A contraband Chihuahua, not Frankie

Last week, I wrote about preparing to fly with Frankie for the first time, covering booking a flight; getting the pet carrier ready for Frankie and getting Frankie pet-carrier ready;Β  and deciding whether or not to give Frankie a sedative. We’re back. And here’s the full report.

The Ride to the Airport

Can you say projection?

I was so anxious about Frankie’s reaction to flying that I asked the friend who drove us to the airport if he minded if I sat in the back with Frankie so I could calm him down en route there. Looking back, that wasn’t so smart. I know you can’t reinforce fear in a dog but you can send a signal that there’s something about to happen that might call for comforting. Still, he didn’t seem more anxious than riding in a car usually makes him. Which is considerable.

How nervous was I? When he picked us up on the way back, my friend asked how Frankie did in cargo. He’s not really a pet person, and I guess it never occurred to him that anyone would get so stressed about flying with a dog in the cabin.

Check-in, Security, and Pre-flight

These days, when you check in, most airlines have you use a machine near the ticketing counter. So even though there are live people there, interaction with them is minimal. As a result, if I hadn’t pointed out to the agent that I had a dog with me, I could have taken Frankie on board for free; no one checked my reservation. But Frankie is a dog with high moral standards, so I spent extra time paying for him and getting a bar coded luggage tag put on his carrier (as opposed to a receipt for payment).

I’m not sure why a pet carrier needs a tag, unlike other carry-on bags. The point is to keep the pet inside it, right? If the two became separated, the carrier would not go on the flight unaccompanied by a human.

Another of life’s little mysteries.

One of my biggest worries was going through security. The pet carrier — along with my computer, shoes, etc. — had to be put on the conveyor belt, while I walked through the archway with Frankie, whose feet, I assumed, should never touch the ground. He was attached by his harness to a tether in the carrier, one of its very cool features, so he couldn’t flee when I opened it, but I still worried he would wriggle out of my arms and take off.

He didn’t. But he definitely wasn’t interested in getting back into the carrier, either. I felt like a very bad person, shoving my little dog back into a box, but I guess everyone was too busy trying to find their shoes and putting away their laptops to notice.

Arriving at the gate, I started worrying in earnest about how Frankie would do under the plane seat, when suddenly a Jack Russell Terrier strutted by with his person, bold as a bone. The woman sitting next to us assured me she sees dogs strolling around the gate area all the time. So I took Frankie out of the carrier too, though no strutting commenced.

In fact, I soon had to shove Frankie back in again when my Southwest group was called to board.

The flight: Will he fit, will he fight?

He did. He didn’t. The bendable SturdiJet frame gave easily, as it was designed to do, and Frankie didn’t bark or, as far as I can tell, fidget.

I chose a middle seat, on DogJaunt’s recommendation and, sure enough, there was plenty of room under my feet. I could see Frankie’s little head moving around, but the motion looked inquisitive, not frantic.

Then the plane took off and — dare I say it? — I think Frankie fell asleep. I can’t swear to that of course; that would have required opening a zipper and peering in, no doubt waking him up in the process. If he was asleep. In any case, I’m pretty sure he was in that fugue state where the eyes are open and the dog is kind of zoning out. It’s a Zen-like, meditative state that I aspire to.

Luggage collection, cab ride, hotel

I was tempted to let Frankie out of his carrier in the baggage collection area but it was crowded and people were flinging luggage, so I held off. So he was still in the carrier when we got to the cab queue. The driver of the taxi we were directed to tried to grab Frankie and put him in the trunk, until I protested loudly. The cabbie then said, “You’re not going to let it out in my cab, are you?” I hadn’t been planning to, since it was a safety issue. But talking about adding insult (“it”?) to near injury (a mob-like relegation to the trunk).

I finally let Frankie out at our hotel, the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. He seemed glad to be on his feet, but far from frantic. Our room wasn’t ready but Frankie was permitted inside the hotel deli, where I had a beer and a kobe beef frank. Frankie felt confident enough to take a treat– no, not the hot dog — even though we were in a fairly public area. And when we got into the room, he happily slurped up water almost immediately — something he’ll only do when he feels relaxed.

The three hours or so that it took us to go door to door from my home to the hotel clearly stressed Frankie far less than the usual seven hour car trip to San Diego. I was a bit of a wreck, but I got over it (see beer, above).

The return

I was totally confident in the airport on my way back. When we got to the gate, I took Frankie out to sit in my lap. He was fine with that.

He was so good, in fact, that several people came over and asked me about flying with a pet — the cost, the drugs — and commented that their dogs would never be so calm.

Frankie Doodle, travel veteran, airport superstar.


Anyone else flying with a pet in the cabin have an experience — good, bad, indifferent — to share?

34 thoughts on “Pet Travel, Triumphant! Frankie’s Flying Colors”

    1. Thank you! I’m sure I’ll go through the same thing again if I decide to take a longer flight, but it feels very good for now.

  1. Very smartly done! The divine Miss M took several flights as a pup; she is now a whopping 18 lbs and 14 inches at the withers and no longer allowed on board (and I do not check her). My anxiety had to do with getting through security and toileting as she never would use a pee pad; but she always waiting for the great out of doors — not an easy feat for a youngster in some airports. I also had a very funny encounter at 1 ticket counter with an agent who kept insisting that the crate I was checking (large, solid sides) would not fit under the seat. I had a really hard time convincing her that the soft side I was caring with a dog in it was what she needed to look at for under the seat. Go figure!

