Monday, May 23, 2011

Up Up and Away

Loading Erin into the belly of an airplane and flying to Europe remains one of the most stressful things I've ever done, the mind conjures up everything that can go wrong and for good reason as many pets do not survive the rigors of flying. Recently turned 3 she was in the prime of her life and more than capable of surviving this journey but whether I would endure was another story as I'd remain a nervous wreck until touching down in Frankfurt. Upon accepting employment in Germany the logistics of pet travel began; discussions with her veterinarian, airline representatives, and my new employer took place to ensure this would be as stressfree as possible. Initial itineraries were rejected by myself due to multiple layovers or excessive flight time but eventually a schedule was agreed upon, we would fly directly from Savannah to JFK with a brief layover and then nonstop to Frankfurt International Airport. Erin received the necessary examinations, vaccinations, and documents that would allow her to avoid quarantine and stroll out the door by my side but first we'd have to get there.

Arriving at Savannah's Airport, I was immediately informed dogs are required to be crated at all times but I felt it was important that Erin got one last potty break so we wandered down to a small grassy area where I lovingly assured her everything would be okay; on reflection I was trying to soothe my own tattered nerves. Into the large crate she went prior to the skycap wheeling her to the check-in counter where all travel documents were verified and then off to the loading area but not before I opened the door for one final kiss and hug. Standing at the terminal window I anxiously observed hundreds of bags being loaded onto the airplane but no animal crate was ever spotted before the boarding process began. From the assigned window seat I strained to catch a glimpse of her being lifted onboard but the effort was futile so a flight attendant was flagged down where I insisted she confirm the presence of Erin down below; in several minutes she returned to inform me that the pilot personally went below to say "hello" and he thought she was very cute. That was comforting as my worst nightmare was her being loaded onto the wrong plane or left behind in the loading area while I'm on my way to our new home.

Into the air we soared toward JFK where upon landing she was promptly whisked to the international terminal along with my luggage thus I never laid eyes upon her in New York. Inquiries into whether I could see her were flatly rejected due to strict security concerns and that was understandable as 9/11 had occurred only two months prior thus somewhere in the bowels of JFK she waited alone. As before I informed a passing flight attendant of Erin thus she scampered off only to return with news that she is content down below and will not be making the long flight alone; several other dogs were in the climate controlled hold beside her. The plane landed in heavy snowfall where it seemed the aircraft moved towards the terminal much too slowly, I was simultaneously cursing the pilot for taking his sweet time and praying for Erin's well-being. My patience was severely tested that day as everyone seemed to impede my path to passport control, clearing customs, baggage claim, and reuniting with my beloved friend; to me it was irrelevant that Frankfurt International Airport is one of the busiest hubs on Earth.

Our personal belongings were collected, stacked high upon a dolly thus the wait for Erin to appear began. The baggage carousel crowd thinned out considerably leaving me with mostly clear views of the doorways so I anxiously scanned them all in hopes of seeing a gray crate marked with "Erin Smith" being rolled out. Before long, a set of double doors swung outward to reveal an animal crate atop a rolling handcart while a liver/white face was seen peering through the metal grating and I dashed over to welcome my beloved friend. To my knees I fell, flung the door open and the most joyous of reunions took place until a customs agent interrupted our moment; the dog was to be left in place while I followed him to complete the necessary claim paperwork.

Latching the door, I spun to walk away but took only a few steps before Erin unleashed a series of barks that rang out across the baggage area, afraid of being left again she implored me to not leave thus loving words were heaped upon her. While the agent scanned the thick folder pertaining to Erin, I maintained eye contact with her across the divide; "Daddy is here Daddy is here" "I promise to not leave you" were shouted in her direction as arriving passengers streamed by. That moment is very significant in our relationship as it was the only unprovoked bark directed towards me in nearly 12 years, at no other time did she attempt to gain my attention via a bark so that remains clearly etched in my memory; guessing being apart for the first time and 10 hours on an airplane was enough for her.

And together we strolled out into the swirling snow where a new chapter was awaiting us....


  1. I am captured by your words. Keep writing.

    Linda Della Donna

  2. A 10 hour flight!?! I'm glad you and Erin both survived - I've wondered if I'd survive a flight with my pets in the cargo hold. I have three cats though, and they're notoriously poor travellers. I can see why your nerves were in tatters!

  3. Thanks for visiting and the comments!!

    @ Linda I'm glad you've stopped by, certainly appreciate it. I'll continue writing as long as I feel there is something worthwhile to say.

    @Laura I've heard the horror stories about cats and traveling but the good thing about most cats is how they fit easily under the seat. No such luck with Erin lol

  4. I wonder Erin what Erin felt those 10 hours away from you in that flight. But the fact that she barked at you to not leave her was her telling you that she missed you terribly. Lovely post as always David.

  5. @David- LOL, cats fit under the seat but wow, do they make a meowing racket! It's bad enough with three of them on a half-hour car ride to the vet, I can't imagine relocating them without them (and me) being sedated. :D

    Dogs are part human from the sound of it. ;)

  6. David, I can not imagine how it would have felt for the 2 of you. Erin was your family, sometimes it feels cruel that we have to put them in a situation like this. Yet another great story in your travels. I love the way she communicated with you when you finally re-connected. It speaks volumes. Brought tears...your posts always hit me in the heart..I really look forward to them. We all, as followers are getting to know Erin through you. If you every write a book about Erin...put me on the list for a copy. Every post you make is filled with Love...our world needs to feel that. Great work David!

  7. I'm sorry, but I just kept thinking, poor Erin, I bet she really had to pee. lol! I don't mean to be crude, I was just thinking that if that was one of my dogs that would be on my mind. I could never transport Libby overseas anyway. It would probably violate some sort of international peace treaty...

    Good post!

  8. One thing that struck me as humorous was when you were searching the gray crate with “Erin Smith.” It just made her seem all the more human, when she has your last name like a child. Of course she was your child... especially when you cry out, “Daddy is here, Daddy is here…” Beautiful love story.

  9. Thanks to all for their comments!! Hope everyone visits again :)

    @Ravenmyth Your comment is too kind and beyond flattering. If my posts choke you up imagine what they do to myself as I remember those glorious times. I'll certainly give you a book if one gets published. Thanks again!!

    @Holli The dog's need to pee is the least thing to worry about, that's why their water intake is restricted during flights. Libby would do just fine :)

    @Debra Erin was considered and treated as my child, she just squats to pee and chases squirrels :) Thanks for swinging by!!

  10. Hi there,

    Just discovered your blog - poor you and poor Erin! As the owner of 4 dogs, I feel your pain, it must have been terrible!

    Looking forward to reading more posts :)

    Sam x

  11. Can't even imagine leaving Tobes like that...and you know what gets me, I bet Erin would be better behaved on the plane with you than many children are! lol

  12. every time i read your blog posts i only feel, a connection so truthful and pure, we humans also fail many times to keep up this base. Erin and u, emotions and reflections every time touches the heart at different angles.

  13. wow that was some trip Erin took, sorry I've been missing in action been struggling with some stuff.. I will get back to reading and commenting more soon .... Love your writings about you and Erin.

  14. David, I just saw this quote and immediately thought of you. :-)

    "If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers


  15. seems to be very sensitive person :) loved ur post..she is so cute:D ..keep writing ...


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