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For over a month I have been following the story of Vivi, a champion Whippet that managed to escape and run away while being loaded onto a Delta airliner following the Westminster dog show. (Click here to search Google for news items) We had temperatures in the single digits shortly after. Temperatures are now warmer. There have been sightings of Vivi in Flushing, New York. At least people say it was Vivi, and scent dogs concurred. But they have yet to actually capture her.

The following is from an email that was forwarded to me. It is the inside scoop on what originally happened with Vivi:

The following is from Bo Bengtson, Vivi’s breeder.
He has asked to have it forwarded to as many dog lists as possible. Permission to forward to all lists where permitted.


Following is an update on the search for Vivi, the Whippet who was lost at JFK Airport on Wednesday morning, Feb. 15. As of Saturday evening there is still no confirmed sighting, but the search continues with assistance from the Port Authority, Animal Control and many concerned helpers.

Since much incorrect and contradictory information has circulated over the internet and in the media we want to establish the actual sequence of events. I am sorry this is so long but for my peace of mind want to get it all on record.

Vivi’s owner Jil Walton and her sister checked Vivi in at the Delta terminal at JFK approx. 9:45 AM on Wednesday morning. She was travelling in her usual crate in which she has flown many times before; it has a security bar across the gate (which I find difficult to open even under normal circumstances). As all who know her are aware, Vivi is totally unfazed by flying and loves her crate. As far as is known nothing extraordinary occurred during the check-in. Vivi was wearing a dark brown/black woollen coat and a broad collar with Jil’s phone number.

When Jil and her sister boarded the plane they saw the crate being loaded. They then noticed a baggage handler peering into the crate as if he were looking for something; a few minutes later the stewardess came up to Jil and told her the crate was empty. Jil and Jamie immediately disembarked and were told that Vivi had escaped from her crate at some point between check-in and departure. No one appeared to know exactly what had happened.

(We do not believe that any airline employee would deliberately open the crate door, and even if they did Vivi most likely would stay in her crate. I am personally convinced that the crate must have been dropped hard enough for the gate to open and for Vivi to be startled enough to get out. We will most likely never find out what happened. The crate has been returned and appears undamaged except for the broken spring lock.)

Vivi was spotted on the runway by Port Authority officials, who tried to catch her. She was obviously disoriented and took off at top speed, followed by several Port Authority vehicles. At one point they managed to corner her, and the officer who approached her ! (in the correct manner, kneeling down and talking to her) said she was obviously panicked and only responded by escaping him. She was last seen getting through the barbed wire fence which separates the airport from the marsh and open water. This would have been any time after check-in but prior to Jil being informed that Vivi was lost.

When Paul and I arrived, after having received a phone call on our way to the airport approx. 3:00 PM, the airport authorities had already escorted Jil and Jamie on a search around the entire airport, with special emphasis on the area where she was last seen. They were joined on different locations by several other Port Authority vehicles and helicopters. The airport consists of 4900 acres of almost completely flat land with only two small areas of dense brush and trees. Our fear is that Vivi in her panic got too far out into the water to get back; a Port Authority official searched the marsh in a wetsuit without finding anything.

Searches of the areas immediately outside the airport during the afternoon and evening proved fruitless. We had good help from Animal Control officials, friends and the media, who broadcast the disappearance and Vivi’s photograph more widely than we could ever have hoped for. The following day Jil, Jamie, Paul and I – in different groups – were all given permission to search the airport, accompanied by Port Authority officials. We found no new tracks in the snow, which by then was already melting: the weather fortunately has been exceptionally mild for New York in February this week. Several other vehicles and helicopters were also searching.

A large number of dog lovers and friends, some in groups, helped by searching the areas around the airport an! d passin g out flyers. By this time the media coverage had been so extensive that almost everyone we talked to was aware of the lost Whippet. We gave as many interviews as possible in the hope that someone might recognize Vivi if they saw her.

One brief hope on Friday morning was a report that Vivi had been sighted at 2:00 AM close to a construction site outside the airport. Since no later sightings have confirmed the first one we believe it must either be discounted (dozens of other “reported sightings” turned out to be the wrong dog; Animal Control gets around 700 calls per day), or that Vivi is hiding in the residential area nearby, perhaps in a garage or a shed. I spoke to the woman who reported the sighting and she gave a good description of Vivi, but by this time her photo had appeared in most of the NY newspapers and on TV.

