Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dogs Don't Fly At Christmas Time

Before we even go there, let's just get two things out of the way.

I don't have a driver's license. I live in NYC and when my license expired after I had been here close to five years I sort of let it happen. At the time, I was militant in believing that I would never leave New York City and would never need a license. Besides, I always hated driving. I thought it was a necessary evil that was no longer necessary and was happy to let my license lapse.

And Pet Airways does not fly to Buffalo. Nobody flies to Buffalo unless they really have to. Sorry Buffalo, I couldn't resist.

But I wanted to take a little longer Christmas holiday this year since I am not working full time and I am just a lowly cog in the great machine. I thought it would be nice to take an entire week and spend some quality time with the family. I last visited home during the summer for my brother's 50th Birthday, and while I found everyone seemingly hale and hearty, I am mindful that both mom and dad are now 78 years old. Knock wood, they both seem to be doing just swell. Mom still holds down a part time job, working a cash register at a discount department chain store. Dad was working part time up until recently, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he found another part time job in the next couple of months. I personally wish they would work less and travel more, but they have their reasons for why that doesn't happen and I respect their right to make that call. Besides, I seem to be the only family member that developed wander-lust. And even though I've been in the same New York City apartment for 20 years, If I could afford it I would travel all over the world. Well, except India. And the Middle East. And Alaska would be the very last state after I visited all the rest.

In any case, what I really wanted to do was visit home and bring Riley with me. First, if I was going to be gone a week, I didn't want to spend all that time, particularly Christmas, without my dog. Second, my mom loves dogs. And she hasn't had one in the house for many many years. They have Cat now, and I can't describe how unexpected that development was, but mom is a dog person. I thought bringing Riley might give her a much needed fix, and Riley could spend a week being spoiled and fussed over by someone other than me. Also, as much as I try to deny it, Riley really is about the cutest most loving dog I've ever seen. When he's not destroying your bed linens.

So I set about making inquiries as to which airline, or really any mode of travel, would be the best and cheapest to get me and Riley from New York City to Buffalo. Turns out, you can't get there from here.

The train was out straight away. Amtrak doesn't allow animals, even as cargo. Period. Some of the major air carriers don't take pets, and the ones that do are talking about small animals that can fit in carriers and slide under the seat in front of you.

Some, like Delta, will in fact take your pet as checked baggage, but unfortunately the only direct Delta flights to Buffalo I could find are on their commuter partner, and those are much smaller planes that can't take medium to large dog crates. Continental was my last hope, as it seemed on their web site that they had some sort of pets as cargo shipping service. But when I called them originally they flat out refused to take Riley because I described him as a Pit mix, and they "only fly Pit Bulls as puppies". Fucking bigots.

And when I called back two weeks later and made another inquiry, the reservation agent helping me first claimed that it would cost $250.00 EACH WAY to fly Riley as cargo, and then backtracked and claimed that they didn't fly Staffordshire Terriers, which is what Riley's breed is, kind of, unless they were under 20 lbs. Which sounded suspiciously like Pit Bull racial profiling if you ask me. And at that point, there was no way I could afford a ticket for me, at around $325 and then add another $500 for Riley. Not counting what it would cost to buy him an "airline approved" plastic kennel as well as a veterinary visit so that he could have a doctor's note clearing him to fly. It all became far too expensive for a week in Buffalo.

This being New York City, AKA Scams R Us, I got some information about where I could secure the documentation and a harness to try and pass Riley off as a service dog, but 5 minutes in to the flight that bit of subterfuge would surely disintegrate when Riley would likely jump up on the service cart and gorge himself on bags of blue tortilla chips.

So as it stands now, my week in Buffalo has been cut to 4 1/2 days. And Riley will be spending four nights in a local kennel, which kills me every time I have to leave him there. Not that they don't take good care of him, or that I have any doubts he will be fed and walked. But the kennel cage he sleeps in has a concrete floor, and Riley sleeps in a bed. My bed. With me.

I'm going out this week to get him a big fuzzy blanket, which I will stink up real good between now and Christmas. And then it's going in the cage with him, so at least it will be soft and smell like home.

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