Saturday, February 11, 2017

Lucky After All...

This story starts in November of 2014. Mark had just been transferred to a different division of the company and we were getting our Georgia house on the market. My mom called one afternoon and said, "My dear friend just died from cancer and she left behind a beautiful, perfect dog named Lucky. Nobody will take him because he's 11 years old and that's the only thing wrong with him." I was confused. This was not a friend I had ever met and I wasn't sure why she was telling me. And then she said it..."Will you take him Annie?" I was stunned. She knew how much stress we were under. She knew we already owned 2 dogs, a rabbit and a box turtle. She knew we were getting ready to move across the country with all of these pets PLUS 3 children.  I felt angry at her for asking me. And yet the words that came out of my mouth were, "Ya, we'll take him." She started crying and that's a big deal because my mother was very stoic. I said, "It's okay mom; we'll take him." She said and I'll never forget it; "You have no idea how much this means to me; you have certainly earned your place in heaven." Wow.

She brought Lucky down that weekend. And while we had 2 male dogs who certainly ran the roost; they instantly accepted him. It was completely bizarre. Our children bonded with him very quickly too. It was as if he had always been a part of our family. I guess you could say it was meant to be. Here's a photo of mom & Lucky from that weekend: 

I've already written about the craziness of our move out West. We lost the first house we put an offer on. Then we lost our rental. 8 days before leaving GA, we still had nowhere to go in CO. I found another rental but I could only bring 2 dogs. I asked one of my best friends, Andi if she would take Lucky for a year until we bought a home. She said yes. If that's not friendship; I don't know what is! I told my mother the situation and she was furious with me. It was so unfair and irrational. She said "If you're going to leave a dog behind then it should be George." WHAT? We had owned Bug and George for 7 and 5 years. We had only had Lucky for 5 months. I love my mom but this was not her finest moment! Poor George! Here's a photo of (L to R), George and Bug:

So off to Colorado we went--without Lucky. My kids missed him like CRAZY. They asked me constantly when we were going back to Georgia to pick him up. "When we get a house!!!" But when we did get that house a year later; it was CRAZY TOWN!! I was recovering from my Hysterectomy; Mark had JUST started work at his new company and then--the news about mom's cancer. Picking up Lucky suddenly became a very low priority. I had the conversation with my kids that Lucky might stay with Andi's family and that that was fair considering they had owned him twice as long as we ever had. Not to mention her kids. How can you give a dog to 4 children to love for a year and then take him away? I didn't think it was right to remove him from their home. Plus Lucky's age--almost 13 now. He had only ever lived in the South. He spent his first 11 years in North Carolina with a Mama who spoiled him rotten and then he moved to Georgia. I wasn't sure if moving him across country and in to the altitude of the Rocky Mountains was a good idea. My oldest son, Jake said to me, "then you broke your word mom." OUCH. You don't forget when your kid says something like that; it stays with you.  Andi and I discussed the situation and things were sort of in limbo. I told my mom that Lucky might stay with Andi's family and she pitched another fit. Unbelievable. I explained our crazy circumstances and asked that she try to cut me a little slack but she wouldn't. "You said when you bought a home that you would go get him."  

Sadly, this situation was never resolved between her and I. She died and it was unresolved. If you were to ask me, "what was the one remaining issue between you and your mom;" I would reply with one word, "Lucky." 

So a lot has been happening in my friend Andi's life and she called 2-3 weeks ago and said that she was ready to be relieved of Lucky duty. (God bless her--she doubled the time she originally committed to.) She told me she would find him a good home in Georgia. I immediately said "NOOOOOOO!!!! My mother would turn over in her grave! If you are done, then he MUST COME HERE. It is the ONLY option!!! And so began the craziness that has ensued over the last two weeks as we have tackled arrangements to fly Lucky to Colorado. 

