Why I Don’t Fly.

Last week, I had the privilege of spending the day with Nina, a delightful breeder of English Cocker Spaniels from Finland. She had come to the US to bring over a couple of puppies and to take back with her a handsome champion male on breeding loan. She was staying with my friend who bred the puppies in the above link, and she needed a companion for the day. Squish and I took her to the mall per her request. Nina has a tremendous sense of humor and has a great take on American life, so I was sad to have to drop her off to catch her ride to the airport.

I'd rather walk, thanks.

I’d rather walk, thanks.

A few minutes after arriving home, I received a call from my friend, Kay. “Nina needs you to check your car. She can’t find the rabies and health certificates!” In case you’re not in the know, those things are kind of important for flying a dog anywhere, and the flight left in an hour and a half. I dashed to Kay’s house and located the papers, which appeared to have fallen out on the table. Eek! Kay’s daughter helped me pony express them to the airport (I drive like old people in the rain. Did I mention it was pouring rain?)

A couple of hours later, I called Kay to make sure all was well. She laughed. Apparently the nice folks at the ticket counter had refused to put the dog on the flight because he lacked an acclimation certificate, something none of us had ever heard of. It’s not even mentioned on their website. He apparently needed certification from a vet that he could fly into a cold location.

I may be going out on a limb here, but isn’t he a dog? With a thick fur coat? And don’t the temperatures here drop fairly quickly? Like, it was 70 degrees on Sunday and 40 on Monday? And he wasn’t exactly flying to Antarctica. But whatever. Airline wants what it wants. Nina and Spence were here for another night.

I picked up Nina and Spence the next day to take them to the airport myself. She was totally prepared, having acquired the necessary certificate at a vet’s office the night before. All papers were neatly tucked in a secure location. What could go wrong? Hmm. Let’s see.

The acclimation certificate was filled out incorrectly and was, therefore, useless. It was an unusual request for the vet’s office, which is why the mistake was made. The vet indicated that the dog should not fly below temperatures of 32 degrees. The temperature in Helsinki was 11 degrees. No shipping. Ironically, the airline themselves would ship down to 10 degrees, so it was the certificate itself that prevented him from getting on the plane. It took 45 minutes and a call to the vet to sort this part out.

We considered putting Squish in the crate and sending Spence home with me because there are fewer restrictions on flying human children.

The language barrier.  Airlines have a language of their own. It looks like English, but it isn’t.

When the website says the dog must have a water bowl, it translates”you are required to bring a water bottle, as well.”

If the animal will need to be fed, food must be provided.”  doesn’t mean “If you want your dog fed on the trip, bring food.” In airport language, it means “If you don’t have food, your dog stays on the ground.”

Many dogs are fed once a day, and not at all during transport to prevent illness. Spence had no food with him. The nice lady at the counter said “This dog is not getting on the plane without a packet of food and a water bottle.” Squish and I made a mad dash to a Wal-mart to buy some little bags of food. The airline folks said they didn’t even care if they were just dog treats, which just goes to show it’s all about regulations, not the actual health and well-being of the animal. Glad we got that part sorted out.

We arrived back at the airport and handed off the food just as Nina’s flight was being called, two hours after we first started trying to get her off the ground. I was lucky. I got to go home. She still had to face customs in Amsterdam.

From now on,, I’ll leave it to the experts. Check out Animal Couriers. They make it look like fun. I wonder if they would ever ship people. I’m due for a vacation.



29 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Fly.

  1. That’s ridiculous. Dog-transportation on planes seems horrible. My dog is too big to be a carry-on… kind of wish I could just buy him a seat next to me if I wanted him to come with me, but I doubt they’d let me do that. Glad your friend finally got off the ground

  2. There was just a local story about a man traveling with a ten thousand dollar Gibson guitar. They made him check it after he begged to take it on the plane and you know what happened? It got smashed by the baggage carriers! Airlines stink!

  3. oh my goodness. I once had the airline counter tell me I could not take my dog on my return flight. I made a huge scene bc just two weeks earlier he flew in with me. He is seven pounds and goes under the seat in front of me. He finally listened to me and let me on. THey be crazy.

  4. Um….what?? I lived in Finland and there most definitely ARE malls there. Maybe not in the particular town where she lives, but they do have malls. If they don’t, I must have been hallucinating every time I went shopping.

  5. What a mare but it doesn’t surprise us in the least! Each airline has different rules and regulations quite apart from the legal requirements for the import / export of animals. We have an air expert and goodness we need her 😉

  6. Shipping animals is always dicey, especially overseas. Too many rules and regs that make no sense. I know sometimes Chessies are loaned and shipped overseas for breeding purposes. What a hassle. lol No thanks!

  7. I was getting slightly anxious just reading this. How incredibly ridiculous and annoying. This beautiful dog, by the way, is a spitting image of my American Cocker Spaniel Louisa (different proportions, I know) who passed away in July. I’ve been thinking of her every day lately and there was something heart warming about finding this photo here. 🙂 I hope they made it home OK.

  8. I once transported two adult dogs and a Cockatoo to Singapore. That was a treat! We worked with professionals on both ends getting them to Singapore and then getting them home again two years later. While it wasn’t easy, I suspect our adventures were nothing compared to yours.

  9. Ironically, horribly ironically— I am reading this as I travel home from Israel. Due to weather problems in Frankfurt (my connection between Tel Aviv and Seattle), my flight was delayed. When airlines say “we will board in one hour,” they apparently mean “we will not board in one hour,” 7.5 times. Nearly 8 hours later, they said they’d still fly me to Frankfurt, even though my connection was long gone, and the next flight out was a day later… and full. I fought to get on another flight: Toronto then Vancouver (closer to my home actually). Apparently when the airlines say “we’ll accommodate you,” they really mean “we’ll make it a hellish 38 hour trip (as I get on my final 4.5 hr let… meaning I’m in it for 46 hrs with the drive from the airport)… Um, right now, I hate airlines and I don’t plan to fly again for a good long time. I feel a bit like an English Cocker Spaniel right now… only my fur is disgusting!

  10. I was having a heart attack reading this story. One would think, given my previous blog about keeping dogs off my lawn and my dog from Hell (Precious), that I wouldn’t be one who would have travel issues with dogs. However, I do! At least twice a year, we have to hold our breath to see if Wednesday Addams (our Shorkie) will make it on the plane (she fits under the seat). Sometimes when flights get cancelled and delayed, the airlines will offer to rearrange my daughter’s flight but not the dog’s (only two dogs per flight allowed). Once Wednesday Addams almost got stranded in Indianapolis. We are constantly stunned by the reasoning of the airlines.

  11. I was once stuck out on the tarmac for several hours in Chicago during a blizzard. It was too cold for the workers to be outside. As we waited it got very cold in the cabin. The next day I learned something like 200 animals died that night at O’hare because the luggage compartment is not heated. I would not ship any animal on a plane unless it could go with me in the cabin as a passenger. I thought airlines wouldn’t take animals during extreme heat or cold.

  12. Pingback: Conquering My Fear | Becoming Cliche

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