The Honeymove, Part 1: The Bearded Dog
The Honeymove, Part 1: The Bearded Dog
Here’s what I like to do: I like to think about the lists I made. I like to recall the plans I had. I like to evoke my preconceived notions about the cross-country move I just made from New York City with my dog and my business to be with my husband in Portland, Oregon.
I like to revisit those anal-retentive memories because, when you experience a major life event; time, space, and control lose all meaning.
Let me start at the beginning of our journey…
Francis, my high school crush turned husband of now 3 months, flew to New York to help give support during my final days of packing and saying goodbye. I wasn’t nearly as concerned about my move as I was about my dog, Amelia’s, who is a 43 pound schnauzer-lab mix. I mention her weight because it’s the game changer. She’s no lap dog. 43 pounds means cargo. Cargo is the place where dogs explode or freeze to death or become so stressed out that their little hearts give out. My imagination is a powerful minefield and it had been feeding on this topic for months. We had strongly considered driving across country to avoid my terror of flying with Amelia in the baggage area of the plane, but when push came to shove, the faster we could get it done, the better. She would hate being in the back of a car for however many days it took to drive from NY to Portland. She’s three and still full of puppy gumption. The thrill of the road would be lost on her. I read reviews of airline’s pet policies. I read threads of happy and angry pet owners. Most people were satisfied by the service. In fact, the worst recent review I read was from a guy who said it was outrageous that the airline would charge him more for his pet than his suitcase. Um, what? Listen, you heartless asshat, I don’t think you should be allowed to own a dog. Or a suitcase for that matter.
On the day that we booked the tickets, Francis had spent hours on the phone with United, which is one of the only pet-carrying airlines that flies direct from New York to Portland. He asked them all the questions I had been wondering. He double checked the things I was nervous about. He felt good about United. I tried, unsuccessfully, to drop my shoulders.
Francis and I spent the night before our travel day in Connecticut with my parents, and we had arranged a play date with a neighbor’s poodle, Moby the Dog, the morning of our flight. Amelia and Moby run themselves ragged when they play. One of the things I was most worried about was that Amelia would howl in misery during the flight, and that I would hear her in the cabin and become hysterical. If she was exhausted, the chance of a 6 hour long howl would be a lot less. I had also picked up a few doggie downers (anti-anxiety not sedative) from Amelia’s vet to assist in calming her down.
She got into the crate into the backseat of our rental car for the drive to the airport and did not whinny or cry. She stared at me through the caged wall, but did not affect that head-tilty, clubbed seal expression that dogs impersonate so masterfully.
We drove to the United Airlines Cargo hold, as instructed by United. Of course we had been misinformed, as the actual dog load-in is in the terminal. We anxiously jumped through hoops of airport and car rental chaos to find the United PetSafe office. I stopped for a brief moment to force the anti-anxiety pill down Amelia’s throat like a psychotic-stage mother. “There, there. Just take it for mommy. You’ll be fine, love. Just swallowswallowswallowswallow.” I had originally intended to wrap the pink pill in a soft piece of rye bread (thanks, mom), but Amelia wasn’t feeling the rye without the pastrami, I guess. She got it down, though. She’s a champ.
When we entered the United Airlines Petsafe office, the woman at the counter looked about 14. There was a tall, uniformed Untied worker sitting on a chair in the corner who kept falling asleep and dropping his walkie talkie. It made a loud, startling crash onto the airport floor and I squeaked with terror every drop. It happened three times. By the third time, my panic turned into incredulous laughter and Francis and I started giggling uncontrollably. The air of confidence this office was supposed to convey was imperceptible. Luckily, Amelia was still pretty calm. She was out of the crate and sniffing around, but getting heavy lidded and mellower by the moment. Then, two official PetSafe reps walked in. They talked us through the protocol and the procedures. They had done this for years and were clearly dog people. They loved Amelia, of course.
I leaned down and hugged Amelia and whimpered as I said goodbye. I knew it wouldn’t be the last time I saw her, but I didn’t want her to worry. “Be strong, little one. Just rest. There are good things at the end of this trip, I promise. I love you, little one.”
I had taken a doggie downer too (for people), but mine was making me more tired than anything. Granted, I was whimpering instead of open-mouth-scream-sobbing, so I’m not complaining about my med choice. It got the job done.
Francis and I went to the gate. Where we sat. For an hour.
Our incoming plane had been delayed with the weather. Not that big a deal– kind of expected. Finally, it arrived and was quickly emptied and cleaned. We boarded and sat and waited. Eventually, the Southern accented pilot came on the intercom and let us know in his easy-listening dj tone that the plane needed to be de-iced. “We’re 6th in line, ladies and gents. The de-icing takes about 10-15 minutes and then we’ll be on our way, so sit back and we’ll be in the air soon.” We all tilted out heads in unison, doing the math, and knowing “soon” was relative. A relative load, I mean.
We were airborne by about 10:30, 3 1/2 hours late. By this time, my anxiety had taken a new form. It was like a heavy blanket that wrapped around my ankles and then my hips. It enveloped my heart and then overtook my head. It wasn’t the drugs, it was the release of the weeks and weeks of my body faking calmness and sanity as I stressed this exact moment. Now it was beyond my control. I had done what I could. She was under the plane and I could not hear her howl. My burden was now the same as everyone else’s; to suffer the tedious torture of air travel. Was it hunger? Or thirst? Or soreness? Or boredom? Why choose? They are not mutually exclusive.
By 1:30 am, Pacific Standard time (that’s 4:30 am, Wonderland Standard time), we had gathered our bags from the claim and Francis’ car from the lot. We drove to the dark United Cargo hangar, where I bounded up the stairs and knocked on the door. Nothin’. Francis ran up the ramp to the hangar and peered in the window. “She’s here! She’s right here!!!” I scampered up and saw Amelia in her crate on the floor of the huge warehouse. We started pounding the hangar garage door with the palms of our hands and screaming “Open up! Our dog’s in there!!!” Amelia looked happy, but not manic. Not like me. I was out of my mind.
Finally, a stoned, bedheaded millennial appeared out of the corner of the huge room and walked, with no sense of urgency whatsoever, to the door. We freed Amelia, who ran around the outside of her kennel victoriously.
My heart, my love, my quad, my bearded princess. She was ok. She had made it in one piece.
Somehow, we got the huge kennel into Francis’ car. Somehow, we drove to the hotel. Somehow, we got Amelia to pee. Somehow we got all our stuff into the hotel. I don’t know how. More tired, physically and emotionally, I don’t know if I’ve ever been. But there was a millisecond, before I fell deep asleep, when I realized that the love of my life was next to me and my little bearded girl was pressed against my knees and we had made it to our new homeland. My family, minus one grey cat, was together. The adventure had begun. I fell asleep with a smile on my face.