Of all people, I should be the one to tell you travel with your dog is a piece of cake. (I'm a 27 year retired pilot.). However, the anxiety is still there when I approach the flight- no different than anyone else.
It takes me about 45 minutes to an hour from the time I arrive at the front of the airport to when I clear security and head to the gate. That's to check dogs and get them through security and then do the same for the guns. It's a goat-rope for sure, but the 2 1/2 hour flight versus a day and a half drive sure makes up for it. That is....until something doesn't work according to plan. In my many years of airline flying, I've seen a lot of that- things not according to plan.
We wrapped up our hunt in South Dakota with a last day that saw a lot of birds and a filled possession limit. It was time to head home for Christmas and a lot of family time. We packed the bird cooler with the birds (with all the requisite information on the birds) and headed to the airport and our Delta flight home. We got there with plenty of time to spare and got the dogs and guns checked and on their way and eased to the gate to settle in for a short wait. Piece of cake, I said to myself. I'll be home by 10 p.m. Our seats were called and we headed to the plane to stake our claim to the back row. About 10 minutes before takeoff, the gate agent came back to us. She said this airplane had a malfunction in the cargo bin and the dogs could not go with us, but would be on the next flight! We knew if we got off the plane we would spend the night there, since all the other flights were full. We decided to go to Atlanta and wait for the dogs there. "What if they don't get on the next, and last, plane?" I asked. "They go to a kennel for the night and we'll send them first plane in the morning." she answered. I sure hope so, I thought.
We arrived in ATL and claimed our bags, guns and birds. Everything but the most important stuff- the reason I go hunting- my dog! It turns out they arrived about 30 minutes after we did. We were a little late departing and they were on time. I have to say, I was glad to see the shaggy eared mutt roll out of the oversized luggage space. I took his crate outside and let him out to water down. It was then I noticed his kennel was cleaned out, the attached water bowl was new and different, and the security tabs were different than the ones on the crate earlier. In addition, he didn't need to relieve himself- he'd been watered before he left. Those Delta folks did all that in the 30 minutes they had before they loaded him on the next flight! I was, and am, thankful for those good people. I know, having worked extensively for two huge bureaucracies, the US Navy and Delta Airlines, that supervisors like letters to inform them of who's doing what. So I wrote them a complimentary letter using as many names as I could remember. I do know they will get the word.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Great time yesterday! Even thought the temp never got above 20 degrees, after humping around the fields and through the drifts, we stayed warm and toasty. There are lots of birds here (so many that the SD DNR came within one vote on the board of upping the limit to 5 birds per day for the rest of the year) and when Ace pointed I nearly had to kick every clump to get them to fly! Great hunting! This part of SD has very little public land, but just south in the Huron area there is plenty. The birds are fat and full of corn- one we bagged needed a running start to get off the ground. He barely got the wheels up and he was grounded! Today will be a balmy 25 degrees and our hosts need to get some outside work done, so we are on our own again with (estimated) 10,000 ac. to hunt. However, we are taking them out to dinner tonight, if I can stay awake long enough.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Woke up to frozen pipes. We got them thawed pretty quick and prepared for the Day One goat rope- trying to get all the beepers and bells and shells and guns and dogs sorted out. High temp today will be in the 20's and that's a manageable temp for everyone. It's only 0600 here and hunting starts at 1000, so we have plenty of time to get the minutia organized.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The flight with Ace was perfect. -17 chill factor when we arrived, but he beat us to baggage claim. I heard him before I saw him. He was a happy little Brit when he heard my low whistle. Flying is a great way to get hunting in a hurry- I still think I like driving though. I can take all my stuff.