Paul and Honi Reisman once again gained access to the airport, with special attention to the areas where Vivi might be hiding, all of which are highly restricted and normally off limits to anyone except police and specific airport employees. Traps have been set up in different areas, inside the airport by the Port Authority and outside by Animal Control. I accompanied a local journalist for several hours cruising the streets where Vivi may have been sighted and asked road crews, gas station attendants and people with dogs if they had seen her. Everyone knew about Vivi but none had seen her.

With Paul staying behind, I left late Friday and got back to California at 2:00 AM to take care of my dogs and try to deal with some work, as well as several hundred emails, faxes and phone messages from concerned dog lovers. Paul, together with Honi Reisman, who is providing invaluable support, ! have been given permission to search the cargo hangars which are the most likely areas Vivi might be hiding. Several psychics who have offered their assistance agree that she is hiding behind what seems to be cargo, that she is safe but very afraid. There are approx. 150 of these cargo hangars, many of them abandoned, but all of them heated, and most with openings which would make it easy for Vivi to get in and out. She can hide there for a long time. There is no shortage of water but we hope she will soon get hungry enough to let herself be spotted and eventually caught.

One very promising fact is that the airport radar spotted a solid body moving across the runways towards the cargo hangars during the night. A Port Authority vehice was investigating within minutes but did not find anything. This appears to support our hope that Vivi may be hiding in the cargo hangars, however.

We want everyone to know that the search in spite of reports to the contrary continues unabated, both via helicopter and patrolled cars. (The perimeter of the airport, included 21 miles of waterfront, is circumnavigated non-stop every few minutes 24 hours every day of the year.) The Port Authorities have been exceptionally helpful, granting unique access for us to search the airport: this is not easily given, and never to more than two persons at one time. Since 9/11 airport security has tightened a lot, and although we wish that admittance could be given for Search and Rescue teams, other whippets or even horses (since Vivi spends most days in a horse barn), we have to realize that this will not be granted for security reasons. The Search and Rescue dogs were also called off since the lack of tracks in the water which covers ! most of the airport would make their job impossible.

I am hoping to get back to New York early next week, depending on the developments. This is a hellish situation which I don’t want anyone to ever have to experience. My only comforts have been my dogs and the wonderful support we have been given by everyone, both friends and unknow dog lovers.

On behalf of Vivi’s owners, Jil and Paul, I want to thank all of you for your help and kindness in these trying days. Vivi is lucky to have so many people who care for her. I hope somehow that she can feel it, wheverever she is. We are still hoping that there will be a happy ending and will keep you informed as far as possible. I will try to get back to everyone who has written personally when I can, but that will take some time.

I hope the above makes sense. My mind is not functioning really well right now.

Again, thank you.
Bo Bengtson

All The World Wants To Travel To New Zealand by Matthew Lawson

Is it any wonder? Since Hollywood launched New Zealand big time onto the world’s cinema screens with epic block busters such as Lord of The Rings, King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia, everyone wants to visit.

In fact, New Zealand is one of the most popular travel search destinations, with almost two million online searches for information each year, even beating out firm favorites such as Hong Kong and London.

New Zealand consists of two main islands, North and South about the size of Colorado. With a population of around 4 million and English as the main language, you can expect a warm welcome and a fantastic vacation experience. There is also strong, vibrant Maori culture reflected in the easy going attitude of the people and pride in their heritage.

From the West Coast of the United States, a direct flight to New Zealand is a bearable 12 hours. Close to the Australian continent, New Zealand shares the Australian love for sport and having a good time.

Think Hawaii meets Switzerland.

Where else can you find so many different types of scenery and breathtaking landscapes in one country! From towering mountain peaks and glaciers to volcanoes and bubbling mud springs. And then there’s the surprise. It’s so very English too. The lush green fields and rolling hills reminiscent of the English countryside and village life never seem that far away.

Major highlights and attractions.

The Bay of Islands on the North Island.

An absolute must-see on your trip. A magnificent natural treasure for anyone who enjoys getting out on the water. Catch a ferry or charter boat and immerse yourself in the unique atmosphere. Paddle a sea kayak in and out of island nooks and inlets. If you have always wanted to swim with dolphins, do it here. Many operators in the region offer excellent trips to spectacular Cape Brett and the ‘Hole in the Rock’ on Piercy Island.

