirana in October 2007. For the first time ever we had business class seats but we still spent the entire flight worrying about Bella in the hold below. Lufthansa were wonderful. When we changed planes in Munich we went to one of their information desks to check that Bella had been transferred. The man we spoke too dropped everything he was doing, made some phone calls and assured us that she was on her way to our next flight. On board the flight attendants gave us regular updates from the Captain on her arrival and boarding.

Around ten hours later we got off the plane in Chicago and began the long process of getting through immigration, wondering all the while how Bella was doing.Eventually we made it to the baggage reclaim hall and I waited for our luggage while my wife went off to track down Bella. She found her waiting patiently in her crate with one of the cabin crew from our flight in attendance. Have I mentioned how wonderful Lufthansa are?

Our plan at that point had been to transfer in Chicago to a United flight to Madison, Wisconsin. That's when United Airlines took over and managed to outdo their already appallingly poor standards. Suffice it to say that after many hours at the airport trying to get someone to take responsibility we abandoned the flight, hired a car and drove to Madison.

By the time we exited the airport the combined effects of the flight, our concerns for Bella and hours of sullen incompetence from United had taken its toll on us. Bella, on the other hand, was completely unfazed. We let her out of her crate. She stepped out onto the concrete walkway, sniffed the air and promptly lay down and had a roll on her back to the delight of our fellow travellers. Not for the first time she drew a crowd of admirers.

Eventually we made it to Wisconsin where we were staying with family who had also agreed to look after Bella for us while we headed off on a prearranged trip. It wasn't ideal, but we had made our travel plans before we ever decided to adopt Bella. We had a few days with her to make sure we was settled and called every day to check on her. She was fine - eating heartily, enjoying her first encounters with squirrels and generally having a ball.

Most of my pictures from this time were taken on mobile phones and I have no idea where or when some of them were taken. I know these two were taken while we were in Wisconsin. Bella was loving the cool crisp autumn weather - such a change from the heat of Tirana. She is noticeably skinny in these pictures, a result of our efforts to slim her down sufficiently to get on the plane. At one point she was down to 67 lbs, too thin for her but it wasn't long before she started putting on the pounds once more, up to a more comfortable 72-75 lbs.


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