• Brenda Mizenko

Riava's Miss Dakota's US/Canadian Adventure. By Brenda Mizenko


Jeff with Miss Dakota (Soda) and her mom Diava, upon arriving to Sylvan Lake, Alberta


When Jeff and Brenda decided to bring another Small Munsterlander into their household they looked to the Great White North for inspiration. Through contacts, Jeff found out about a kennel in Sylvan Lake, Alberta Canada called Riava’s Small Munsterlander Kennel near Calgary. He heard that there was a breeding between Riava’s Diava, and a well known male stud named Pixar Jixar van de Chesannehof from the Netherlands. The pairing between these two dogs was exactly what Cedars Point Kennel needed. Wasting no time, Jeff reached out to owner Janet Hartigh who informed him she’d put him on a list of prospective puppy owners. Not knowing how many puppies Diava would have, both Jeff and Brenda waited in anticipation on whether or not they’d be getting a female pup from the litter.

On Dec. 1st 2018, just a few days before Jeff’s birthday, both he and Brenda got the news that Diava whelped 9 puppies! Janet called Jeff and informed him that indeed they’d be getting a pup from this litter. Knowing their intention to breed Small Munsterlanders, Janet was asked to pick the best dog possible for this endeavor. She chose a beautiful puppy whom she named Miss Dakota, after the state she’d be living in soon. Jeff and Brenda were sent many photos and watched her grow from a tiny puppy to a cute, incredibly photogenic Munster baby. They knew she’d be the perfect addition to Cedars Point Kennel and quickly fell in love via photos with this tiny brown speckled puppy. They couldn’t wait to bring her home.

As time grew closer for Miss Dakota to join Cedars Point Kennel, Jeff began making travel arrangements. Flying seemed to be the fastest and easiest choice but not the cheapest. The year prior, Jeff and Brenda imported pups from the Czech Republic and were familiar with the process of bringing dogs in from another country. Janet suggested flying out to Rapid City with Miss Dakota so she could meet Jeff and Brenda as well as the other Small Munsterlanders. Excited about the opportunity, several calls were made to airlines to make the arrangements. Jeff found a reasonable flight for Janet and Miss Dakota with Delta Airlines and reserved it. A question about in-cabin crate size prompted him to call the airline shortly after the flight was booked to confirm they had the right crate. It was during this conversation that Jeff was informed that Delta Airlines had an age restriction on puppies flying in the cabin especially coming in from certain countries. Puppies all had to be vaccinated against rabies which occurs at 16 weeks of age. Miss Dakota would only be 10 weeks. Apparently it seemed easier to ship a puppy from the Czech Republic than from Canada. Other airlines were contacted and were told the same thing. Not wanting to wait until Miss Dakota was 16 weeks to bring her to the US, Jeff decided that ground transportation would be the only option. He called a transport service which charged way too much so Jeff decided to go get her himself. He had just bought a new Ford F150 with a canopy and outfitted the back with an area for him to sleep in. While he was not looking forward to the long 16 hour drive (one way) to Calgary, there were no other alternatives.

Fortunately, Jeff’s passport came in just in time for him to make the trip across the Canadian border. The weather however did not look favorable. With winter storms and temperatures well below 0, he knew it would be a brutal 16 hour drive up to Calgary.

On January 30th, Jeff left early in the morning with hopes of making it to Great Falls, MT late in the evening. While the weather here was cold but not horrible, it only got worse as he made his way north. He made it to Great Falls late and slept in the back of his truck on a bitterly cold night. The following day he left bright and early and crossed over the Canadian border on his way to Sylvan Lake, AB. As he got close to Calgary, he encountered a horrible freezing rain storm. Jeff is used to driving in tough weather conditions, having been a ski patroller in Washington for years, yet with the brutal -30 windchills, it proved to be one of the more challenging trips he’s taken. Finally, he arrived to Sylvan Lake extremely tired but relieved although plans to turn around and head back that same day changed as Jeff needed a good night’s sleep. Of course, meeting Miss Dakota made the long drive worth it as was meeting Janet Hartigh and her husband Garth. Jeff sent Brenda a photo of him with Miss Dakota and she wished she could have been there to pick her up too. However, Brenda was home in Summerset, SD watching over the 3 other Small Munsterlander dogs, Cedar, Yetta, and Aster.

