Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monica's Travelogue (Part 2)

(Again, this is written by Lisa's friend, Monica, and copied from her own blog. For those of you who don't know, my dog, Ransom, is a littermate of Lisa's dog, Gabby.)...

Ransom had so many "firsts" just on her journey TO Alaska...not to mention since arriving! On Saturday, she navigated her first set of escalators quite calmly (at KCI). Later, on the flight to Denver, one of the stewards gave me a LOT of valueable tips about traveling with a dog...including NEVER take them on the esclator nor the rolling sidewalks (as their paws can easily get caught in the little cracks as the escalator or sidewalk ends, causing injury or at least a really bad pinch). So, that was Ransom's first and last escalator! We did the elevator from Denver onward. We had a REALLY tight connection in Denver International. It was tight enough that United would not allow us to check any baggage in KC, because they said it would be physically impossible to get our bags from United to Alaska at Denver International in that short space of time! So, I figured Ransom and I and our 45 pounds of carry-on luggage were going to have to FLY from one terminal in Denver International to the next, to make our flight. (Honestly, pragmatist that I am, I didn't think we would be able to make the connection...but, Lisa, ever the optimist, was sure it could be done!) Lisa prayed in Nome and I prayed en route and our plane arrived in Denver 18 minutes ahead of schedule. Then the steward who had given me so much helpful advice about traveling with a dog and had taken the time to describe to me exactly how to get to the underground train to go from one terminal to the next and which stop to get off on, and made sure that Ransom and I were the among the very first off the plane, stopped us as we entered the gangplank and said, "You wait right here! Your dog needs a chance to relieve herself before you go get on that next plane and you won't have time, yourself, to go in and out of security, so I'll get someone to take her out on the tarmack here, real quick!" And with that, he ducked back into the plane and grabbed a uniformed pilot who had been just riding on that flight and laughingly told him, "You didn't think you would have to work on this flight, but guess what? We need you to walk that woman's dog!" The pilot was very gracious and took Ransom out the security door there near the entrance to the plane, down scary looking grated, roll-away steps (another first for Ransom) down onto the tarmack below. I was dubious that Ransom would relieve herself on asphalt (she never has before), but it was so nice of them to give her the opportunity. The pilot, a dog-lover himself, even graciously gave her the command "Go potty!" numerous times as she sniffed about the wheels of the planes and took in all the sights! She didn't do anything, but, it gave her a quick whiff of fresh air! And I was impressed once more with what an adaptable, calm dog she is. If I ask her to do something, she trusts that it is safe to do it...even if it is to go down scary looking stairs being led by a total stranger as monstrously large planes are noisily rolling past (I was not allowed to go through the security door or even have the door left open--but I did peer down through the window.). Ransom quite enjoyed her private little adventure! Even as she had enjoyed her first plane ride ever!

When we had gone to board on that first flight in KC, she knew something new was up as we walked down the long gangplank. She never hesitated, but she was on full alert! Then, even though I had made SEVERAL calls MONTHS in advance to MAKE SURE we were assigned appropriate seating and been ASSURED by United staff over the phone that seat 12 A would be just fine for myself and a large German Shepherd...and, upon boarding, the initial (idiot) steward (not the helpful one) also, upon hearing what seat I was heading towards, indicated that "yes, that will be fine!". Well it wasn't fine. And I would not have been aggravated if the idiot steward hadn't continued to insist to me, after I got down there, saw the situation and put on my assistance light, that it WAS fine and "You would be surprised. This will be just fine. It works all the time!" Mind you, as he is saying that to me, I am sitting in seat 12A and, even as short as my legs are, my knees are against the seatback in front of me...meanwhile, Ransom is WEDGED lengthways between the edges of seats 12B and 12C and the backs of the seats of row 11. She is wedged so tightly that she cannot even lower herself down onto her belly. I told the steward, "Okay...she can stand the entire flight, but my worry is that someone might be assigned to seats 12B and 12C! Is there anyone assiged to these two seats?" Well, "Yes, there are two other people assigned to sit in this row, but you would be surprised. It works having three people and a dog in this row. I've seen it done many times." I am looking at this idiot and thinking, "How stupid are you?", but, instead, I simply observe, "Well, I guess if both of the two passengers assigned to sit next to me are legless we will be okay." Idiot! It was PHYSICALLY impossible and it just made me spit bullets to have him standing there rolling his eyes, using his extra patronizing voice to tell me there was not a problem, when clearly there was. And, just at that moment, the extremely large (football player size) man assigned to seat 12C arrived. That man was of the same opinion I was...what we had was a physically impossible situation. And STILL the idiot steward continued to assure both of us that this was not a problem and would not require reseating of either of us. We just looked at him, amazed that such an illogical person was allowed to hold a real job. Thankfully, a sane steward arrived on the scene about that time, to see what was holding up the line. He quickly suggested that Ransom and I move to seat 6F at the bulkhead, where there was actually a bit of extra floorspace and no one at all assigned to be sitting in that entire row. Duh! Problem solved! Should have never even occurred since I was careful to make calls months in advance and had it marked on the ticket that I would have a large dog with me in the cabin. (Because she is being trained for Search and Rescue she is allowed to ride in the cabin.)