The townships of this historical bay are alive with memories of the area’s colorful past. Take time out to see the well-preserved relics both Maori and European, in romantic Russell, Paihia, Waitangi or Kerikeri.

Rotorua. What’s bubbling you?

Known for its amazing geothermal earth forces, this fascinating region offers you more than natural beauty, it’s also a very spiritual place. "Manaakitanga" is a deep-rooted concept in Maori culture. It’s a local challenge to offer visitors the best experience possible.

Voted New Zealand’s Most Beautiful City three times, Rotorua’s gardens, cobbled streets and diverse mix of Maori and English Tudor architecture, give the city a significant point of difference.

Beyond the urban centre, a backdrop of geothermal steam, volcanic mountains and huge crater lakes remind you that this region rests immediately above the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Incidentally, Rotarua’s Hell’s Gate Reserve was where the "Black Gate of Morodor" was filmed for The Lord of The Rings Trilogy.

Let off some steam. Steam escapes from crevices in the ground, gardens bloom alongside bubbling craters and geysers shoot for the sky.

Spa therapy. A good wrap.

160 years after the first Europeans arrived to ‘spa’ in Rotorua, today’s visitors are still enjoying the therapeutic properties of the geothermal resources. Mineral pools, mud wraps and massage will leave you feeling rejuvenated and ready for more.

The thrill of chilling out in Glacier Country.

Nowhere in the world’s temperate zones are glaciers so accessible. On the West Coast of The South Island, remnants of the ice age cascade from the vast snowfields of the Southern Alps to valley floors, almost 1,000 feet above sea level.

You can enjoy guided excursions exploring stunning ice formations. Or take off on a scenic flight and land amidst New Zealand’s highest peaks overlooking the glaciers. The two most famous villages are Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, good bases from which to plan your days exploring the glaciers.

Milford Sound. Your eighth wonder of the world?

Legendary writer Rudyard Kipling was a well traveled man. He called Milford Sound the “eighth wonder of the world.”

Still down South, Milford Sound lies at the heart of Fiordland National Park, a World Heritage area. Cruising the clear, still waters of the Fiord you’ll encounter magnificent sights, such as the awe-inspiring Mitre Peak and Stirling Falls.

With the highest rainfall in New Zealand (think feet not inches!) so expect rain when you visit. However, when it pours, the water falls that appear all around are simply amazing.

Keep a lookout for wildlife such as dolphins, penguins and seals often seen in their natural habitat. Go on a scenic cruise and gasp at the moody majesty of the Fiord in your Milford Sound Red Boat. Another worthwhile attraction is the Milford Deep Underwater Observatory Option. Descend 30 feet below the surface and marvel at spectacular marine life, with anemones, sponges, fish and rare red and black coral in their natural habitat.

Discover Middle Earth.

According to Oscar winner Peter Jackson, New Zealand was the only landscape on the planet that could have provided the sensational locations for Tolkien’s Middle Earth. You can set off on your voyage of discovery and visit the key areas featured in the films such as The Southern Alps and Queenstown. Make sure you stop at Matamata, near Hamilton (a couple of hours drive south of Auckland) and marvel at how the landscape was transformed into the peaceful hobbit village of Hobbiton.

Auckland. The largest city.

Wellington is actually the capital, but Auckland is where many visitors first set foot in New Zealand.

Imagine an urban environment where everyone lives within half an hour of beautiful beaches, hiking trails and a dozen enchanting holiday islands, that’s Auckland. It’s located on the North Island and called the City of Sails. Know why? It has more boats per capita than any other city in the world. Almost entirely surrounded by water and covered with volcanic hills, the city boasts a superb harbor and a population of 1.3 million people. Add a background rhythm of Polynesian culture, a passion for outstanding food, wine and shopping – and you’ll want to stay.

Auckland has a pleasant subtropical climate with mild winters (June, July and August) and warm, humid summers (December, January and February). Remember the seasons down here are reversed, so plan your vacation accordingly.

Accommodation to suit every taste.

For visitors, Auckland has all types of accommodation. Web sites such as offer a range from backpacker to budget to luxury international hotels. As the North Island attracts more visitors than the South, it pays to check what’s out there as you plan your trip.

Action. Adrenalin. Anticipation.

Auckland is a top choice if you’re interested in wide open spaces and physical activities. Above the ground you can go bungee jumping, parachuting and skydiving.

