Ready for take-off!

Last night Steve, Adagio, and I participated in the most entertaining field trip ever. Along with more than a dozen other older pups and their raisers, we gathered at Lindbergh’s Terminal 1, where we practiced going on a plane flight.

Service dogs need to be able to travel by air, and some CCI puppy-raisers take their charges to the skies as part of their formative training experiences. Not all airlines allow pups-in-training in the cabin, but many do, and in 2015 Southwest for the first time opened its cabins to CCI trainees. Still, Steve and I have always quailed at the thought of trying to get one of our puppies to board and behave impeccably in any airliner’s cramped quarters, even for a short excursion.

I did happily participate in a group practice session at the airport three years ago with Kyndall (our trainee at the time). Our group went through the security screening, strolled the terminals, visited the doggy “relief station,” and happily interacted with members of the traveling public. But we didn’t get near any actual planes.

Last night was different. After years of laying the groundwork, veteran puppy-raiser Marilyn Fullen managed to get permission for our group to board one of Southwest’s working 737s (furloughed in San Diego for the night). Here’s a glimpse into how the adventure unfolded.

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Armed with our special gate passes and caped companions, we lined up for the routine security inspection. 

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The humans had to take off their shoes, but the puppies got to keep their capes on.

Once through security, our group climbed the steps and found Gate 4, where we lined up just as if we were ready for boarding.

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Steve and Adagio got in the A line. (But so did everyone else.) 
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Adagio never hesitated…
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…although he didn’t look as joyful as our friend Inge. (But she always looks like that. She’s pure Golden.) 
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The wait at the cabin door was brief, as no one had any carry-ons (other than leashes). 
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Adagio’s sister, Apple, was the model canine traveler. Positioned perfectly under the seat in front of Cyndy, a middle-seat passenger might never notice her. 
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But Adagio, half again her size, simply wouldn’t fit. 
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This is about as good as we got.

Some of other puppy-raisers and one of the Southwest representatives assured us that, should we ever need to fly with a puppy, we could get access to bulkhead seats, where even dogs as big as Adagio do fine.

I think Adagio probably learned something about good comportment from the whole exercise. And Steve and I can better imagine how flying with a pup could work out well. We’re still not ready to try it any time soon. But it was fun to come close to experiencing it.

 

What now?

101817 J&BSixteen days remain until we turn in Beverly. I’ve been quailing for the past two weeks, ever since our vet declared that Beverly probably had a “silent heat” last spring and would almost certainly bleed normally when her next heat started — likely 9 to 10 months after the first one. I don’t remember exactly when it was that Beverly looked somewhat swollen to us. Was it January? February? Either way, it seems likely she should go into heat again very soon.

So what? people have asked me. Here’s the thing: whenever she does go into heat, we’re obligated to take her to the kennels up in Oceanside. With a normal cycle, that’s not the end of the world. Your girl spends three weeks in Girl Camp (aka Sex Jail), then you pick her up, and puppy-raising life goes on.

At this point in our time with Beverly, however, the start of a heat would mean something very different. If she were to start today, she would not be able to participate in the Turn-in activities. (Girls in season are too distracting to all the doggy participants.) Steve and I have never been big on ceremonies, but I’ve come to believe the ones associated with Turn-in play a helpful role. It’s painful to say goodbye to a puppy you’ve raised, and doing it in the company of others who have gone through the same experience helps to ease the pain. A bit.

You brace yourself for Turn-in, but if your girl suddenly goes into heat two weeks before it, you have to load her in the car, drive her up to CCI, hand over the leash… and never see her again (except maybe briefly at Graduation, if she makes it). The end comes before you (the puppy-raiser) are ready.

In our case, there’s an extra wrinkle. Steve and I and Beverly are scheduled to depart early tomorrow for our last big adventure together. We’re driving to Northern California so Steve can take part in a reunion of his high-school class. We expect to return Sunday.

We won’t cancel the trip just because Beverly could possibly go into heat in the next four days. That possibility has been hanging over our heads for months and months. At the moment, she doesn’t look particularly swollen to me.

We had one other CCI puppy go into heat when we were on the road with her. We were in Arizona at the time. We couldn’t just leave Steve’s business conference abruptly then, so we got our girl to the kennels a few days later. I guess if the same thing happens to Beverly, we’ll muddle through in similar fashion.

But we’re sure hoping it doesn’t come to that.

 

Travelin’ pup

Travelin’ pup

One of the cool things about CCI puppies is that they get to have more adventures than the average bear. Dionne went on one last weekend. With a group of old friends, Steve and I spent Saturday night in Jacumba, a strange little wreck of a town in a neglected stretch of the end of America. Once upon a time (back in the 1920s and 1930s), Jacumba and its hot springs enjoyed a reputation as a classy resort, one supposedly patronized even by actor types from Hollywood. But when the interstate was built and by-passed it, the town plunged into a steep decline. The resort burned down in 1983, and today the whole place hearkens up the spirit of other ghost towns of the West.

But some life still stirs. In fact the Jacumba Motel recently underwent a complete renovation. Also, most of us had been to the town at one point or another over the years, and we knew that an overnight here would feel like a journey to another time and another land. Also, Steve and I were heartened to learn that we could bring not just Dionne but also Tucker, which made it an extraordinarily simple one-night getaway.
The new hotel is pleasant.
A lot of rain preceded our arrival. But despite periodic showers and threatening clouds, we had a lovely time.

Even though the tennis court behind the hotel is sad, it was a perfect place for dogs to run wild.
Steve and I got a room with its own dog-friendly private courtyard, and of course Dionne instantly identified the only square foot of dig gable dirt.  She dug it.
We toured the town attractions on foot, including this eye-catching sculpture. (Photograph by Bob Schneider.)
From the hotel, you can hike within minutes to beautiful spots like this. (Photograph by Alberto Lau.)
As well as scenes of extreme devastation, like the ruins of the old spa. (Photograph by Bob Schneider.)
We also walked to the border fence, weird and wild in its own way. (Photograph by Howie Rosen.)

Tomorrow Dionne will be off to some very different adventures. She’ll be staying with two different puppy-sitters while Steve and I fly off to a couple of literally different lands. Tucker will be hosted by old family friends.

If all goes well, we’ll all be reunited in about three weeks. As usual, we’ll miss our furry pack members when we’re on the road. But we’ll appreciate them all the more when we’re reunited.