By the time our flight departed KC, I was thoroughly aggravated with United. But, then the super nice steward, (that we didn't meet until our flight was about to land) more than made up for the idiot I had first had to deal with!

I say all that, just to say this...by the time I sat down in my seat for our first take-off, I was thoroughly tense. That didn't throw Ransom off, though. Her calm temperament was unplussed by her master's rising blood pressure! She laid down at my feet and waited calmly. Then the engines began vibrating the floor and the wheels began bumping over the tarmack and the dinging of the "fasten seatbelts" alarm was sounding. Ransom's response? She tilted her head side to side with her ears pricked in that adorable way that always makes her look so smart! Then, as we actually began lifting off, she stood up and seemed a bit concerned, but remained calm. Then, as my ears popped for the first time, she REALLY thought something was amiss and decided she needed to look out that window herself! She put both front paws up on the window and stood so she could see out. She stood there for probably a solid five minutes just LOOKING intently out the window! At first, she quizzically tilted her head side to side several times and then, to inspect the situation even closer, she pointed her long muzzle downward so that she could get her eyes even CLOSER to the window and she stood FROZEN in that position for the longest time, just trying to figure out what in the heck she was seeing! (We were above the clouds and it must have appeared quite perplexing to her!) True to her calm nature, though, she eventually lowered herself back down, put her head between her paws and went to sleep. The first landing got her to her feet again, but still she did not panick. But, from that first flight onward, she was an old pro and apparently LOVES to fly. As we boarded the second plane, she EAGERLY stepped ahead of me down the gangplank, seemingly excited that we were about to get on yet another plane and this time she confidently planted herself in the floor of row 6 (Alaska Airlines had us pre-booked for seat 6A on ALL of our flights). She didn't stand for anymore take-offs or landings...in fact she SLEPT through them! She did, however, on EVERY flight get up to quizzically (briefly) look out the window when we reached the altitude that made my ears pop.

I, honestly, could not have asked for an easier trip. Ransom never pulled on her leash and paced herself perfectly so that she was always beside me, but just a smidgeon enough in front that the luggage rolling behind us did not clip her heels. When we took that underground train between terminals in Dener, I was a bit startled by how FAST the train lunged forward and blasted through the tunnel, but, Ransom took it in stride and wasn't even knocked off her feet by the sudden movement of the train hurtling forward. Again, she watched out the window, taking in the blur with quizzical interest! Thankfully, though she does have a sense of caution, she is never fearful. She will show she is unsure of something by hesitating, but, if I insist we are indeed going to do it, she complies, sometimes warily the first time but confidently every time there-after! She is very adaptable and loves to have a job to perform. Saturday, her job was to accompany me from Kansas City to Nome...and she did her job beautifully! Many a time I have thought that she really would have made a superb guide-dog. She has the temperament, discipline, and intelligence for it.

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