On the ground you can go hiking, mountain bike riding, skiing, horse riding, rock climbing, and ‘zorbing’. Underground you can go surface caving, cave rafting and hydro sliding; and on the water you can go jet-boarding, white-water sledging, rafting, boogey boarding, canoeing, kayaking, surfing and scuba diving. If there is a difficult and challenging way to get from one point to another you can do it in New Zealand.

If you’re looking for some less exhilarating activities, such as retail therapy, many Auckland stores are open seven days a week. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs welcome patrons well into the night.

Whether you are stopping for a week, or planning to spend a month exploring everything in The Land of The Long White Cloud, New Zealand will make you feel right at home.

About The Author

Matthew Lawson heads up in Australia. He combines his love for travel and going places with his technical skills in database management.

Bed and Breakfasts – Romantic and Relaxing by Martin Vernon

Thankfully the days are long gone when staying at a bed and breakfast entailed sleeping in someone’s spare room with basic amenities (possibly including a tired shag carpet) and a shared bathroom "down the hall". Hardly romantic!

In fact, the change is so pronounced that smaller boutique hotels are now incorporating some of the successful qualities of bed and breakfasts into their renovations. The bywords of good quality B&Bs are perfect for those seeking a romantic retreat: intimacy, cosiness, high quality surroundings and a relaxed quiet friendly atmosphere.

According to the Travel Industry of America, over 42 million people in the USA had at least one trip last year for occasions such as a honeymoon or anniversary. This is a market to which bed and breakfasts have responded. Many are in attractive older homes which ooze charm, furnished by antiques set in lovely décor. You can lazily luxuriate in fine linens on a comfortable bed, soak in a two-person bubbling whirlpool bathtub and snuggle up in armchairs to enjoy the ambience of a fireplace – just the place for a romantic break.

At our Victoria bed and breakfast we love to hear the oohs and aahs as our guests first enter their room, beholding the beauty of the surroundings they have chosen for their special time. It is very rewarding. Even more rewarding has been the discovery that some guests have become good personal friends.

Personable hospitality is provided by the innkeepers in whose home you stay. They are not there just for an eight hour shift for a pay cheque twice a month. Their livelihood depends on what they offer and how they offer it, so you will rarely be disappointed.


Whilst there can be pleasure in acting spontaneously it is best to take some time in advance to plan your retreat away. Use the internet to research B&B websites in your area of choice to find the right amenities and setting at the right price. Browse through local B&B associations’ websites as well as those of individual establishments. Some will feature romance packages. Perhaps the trip could be a surprise for your partner.

Plan to stay for more than one night to allow time to unwind and enjoy the locality as well as to relax. If the occasion is special it merits paying a little extra to enjoy the finer things of life. Remember that a B&B may be less expensive than an equivalent hotel if only because a full memorable home-cooked breakfast is included in the overnight rate.

Activities v non-activities.

Togetherness in a different environment is wonderful therapy. Mix rest and activity;

perhaps reading in gardens or strolling on a beach and visiting a local attraction or browsing through antique shops. (Leave work behind – no such conversation, no laptop, perhaps no cell phone.)

Bring special treats with you like favourite CDs and DVDs, wine, chocolates, bubble bath etc. Do check if candles and massage oil may be used.

Bed and breakfast hosts are glad to extend genuine helpful hospitality so ask your innkeeper for local recommendations – cosy restaurants, a spa, shopping guidance, activity suggestions and the best places for whatever you are interested in.

If this is your first bed and breakfast experience it will probably not be your last.

About The Author

Martin Vernon, and his wife Linda, have operated a Victoria Bed and Breakfast in British Columbia, Canada for nine years. The Gazebo has been selected as one of "Victoria’s Finest Bed and Breakfasts": see

