It’s My Dog and I’ll Cry if I Want To!
If there are any pet lovers out there, you will understand the protectiveness one can feel for their animal. My quirky little dog, Padfoot, was abused and abandoned, so I feel it is my duty to keep him safe, forever and ever. So, of course, when I decided to move to Buenos Aires, I immediately began making arrangements to fly Padfoot right along with me.
Crazy? Yes. I’ll spare you the details of the pre-travel horror that making reservations for a dog entails, though if you need tips I compiled all my advice in a separate article. I thought 4 hours on the phone with multiple airlines was bad, but I still had to make it through the airports.
The St. Louis Check-In Ordeal
I arrived at the St. Louis Airport at 4am, ready to check all my bags and my dog 2 1/2 hours in advance. Vet papers in hand, kenneled dog by my side — I was super prepared. Unfortunately, American Airlines was not. There was an incredibly long line considering it was 4am on a Tuesday. I realized the line was the result of there being not a single agent behind the counter–we were all just waiting.
I stood there with my mother, who was already tearing up, trying not to start off my long journey with a headache. When I finally got to the counter, the unpleasant agent eyed my dog like he was a pile of garbage and said “You are flying to Miami with your dog?” I explained that yes, I was, and I had made the proper reservations to do so. She gave me a long, heavy sigh and banged some keys on her keyboard. “You know, you can’t take off with a dog if it’s more than 85 degrees outside,” she said.
I thanked her for the information I already knew and told her that is precisely why I was taking off before sunrise in St. Louis and after sunset in Miami. She was not convinced. “It’s pretty hot in Miami. I don’t think you’ll be able to take off. You should just leave him here.” Once again, I took her useless advice in stride and explained that I was moving to Buenos Aires and had every intention of bringing my dog with me. Another long sigh. Eventually, she finished up my check in and I nervously waved goodbye to my puppy as I left him with a baggage handler.
Is Padfoot on Board?!
As soon as I sat down on the plane, I started frantically trying to wave down a flight attendant. I wanted to make sure Padfoot had made it on board. The flight attendant said she would check, and then disappeared for a very long time. The engines were starting, and we were on the move. I pushed my call button and waved my arms, desperately. I was imagining Padfoot stuck on a baggage carousel, going round and round, lost forever. Eventually, after take off, the flight attendant came back and assured me he had made it. I allowed myself to breathe. The nice woman next to me asked what time my dog and I were set to take off in Miami, and then told me she would say a prayer to Saint Francis for us both at that exact time. As it turned out, I needed her prayers about 3 hours sooner.
I was allowed to retrieve Padfoot in Miami and spend the day with him, walking him around the airport on his leash. He came out of the whole being-treated-as-baggage situation rather well. I was told to check him no less than 2 hours before my departure time, so 3 hours before I decided it was time for us to part once again. I took him to the LAN Argentina counter, already feeling slightly overwhelmed with my huge solo move to another country and just hoping not to run into trouble.
A Sassy Miami Agent Makes Me Cry
The sassy agent behind the counter took one look at the kennel and said (in Spanish) “That looks small.” I assured him that Padfoot was quite small, the kennel was airline approved size and that I had made the proper reservations. He was unconvinced. “It’s too small. You can’t fly with that. He has to be able to stand up, lay down and turn around.” Really, all I had been able to focus my mind on at that moment were the words “You can’t fly with that.” I once again assured him, in a shaky tone, that Padfoot could in fact do all of those things and we had just flown from Miami, so everything would be fine. I said “Everything will be fine” more like a question than a statement. He shook his head “Show me.”
Turns out, part of the whole abused dog thing is that they often don’t respond well to training, especially mindless tricks. Padfoot can sit, lay down and stay. I never saw the point in trying to teach him a 360 twirl. I knelt next to the kennel and momentarily forgot to switch back to English as I spoke to my dog. I snapped, I moved my hands, I begged him. “Turn around, Padfoot, please? Look at me! Look at me buddy! Turn around!” Of course, all that happened was Padfoot ran through the tricks he knew, laying down, sitting, wagging his tail, desperately staring at me with big, confused eyes. I looked back up at the agent, he shook his head and called over several other agents. They circled the kennel and not one of them looked convinced. Someone sent for a manager.
That was it for me. I had been traveling since 3am, I had a 1 way ticket to another country, and these horrible people wouldn’t let me bring my dog. I started crying. Not a single tear, but full on bawling. I was quiet about it, but the agent looked at me and saw the waterfalls flowing down my face. He looked flabbergasted. He panicked, repeating “No, no llores! No llores! ¿Por qué estas llorando?” (No, don’t cry! Don’t cry! Why are you crying?) I answered him with the angriest voice a crazed crying girl speaking a foreign language could manage: “Why am I crying? WHY? I am MOVING to Buenos Aires! MOVING! I can’t leave my dog! I don’t even know anyone in Miami, what am I supposed to do?! I am moving! I made a reservation! I made a reservation!” So much for being quiet about it–now I was the crying girl rambling on about a freaking reservation.
The Manager Arrives
At this point, a manager showed up. She chose not to acknowledge my red and tear streaked face. She looked at the kennel and said “Take the dog out,” I did so. “Put him back in.” I placed Padfoot into the kennel, head first. He immediately turned around to face me as I closed the door. The manager shrugged her shoulders, “He can turn around, what’s the problem here?” Are you freaking kidding me? Several agents and tears later and that’s it?!
The original agent had become significantly nicer and more helpful after my crying fit, so he got on with the paperwork fairly quickly. I think he was just in a rush to get the crying girl away from his counter. This whole ordeal took so long that I was forced to run through security and sprint to my gate, where my flight was already boarding. I boarded in tears, but my Padfoot was safe beneath the plane, finally.
If you’d like to know more about my beloved, quirky dog, feel free to check out my post about his transition to Buenos Aires, No Ladro en Español.