Ever start down a path that you know logically is iffy in its likelihood of success, yet you move forward with all the faith and optimism in the world? Many of my paths are like this and usually things turn out well. Yesterday was an exception.
When we arrived at the airport we first dropped Thom off at the passenger terminal to check in our baggage and my dad, my brother and I took the dogs to the live cargo desk four hours early as required.
Now, I was a little nervous about this portion of the check-in because there are certain crate size regulations for the shipping of pets. On most airlines we travel (i.e., Delta) pets have to be able to sit, lie and turn around comfortably in their crate in order to travel. The judgment of either the booking or cargo agent is used. Both of our dogs could easily do these tasks in their crates. However, on British Airways they utilize a standard formula where three measurements are used: the length of the dog from nose to tail, the width of the dog at his widest point, and the height of the dog from the ground to the elbow. The dog they use as their standard is a golden retriever, who has traditional dog proportions. Great Danes, however, have proportionately longer legs (like Corgis have proportionately shorter legs). So technically, based on the formula, Ozzie’s crate did not meet the requirements. They wanted a crate that was something like 48 inches high and 53 inches long and Ozzie’s was 40 inches tall by 48 inches long.
All went well the first 1.5 hours. Ozzie (and Buddy) were weighed in their crates, photos were taken of each dog in their crate, the USDA export and Zambia import papers were approved, the dogs were deemed healthy and fit for travel. After I paid the airway bill it was time to load them in their crates and say goodbye. At that moment our cargo handler, Jesse (who had previously approved them), said, “wait a second, I just want to double-check with my supervisor that this dog’s ok.” Hugo came down and took measurement after measurement. Ozzie was lying down in his crate with a good quarter of it left empty up front. Another cargo handler came by and agreed that yes, this dog was comfortable in this crate. He also said, however, that British Airways, unlike other airlines, was a by-the-book rules-driven airlines. He warned that even if all of the U.S. side staff agreed that Ozzie was comfortable, there was bound to be someone with a tape measure on the other end ready to rule the crate unfit for him. He also added that for other airlines they’re allowed to use common sense and observe the comfort level of the pet, but not on British Airways.
Supervisor Hugo saw that Ozzie was comfortable but thought it was risky too, so he went up the chain of management, reaching the very top manager in the building, to see if he could get a waiver based on their judgment of fit of crate to dog.
By this time a couple of hours had elapsed and we were getting dangerously close to the point where I’d have to go or miss the flight. While my brother and I were in the cargo warehouse, Thom had called my dad (who was waiting in the truck) about a dozen times – he wasn’t able to check in all of the baggage until I was there so I needed to come NOW (he had been telling my dad this for two hours). My brother pointed out that the cargo staff were really trying to help us given their willingness to work up the management chain. By this time my heart was pounding because of the situation with Ozzie coupled with knowledge that I needed to leave and get to the terminal now! We decided that I would go ahead to the passenger terminal and that my brother would take over. The drive over seemed to take forever and I jiggled my legs the whole way as if that would speed the ride. I ran in, Thom saw me a football field away and yelled for me, and we got the bags checked, through security and to the gate just in time for boarding.
I called my dad immediately and he said my brother was still in there, which I took as a good sign, for if they had rejected Ozzie he would have been on his way back to Orange County. However, my dad called just after the cabin doors closed and said they had rejected Ozzie because they thought London would reject him for the Lusaka flight (because it’s a smaller aircraft). He said that my brother would take him for the night and they would trade him back and forth until (a) we found an affordable means to ship him, or (b) we found him a good home.
Soooo, Ozzie’s still in Orange County and we’re not sure what to do? On the one hand Ozzie’s a part of our family and brings us a lot of joy. On the other hand, he’s just a dog (and a not very bright one at that).
Is it worth having him shipped over (unaccompanied) via another airline or cargo service? Should we give him away? I don’t know. I think I’ll go take a nap.