    1. Thanks, Susan. Good for Miss M for being so well-controlled, even as a puppy. Your story with the crate sounds a bit like what I encountered with having my carrier ticketed — as a carry on. The airlines clearly don’t get the concept yet…

  2. Phew Edie that seemed to go really well! I’m considering doing the same with my two cats, but oh so scared. They get freaked out at the best of times…do you think a big bunch of cat nip in the carrier would be allowed? Thanks for all the tips!

    1. You’re very welcome, Cate. I don’t think there would be a problem with catnip, as long as it’s not in liquid form of more than 3 ounces πŸ˜‰ I think the difficult part would be carrying both cats through security once you take them out of the carrier. How stoned does the catnip get them?

  3. a triumph, a real gem, one of your best columns – where else can you publish it?
    I just love the last line, Frankie doodle, travel veteran, airport superstar – see I memorized it!

    my latest: read/hear my 3 minute radio commentary for NPR/New Mexico:
    (it took a month of negotiating 4 drafts to get this one on the air – and it isn’t even about sex!

    1. Why thank you, Diane — what a nice thing to say. And I think it’s great that you have a regular radio commentary gig on NPR, even if it can be a bit trying to negotiate what you’re allowed to say.

  4. What fantastic news! And you told the story so well. I am thrilled it all went so easily. It often seems to me we humans are much more stressed about the fact that our dogs might be stressed than our dogs ever actually get stressed. (Does that make any sense? I can’t think of a better way to put it right now.) I imagine it is similar with parents and children.

    Yay for Frankie!

    1. Frankie is just glowing with all the praise! And what you say does make sense, Kristine. At least for a certain type of dog owner, the worrying kind… the kind who read both our blogs πŸ˜‰

  5. Very good information. I’m filing it under “very good information that I probably won’t need but is there if I ever do.”

  6. I’m glad all went well (relatively), Edie. Poor Frankie – the cab driver really wanted to put him in the trunk and called him “it”…you’re right, insult to injury! It sounds like the trip was as stressful for you as was for Frankie, maybe even moreso πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Lori. It was really kind of funny — the cabbie opened the trunk and went to grab the handle of the bag that had Frankie in it and I gasped! And I could tell he wasn’t thrilled when I explained why that particular bag couldn’t go in the trunk, but by then it was too late.

      It definitely was as much if not more stressful for me than for Frankie since dogs don’t worry in advance!

  7. And I can attest that Frankie continued his supreme behavior at the airport on the way home: When Edie and I chatted on the phone while she waited for her flight, Frankie luxuriated in her lap and never yipped at her for more attention! Now if he could just learn to do that at home…

    1. So true, Clare, on all counts – the good behavior in the airport, the demands for attention at home. But I was glad he gave us the chance to have a long, uninterrupted — well, except for those pesky flight announcements — chat.

  8. I’m so glad Frankie was comfortable enough. You would have known if he wasn’t!

    Delta used to fly hamsters in the cabin. When I carried Doodlebug past the captain he pointed at her tiny feet frantically pumping the wheel. “If I’d known she was aboard I would have used that energy to fly the plane,” he quipped.

    Another time I’d made reservations for Juliet to fly with me far in advance, but she died about two weeks before the flight. At the ticket agent counter, I had to explain why I wouldn’t be paying the $50 fee. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” said the agent, looking as though she might cry. That made two of us.

    1. It’s true, if Frankie had been uncomfortable, I would have heard him panting. I think. It’s kind of hard over the sound of the plane engines.

      It sounds like Delta had some very nice people on staff. I’m sorry about Juliet too. That must have been tough.

  9. Yay – Frankie is a star wherever he goes:) Glad you two had an easy time of it…well, Frankie seems to have taken it all in stride, even if there was some nail-biting, figurative or literal, on your part!

    But I have to say shame on that taxi guy!

    1. Yes, Frankie definitely shines! As it turns out, San Diego cabbies are notoriously dog unfriendly — or at least that’s what a Twitter pal who lives in San Diego said. Go figure!

  10. Thank you, Leo and AJ. It’s been in the triple digits — 111 yesterday and 109 today — so Frankie is just resting on his laurels.

  11. Thanks for posting this! It makes me feel a bit better. I need to learn some breathing exercises to make sure I don’t stress my dachshund out on the way to the airport for our first time as carry-on on a plane in a month. He’s got a Sturdibag as well which he is totally happy in, but I get nervous just at the thought of the check-in person telling me he can’t come! Did they weigh Frankie? My doggie will be a pound overweight and I don’t know if it will be a problem.

    1. To be honest, they didn’t even notice Frankie! It was busy both coming and going and, as far as the check-in people were concerned, he was just another piece of carry-on luggage. In fact, if I hadn’t mentioned him at check in so I could get him tagged, they wouldn’t have been aware of Frankie. And after check in, I saw no other place to be concerned, i.e., security only cares if your dog is smuggling in something. It was not my experience that they looked at my carrier at the gate either.

      So go at a busy time. πŸ˜‰

      Read DogJaunt.com, though, for other experiences.

      Have a great trip!

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