To begin; I didn't want to bring Lucky out here just to have him turn around and die. Sounds harsh but my kids don't need another death. So--Andi and I discussed the need for Lucky to have a VERY thorough checkup to make sure there was no cancer, etc. Andi took him for preliminary X-rays at her Vet (all looked good) and then she drove him across the state to our dear friends & old neighbors, Corrie & Alan Barker. Corrie & Alan are both Veterinarians and they took care of our pets when we lived in GA. Once again--how blessed am I to have the friends that I do?  They took Lucky in to their home along with their dogs, cats and 2 children! They have kept him for the last 2+ weeks while doing a THOROUGH examination to be certain that he is up for the task of moving out West. 

So, all of Lucky's tests came back showing nothing serious. Just old age stuff. He will need some pills for arthritis, etc. There was absolutely NO reason to put him down. And this meant it was time to book Lucky's airfare. Actually, my first plan was to fly out there, get Lucky and then rent a car to drive home. But--our puppy Archie broke his leg and requires care for the next 6 weeks, so I can't do that. Corrie made me feel better about it. She said that flying Lucky out here would be much easier on his joints than making a long drive across country! She also said she would sedate him to make it an easy, relaxing flight and I was for sure booking a NONSTOP flight from Atlanta to Denver to make it as easy as possible for him! Lucky HATES car-rides. He pants and drools and his teeth chatter from anxiety. So you can be sure that a plane ride in Cargo is gonna SUCK!!

I contacted United Airlines Pet Cargo and booked Lucky's direct flight from Atlanta to Denver for Saturday, February 11th at 8:45am. (That's tomorrow.) I was directed to their website where I would find all the rules and regulations and trust me there are MANY!! First I had to buy an air-travel approved kennel with ventilation on three sides. This kennel needed to be large enough for Lucky to freely sit and stand,  turn around, lie down, etc. There also needed to be 1 inch clearance from the top of his ears to the roof of the kennel. A metal nut and bolt needed to be secured in each hole to connect the top and bottom of the kennel. Two dishes--one for food and one for water had to be attached to the inside of the kennel but also accessible from the outside so they can be filled without actually opening the door. (Try figuring that one out.) The kennel floor had to be covered in absorbent material. The words "LIVE ANIMAL" had to be labeled on the top and one side of the kennel in 1-inch (2.5-cm) letters. Orientation labels with arrows, "This Side Up" had to be attached. A 16 ounce ziplock bag of dogfood had to be taped to one side of the kennel. Lucky's name plus the name/address/phone number for the person dropping Lucky off and the person picking Lucky up had to be written on the top of the kennel. And...NO SEDATION allowed. Strict policy. Poor Lucky!! Oh--and a Health Certificate had to be issued within 10 days of travel. (Corrie & Alan took care of that.) ;)

So...United makes it very clear that it's my responsibility to do all of this and to do it right. They don't provide these kennels. They do however provide size guidelines to help you shop. Lucky weighs 68 pounds and according to their website, I was to purchase a kennel that measured 36 x 25 x 27. I ordered the kennel along with absorbent material for the floor, nuts and bolts, labels, zip-ties, etc and had it all shipped to Corrie. This is the photo she sent me upon receiving the kennel.

It's okay--you can laugh. You have to. Obviously their "recommendation" for kennel size on a 68 pound dog is incorrect. So--I send Corrie the Return Shipping Label and she has to mail this big kennel back to Amazon. I order a new, jumbo kennel and have it rush-shipped. This new kennel is supposed to arrive Thursday in plenty of time for Saturday's flight. Instead, I get a notification from Amazon that it wont arrive until Monday afternoon. I start to panic. I have no other options for shipping a kennel to Georgia in time. I call Corrie and she says she will go to her local PetSmart and try to find one. Bingo! They have it. The exact same jumbo kennel I had ordered. 48 x 32 x 35. (This is the largest kennel United Airlines accepts by the way.) I jump online and start the Return process for the identical kennel which will be arriving at Corrie's house on Monday. Once again I have to ask her to return a huge package to Amazon. Geez! I know we've got the right kennel, all the right hardware, the labels, the absorbent material, the healthcare certificate, etc. I'm starting to feel calm. But first, I have to ask yet ANOTHER FAVOR from our close family friend Marci who lives 15 minutes from Corrie. 