With our cruise quickly approaching, we are trying to decide which excursions we want to do. Our first stop is Panama. I have read that the Grand Tour is supposed to be good. I think seeing the Panama Canal might be interesting…for about five minutes. I live five minutes away from the Erie Canal, and cross over it every day. I have seen a canal. They are not that interesting. I didn’t find anything about beaches or snorkling there. And it is not supposed to be very safe to g out on your own. So I guess we will end up taking an excursion.
Costa Rica is next and Belize is after that. There are cool things in both Belize and Costa Rica. Both have zip lining. Belize has a cave tubing thing that sounds fun. Costa Rich has a white water river rafting thing. Belize also has a lot of great snorkling. My brother wanted to do snorkling, which I think would be cool. But I also wanted to do the cave tubing, and zip lining. When we go online to Carnival’s web site, it shows the zip lining in Costa Rica, but when we enter our boarding number, it does not show as available anymore. So we don’t know if the zip lining is Costa Rica is even a possibility. Belize has so many cool things to do, and we can only pick one. If in fact we can do zip-lining in Costa Rica, that would narrow the choice on Belize. I called Carnival, and the guy I talked to didn’t have information on the availability of the zip lining. I suggested I send an email to Carnival’s excursion people. I did, and they emailed me back that the vendor didn’t supply them with availability info. So we just don’t know what we are going to do yet.

The Island With the Most Return Visitors by Linda Thompkins

Fourteen years ago, my husband and I visited the island of Barbados on a cruise ship. Barbados is the farthest island of the Caribbean chain, and once we stepped off the ship, our love affair with the island started.

Being a travel consultant, I had read up on the island, and the images of “flying fish” and “green monkeys” stirred my imagination. Also the fact that there is nothing but water separating Barbados and the coast of Africa meant we were going to truly be in the West Indies, and close to the equator. That alone was enough for a sun and beach lover!

When our ship docked, we opted to take an island cruise via taxi. Four hours later, we had covered the island’s coastline from the calm waters of the west coast on the Caribbean Sea, to the raging Atlantic coast on the east, and the lively south coast. You just have to love an island that offers a completely different experience on all coasts. When the cruise ship pulled out to sea, I can remember having a longing for an island that I had only experienced for a day.

Upon returning home, we started planning a land based trip to the island. Being a beach lover, we made reservations for the next year on west coast of the island. I remembered the water being glassy calm, and longed to spend lazy days at the beach. The west coast attracts the rich and famous, and is home to fabulous homes, hotels and villas. This coastline is located on the Caribbean Sea, and the water is perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Fine dining is a fact of life, and Barbados is known for some of the best restaurants in the world.

As we started to meet other vacationers, we quickly learned that most of them had been to the island many times before. I found this unusual, since most Caribbean vacationers opt to experience new islands. What was even more surprising, many of the English and Canadian visitors spend the entire winter season on the island every year. It certainly made us “short termers” with our two week vacation.

My curiosity about these long term repeat vacations prompted me to ask why they returned year after year. Their answers centered around the friendly locals, variety of lodging that caters to long term visitors, sunny weather, great food and a standard of living that is conducive to making the island a second winter home.

After a week of being beach bums, we ventured out to the southern coast, and found the St Lawrence Gap. As we walked the mile long Gap area, I knew this would be our future spot on the island each year. The west coast is rather sedate, and spread out compared to the lively south coast. We found more than 20 restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, shopping, and a great beach all in one area. We could hardly contain ourselves til next years vacation. The love affair with Barbados was in full swing.

Thirteen years later, we are still in love. The same driver picks us up at the airport each year, and welcomes us back home. As timeshare members, we have made many friends over the years. Who would have thought that fourteen years ago we would have English, Canadian, Danish and Bajan friends that we keep in touch with throughout the year, and can’t wait to see each winter season.

As soon as winter hits here in the Midwest, I have thoughts of eating flying fish and seeing the green monkeys playing outside our balcony in the morning. Do the fish really fly? Well, they skim over the water, and they do have wings. Are the monkeys really green? Their color could best be described as a combination of green, brown and yellow.

The real reality is the sun shines brighter, the water is like a warm bath, and some of the most friendly people occupy this 160 mile paradise. I feel safe there, and unfortunately gain weight each year eating great food from one side of the island to the other. And when I get a travel request for Barbados, I can hardly contain my excitement telling a client all the inns and outs of the island.

This is a brief story about a love affair with an island, and its people. At times I feel guilty about not having the same feeling about the other islands I’ve visited in the Caribbean. After all, I am a Caribbean travel consultant, and I am not supposed to be partial to just one island. I love all of the Caribbean islands, but I’m in love with Barbados.

If your curosity is peaked after reading this article, then be advised after one visit, your future travel plans may head you back to the island with the most return visitors.

About The Author

Linda Thompkins is a Caribbean Travel Consultant and owner of Travel 2 the Caribbean Online Agency. Linda has been in business for over seven years, has traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean, and also manages two travel blogs.

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