After a restful night, Jeff set out with Miss Dakota in tow back to the US saying his good bye and thanks to Janet and Garth. While the snow had stopped temporarily, the sub zero temperatures and wind chills continued and he still had to deal with customs and immigration at the border in Sweetgrass, Montana.

Around this same time, the US had a government shutdown, meaning some government services were not operating or had limited employees. Jeff didn’t imagine the impact that this shut down would have on bringing Miss Dakota into the US. Jeff had done all the research necessary and had the proper papers and documentation needed to bring a Canadian puppy across the border. The Centers for Disease Control had lifted a quarantine ban on animals coming in from Canada recently, however, the US Customs and Border Patrol office in Sweetgrass had not received the memo due to the shut down. They required Jeff to have a form which was no longer available or needed by the CDC. Without this form, the agent informed Jeff that the puppy could not enter the US. Of course this did not go over well with Jeff who knew that the CDC had changed the rules. It was even on their website. But the Border patrol would not budge saying they never got an official memo, forcing Jeff to head back across the border into Canada to figure something out quick. He ended up having to spend an unexpected extra night in Canada in a motel near the border which had faulty heating. Because it was a Sunday, none of the offices at the CDC were open so Jeff had to wait until the following day to get a hold of someone. After much waiting and many phone calls on Monday morning, he finally got someone from the CDC in Florida of all places to help him out. With this information on hand, he headed back to face the US Customs and Border Patrol agents once again. Finally after a lot of waiting and discussion, they allowed Jeff to bring Miss Dakota into the United States. However, he was still not out of the woods as he faced another challenging, wintry drive from Montana back to Summerset, South Dakota. Determined to make it all the way back to South Dakota, he decided to forgo staying in Billings for the night and kept on going. Meanwhile back in Summerset, Brenda was waiting not so patiently for any news from Jeff and Miss Dakota. She knew Jeff had made it across the border, and being the weather expert that she is was tracking the storm on her Weather Channel phone app. Jeff had called her to give updates but didn’t know when he’d be rolling into town. Many prayers stormed heaven for the safe arrival of her fiancé and new puppy.

Finally, the sound of the garage door opening filled the house and Brenda and the three dogs jumped up with joy! Brenda couldn’t wait to see Jeff and Miss Dakota.

Quietly, Jeff entered the house holding the ever so adorable Miss Dakota! She was finally home. The other dogs were eager to meet their new sister and Brenda was happy that Jeff and the pup were both safe and sound. What a huge adventure for such a tiny puppy! Miss Dakota got lots of welcome snuggles from Brenda and curious sniffs and licks from Cedar, Yetta, and Aster. Jeff got a big hug too.

Miss Dakota, or Soda Pup as we call her has adjusted well to her American home. She is a fast learner and loves chow time. She is a monster in the water and loves running in the field almost every morning. During the school year, Soda visited Brenda’s classroom where she played with the students and got lots of attention. Soda was also the subject of Brenda’s art project and the students drew pictures of the photogenic pup. On Memorial Day, she celebrated the wedding of Brenda and Jeff and although she didn’t attend due to rainy weather (those muddy paws on Brenda’s dress would not have been a good thing.), she did have fun interacting with guests during the rehearsal dinner. This week Soda celebrated Canada Day and is still true to her Northern roots. We are so happy that she had joined Cedars Point Kennel. Watch for more updates on Miss Dakota- Soda!


There she is, Miss Dakota! (photo courtesy of Janet Hartigh)




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