"Marci, will you pick Lucky up at 5:30am on Saturday morning in order to get him to United Airlines Cargo in Atlanta by 6:45am. He must be there EXACTLY 2 hours prior to his flight and they wont accept him if you're even 5 minutes late. She says yes. Again--these friends I have. Wow! Corrie calls me from PetSmart. She's just about to purchase the jumbo kennel. "Annie--the guy at the store says you better check with the airline first. He thinks this kennel is too big to fly." WHAT? No. That can't be true because this exact kennel with these exact dimensions is listed on the UA website. It's their largest kennel type--#700. I call the 800 number to be sure. The lady tells me "NO! We cannot accept that size kennel on the 8:45 direct flight from Atlanta to Denver." So I'm sitting in the grocery store parking lot and I'm starting to break down. I'm not crying but I'm in a fog. I'm listening to what she's saying but I can't think clearly in order to respond. She's talking and I'm making another plan in my head. Okay I'll just jump on a plane and go get him and rent a car like I was gonna do in the first place. Wait--I can't do that because of Archie. Shit. What am I gonna do? I'm finally able to focus and hear what she's saying. "Ma'am, you CAN fly him in this size kennel but it must be on a much larger plane--an Airbus. And there are no direct flights from Atlanta to Denver on an Airbus; he will have to connect."  WHAT? "He cant connect; he's 13 years old!" Now I feel the tears coming. "Well Ma'am that's your only option so do you want me to look at some connecting flights for you?"  I mumble yes. "Okay then I can get him on a flight leaving at 7am on Saturday morning connecting thru Chicago and arriving in Denver at 1:56pm. He will have a 4 hour layover in Chicago. Do you want him to go to the Pet Comfort Motel during his layover?"  What did she just ask me? "Doesn't that just increase the risk of him getting lost/mishandled/not making his flight to Denver?" She says no. "The Pet Comfort Motel is located inside the Cargo facility." Oh. "So do you want to book that Ma'am for an extra $50?" Sure. (I'm not even gonna tell you the price of Lucky's plane ticket or his jumbo kennel. I'll just say that tacking on an extra 50 bucks was NOTHING!) You get the picture... I have to call Marci who was already leaving her house at the crack of dawn to get Lucky there in time for an 8:45am  flight and tell her that he's been re-booked on a 7am flight. She will now have to have him there by 5am so I'm guessing she'll have to leave her house by 3:30am. INSANE! She says okay--no problem. I offer to get her and Lucky a hotel room in Atlanta for the night; somewhere close to the Cargo facility. She says no--not necessary.  Again--these friends of mine!! Wait--did I mention that Marci had to rent a truck to take Lucky to the airport because the JUMBO kennel wont fit into her SUV?  Ya. I'm reimbursing her of course. And I'm reimbursing Corrie for the JUMBO kennel. They shouldn't have had to spend a penny on any of this!!'s 2:20am now and I'm still awake and writing. Why? Because Marci will be calling my phone at exactly 3am which is 5am her time and also when she will be dropping off Lucky. United Airlines wont allow you to pre-pay for any of this. They have to weigh the dog inside the kennel upon arrival and then they charge you based on that exact weight. They will take a credit card over the phone but only during drop off. 

Mom--I do believe you see everything from where you are. I hope I have redeemed myself.
Your boy is coming home!!

Thank you Andi. Thank you Corrie. Thank you Alan. Thank you Marci. I couldn't have done any of this without you. I am eternally grateful. And I owe you one--big time!! 
P.S. You've earned big points with Mary upstairs too! xoxo

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