Dogs / Labrador Retrievers / Life / Pets / travels with the dog

If Only I Had Wings

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When I moved back to the States in 2003, I sent Clover ahead to my folks in Florida by a couple of weeks with Delta Airlines. I bought the obligatory shipping container and set it up in the living room for about 3 weeks before her departure. I started feeding her in the crate in order to get her comfortable with it. She, on the other hand would grab her bowl of food, and drag it out of the crate to eat her meals. I crated her for 5 minutes at a time, and then proceeded to extend the time until she could stay in the crate for an hour or two without going ballistic.

The day we went to the airport was the coldest day in Ireland in 10 years. And, here we were: Jim (friend with a van), Clover and me, freezing to death outside of the Delta Cargo Terminal where they were determined to finish and sign the paperwork in the parking lot. Then a large guy on a lift truck came and scooped Clover in her crate up and carted her off into a cavernous warehouse. Those darned black eyes staring back at me wondering what the hell was going on.

When I got into the office, I immediately plugged the airway bill number into the computer and signed up for automatic e-mail updates. The flight was supposed to take off around 12:00 noon, but it was delayed six hours. You guess right, she missed her connection in Atlanta.

This is where it all gets murky. I was assured by Delta that they would get her on a later flight out of Atlanta and not to worry. It turned out that the planes all going to Florida later in the day could not take live cargo and they would kennel her in Atlanta overnight. What no one took into consideration was that the kennel was closed due to a holiday and as a result Delta decided to keep Clover in her crate in the Cargo Terminal Office until they could get her on a flight for Florida the next morning.

At this point, I was frantic. The computer showed her in Florida, Delta in Atlanta said she was at the kennel, and the kennel’s phone message said they were closed. My parents had planned to make the trip to the airport that evening, until they got a call saying that they would send her on the first flight in the morning that arrived at 7:15 a.m.

Unbeknown to any of us, Clover was placed on the very last flight out of Atlanta that night and arrived Florida at 1:00 a.m. They were apparently deadheading a plane and crew, and I found out later that since the plane couldn’t take live cargo, they loaded her crate into the first class cabin!

At 2:00 a.m., my parents get a call, “Why aren’t you people here to pick up this dog?” My mom and dad, awakened from sleep, and looking at the clock, asked if it was possible if they could pick her up first thing in the morning. The cargo guy noted in his log book that before he left, he got a rope and took Clover for a walk around the airport, gave her a big bottle of water, and fed her his leftover bologna sandwich.

Almost 24 hours after leaving Dublin, Clover arrives at my folks house in Florida, greeted by their crazy Golden Retriever, an endless bowl of water, and freedom from that damned crate. I get the hives just thinking about our next move and hope we can drive there instead of fly.

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