As coronavirus began to spread in early 2020, the Eilbecks decided to head for South Carolina to find a safe berth for their yacht - and for Pip
A dog by the name of Pipsqueak was stranded in South Carolina, US at the height of the pandemic after her owners were forced to abandon their round-the-world sailing trip and fly home to Australia.
With borders closing quickly, Zoe and Guy Eilbeck, and their sons Cam and Max, had less than 48 hours to pack up everything from their 40-foot yacht after docking in Hilton Head Island, reports the CNN.
Australia's tough pet import rules meant their loyal dachshund Pip couldn't come with them.
They thought to be able to return for a tail-wagging reunion before heading back out on the ocean.
Zoe made a few last-minute phone calls to arrange for Pip to be looked after by a friend, and the family said goodbye for what they hoped would be just six short weeks.
The Eilbecks first encountered Pip in 2018 in Messina, Sicily, when they were midway through their four-year sailing tip. Pip quickly adapted to life onboard, enjoying deck time and hanging out with her family. Zoe says she was always aware that arranging to take the dog back home would be a lengthy and drawn out purpose due to Australia's very strict border regulations.
"I knew we'd have to import Pip and that she'd have to do 10 days quarantine," Zoe said.
When the time came, they planned to fly her from the South Pacific island of Vanuatu, a relatively short hop to Sydney.
As coronavirus began to spread in early 2020, the Eilbecks decided to head for South Carolina to find a safe berth for their yacht - and for Pip.
On March 27, Zoe hired a rental car and took an eight-hour drive to North Carolina, where she handed the dog over to her friend Lynn Williams before the family caught a flight back to Sydney.
"Pip went from living on a sailboat to living on a bison farm," laughs Zoe.
"That's something that really tickles me."
Unfortunately, Williams already had two dogs on the farm and was not able to take in another for very long, so she advertised for someone to replace her as Pip's guardian. Ellen Steinberg, who lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, was one of three people to answer the ad.
"The deal was that Pip would decide who she would go to live with," Steinberg tells CNN Travel. "We [her and her dog Frankly] won the shootout, and Pip came a few days later."
As the advertisement had gone into very little detail about why the Eilbecks had left Pip behind, Steinberg admits to having made some harsh judgments about their decision.
"I heard that a family who were living on a boat abandoned their dog and flew back to Australia and immediately formed impressions about who these people were," said Steinberg.
"But as soon as I talked to them, I realized they couldn't be more caring. I just got the wrong impression from not having all the details."
While Steinberg took care of Pip, Zoe was getting up early in the morning every week day to deal with the endless paperwork involved in importing a dog from the United States to Australia, she also kept up to date with Pip via video calls and messages.
"I was always taking photos all the time and posting them on social media," she says.
"Pip started to develop her own fan base."
It soon became clear it wouldn't be possible for the Eilbecks to return to the United States because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Pip would have to make the long journey to Australia alone.