Monday, June 23, 2014

Cats on a plane

Don't ever travel with cats if you can help it.

American Airlines only allows 5 pets in the cabin on any given flight. So call ahead to reserve carry on slots for your pets. Also, make sure you read the airline's rules and regulations on the type of crate you can bring. It must be carry-on size because it has to go under the seat in front of you. Most airlines also require that it be a hard-sided case, but that really depends.

For international travel, we had to provide documentation for both cats that they are healthy and vaccinated. These documents had to be dated no more than 10 days before travel. For us, this meant my mom had to wrangle the cats to the vet the Friday before we flew. That was an adventure. We walked away with two documents for both cats, one showing their most recent rabies vaccine date and one that was a general health document with some identifying measures (weight, age, gender, breed, color, etc.) provided by the examining veterinarian.

Ok, so you have your airline tickets, the reservation for your carry-on pets, and the proper documents for said little creatures. What on earth comes next?

You show up REALLY early for your flight.

In the day of online everything, you can NOT check in online if you are traveling with animals. You must check in at the airport. Then you have to fill out additional paperwork with the airline to pay for the animal, confirm that you are traveling with an animal, and verify that you have all of the health documents in order. Then you get your boarding pass.

CHECK ALL OF YOUR OTHER LUGGAGE. Cats may only weigh 6-12 lbs and you might be a professional weight lifter, but you have to carry that animal and the crate and your regular carry-on bag (ladies, I'm talking to you about our 20 lb every day purses) through security and to your gate and in line to get on the plane and in line trying to get to your specific seat and at the other airport when you deplane and then have to go find a vehicle. It's not worth it. If that hasn't convinced you, here's another tidbit - you are already making an enemy out of every other person on your flight by having an animal with you. Having additional luggage to rally and contain will only make this situation worse. Just don't do it Check everything. Even at an airline where you have to pay for it. Check your bags. Just. Please.

Alright. We've checked in and you handed off all your luggage to the airline. Make your way to the security gate. You need to be prepared for this. The security folks will be mildly prepared. You need to be more prepared than they are. They will spot you with your animal and ask you how you want to handle this. What they mean - the crate has to go through the x-ray machine. Your pet SHOULD NOT go through the x-ray machine. If you have a calm dog, you can probably just hold them while the empty crate goes through the machine. For cats, this is not an option. Even the calmest cat has an elevated nervous system while at an airport. Before you get to the airport, put a harness on your cat. I don't care if your cat will put up a fight, just do it. It's for their own protection, and they won't have to wear it for very long. Carry a leash to attach to the harness when you have to remove them from the crate. It'll be better if they're on a leash than just have a collar on if they freak out and wiggle out of your arms.

Tell the kind folks that you would like a private room while they run the crate. Our friendly TSA agents asked why we wanted the private room and why we couldn't just hold the cats. I told him they would probably be fine but that it would be better for their stress levels if we had a private room and that we really weren't sure how they were going to react. Turns out the guy on duty is allergic to cats so he just didn't want to be in a closed room with two of them. But he finally ushered us back to the room. We lifted each cat out, and they absolutely clung to us! Neither of them wanted anything to do with the rest of the room. Then they were each more excited than I've ever seen them to escape back into their crates.

We made it through security. Excellent. That was the tough part. Proceed to your gate as normal. Contrary to my beliefs, you do not get priority boarding if flying with an animal. Wait until your boarding group is called. Or, since you checked all of your bags (right?) you can just wait until the very end to board since you'll only need the space under the seat in front of you.

Hopefully your cats will remain calm on the flight. Ours didn't ever seem to sleep, but they remained blessedly quiet. We checked on them frequently and were always met with anxious eyes trying to figure out when they would be free.

Customs was the tricky part for us. DFW was out of Canadian customs forms, so we were not provided any on the flight. This meant we had to wait through the whole customs line until we were at the very front, then grab a form and try to fill it out without causing too much hold up. As a result of this, I scanned all the questions. The large declaration question starting with "foods, produce, nuts, berries..." goes on for several more lines to eventually contain "animals." I missed the animals part. I marked no. The customs agent was not impressed. Thankfully, she went easy on us. We clearly weren't trying to sneak them in and we had all the proper documents, which convinced her to use her beautiful mercy and allow us into the country.

We had discussed taking the train back to the apartment, but opted for a taxi in the moment since we'd all had a long day. It was definitely a very wise decision. Because then we were home. Safely. Thank goodness.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The smell of rain

Rain creates an atmosphere of romance.

Rain brings new beginnings, fresh life, and a clean earth. It sends men to war and brings rivers to the edges of their beds. It's a beautiful part of life, one I'll always find comforting.

It's delicious to lie in bed in the apartment and listen to the rain pelt the city. It licks our windows and tickles the trees, trying to make it through the branches all the way down to the earth, it's proper home. It lightens the air and cools the breeze. 

People respond differently to the rain. The business man hurries through the streets, trying to keep his suit dry and his hair in order. The child brightens and scrambles from puddle to puddle. Some take a day off, to fully embrace the production gracing the world. 

I like to sit out on the balcony. From there I can watch the whole city become new. I can see the mountain tops smothered in clouds, arguing for snowfall instead of rain. The water inlets gathering their strength and heading toward the ocean with their new rain swelling their bellies. The treetops seemingly laughing with each new drop, bouncing and dancing to welcome the lifeblood. Skyscrapers dulled for a time to bring them back to the realities of this earth. 

Nothing withstands this earth, this life. But that's beautiful.