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; 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).
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?