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SF couple stranded for months in New Zealand due to Covid reunites with family dogs


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    SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A San Francisco couple that got stranded in New Zealand due to coronavirus restrictions has been reunited with their dogs, Whiskey and Waffles after living nearly 10 months apart.

Michelle Paulson and Eric Denman left the dogs with a dogsitter in San Francisco last March and caught a flight to New Zealand for what was supposed to be a short vacation. Then Covid-19 started shutting down flights.

“Obviously, the situation did not improve,” said Paulson. “And we had a lot more faith in the New Zealand government’s ability to handle a pandemic.”

Michele has Lupus, an autoimmune disease, which clinched their decision to stay. She made an arrangement with her employer to work from long distance. Eric is now employed in New Zealand.

The island nation of 5 million shut down its borders and put in place an extreme 6-week lockdown.

“The restaurants in particular, there were no restaurants open, not even for takeaway,” said Denman.

“You could walk in your neighborhood and that was about it,” Paulson said. “They made sure that people were subsidized, businesses were subsidized. So it made it actually possible for people to stay home and comply.”

It worked, and right now, life is completely back to normal in New Zealand, although it is still the case that visitors to New Zealand have to quarantine for two weeks.

There are 5 cases of Covid-19 in the entire country and a total of 25 deaths. Large crowds celebrated on New Year’s Eve.

The couple said their unique perspective sometimes makes them upset for friends and family in the States.

“It’s disappointment, frustration, anger that it didn’t have to be that way in the States,” said Paulson. “Because we see the alternative every day and the mismanagement is costing so many people their lives, jobs and security. It just didn’t have to be that way.”

A friend was dog-sitting Whiskey and Waffles as the couple’s Mission district home until last week, when the dogs took a long flight, quarantined, and then were reunited with the rest of their family.

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