A Determination of the Will
As most of you know, I was preparing for the move to Germany, a new life, a new adventure. After spending the month saying good-bye to family and friends, we were set to fly out on the 8th of July. Upon arriving back in Columbia (SC) on the 7th, I wanted to talk with the airlines about temperature restrictions and any specific preparations that I needed to know about that I hadn’t read on the website. We waited for 2 hours, but no one came around the ticked counter. We spoke briefly to the lady manning the airport customer service desk, and she said that she thought the airlines would call me if it were too hot for Brutus to fly, considering that we had a reservation for him. We left the airport, and went to Inayaka’s for sushi one last time as regulars.
We then went and raided Frutti Cup before heading back to the hotel.
The next day, we spent time rearranging luggage to make sure that the caving duffle didn’t exceed the maximum 70 pounds. We washed the rental car, topped it off, loaded it up, and headed to the airport. We picked up our tickets and paid for Brutus’ fair. I, again, tried to talk the ticket lady in allowing me to just buy Brutus a regular ticked for a seat on the plane, but she just laughed, thinking I was joking. TSA cleared the kennel, but we kept Brutus out until the very last minute to help him deal with things. When it was time, he loaded up nicely, and we proceeded through security. We waited at Gate 15 for its arrival and finally boarded the plane. This was to be Brutus’ first plane flight. So, it was an understatement that I was nervous! But after everyone was boarded, the stewardess told me that the pilot felt it was too hot for Brutus and I decided to deplane and stay with Brutus. He went on to make his destination while Brutus and I went to make another itinerary.
Robert from United Airlines took charge of the task to find us another connection, and found one for the next morning from Columbia to O’Hare to Frankfurt. After figuring it out, he asked if I had a hotel room, which, since it was paid for 2 nights, I did. He called for the shuttle and I was whisked back to my awaiting hotel room with Brutus by my side.
We arrived early on the 9th for our flight. I was only able to rest for about an hour. Brutus got in his crate like a champ and I headed on to the security check point. Back down to Gate 15, I went. The flight came in, and we were loaded up. During systems check, the pilots found a problem with the computer regarding wing control. Somehow, I think that is an important function! The announced came over the PA system letting us know what was going on, and that they were going to deplane us until it was fixed. As I got to the front, I asked the steward about Brutus. He said to wait with him. After everyone was off the plane, the pilot (who has a mastiff) asked me what I wanted to do, that Brutus was sitting comfortably under a vent and the wind was blowing, and he was calm. The pilot promised he would go check him every 15 minutes or so, and he did. After about an hour and a half, the plane was still “broke”. People started scrambling for other flights. One lady was making a big scene. Let me tell you folks, you will get more accomplished through customer service if you aren’t a bitch ? The pilot told me that he felt it was time to remove Brutus from the plane. So the crew put him back into the air conditioning of Operations. After we hit the 5 hour mark, they asked if I would like to come back and see him. “Of course!”
I was allowed to take him out, and I watered him, gave him his basted bovine knee cap which he took pure delight in destroying, and loved on him until he calmed down. Shift change came, and I had to leave Operations because it is a restricted zone. Everyone coming in remembered us and said hi to Brutus by his name. ? At the 8 hour mark, they officially cancelled the flight. Robert set about finding me another flight and this time, it was to Dulles with just an hour to spare to catch the flight to Frankfurt. I accepted it, just willing to move on. They made arrangements to have Brutus brought back upstairs through security so that he would be able allowed to be taken outside. For some reason, they weren’t accommodating with my idea of simply letting him whiz on the broken plane’s front tire. Go figure!
Might I suggest, Columbia airport, that you put more than a whole in the concrete filled with pea gravel for pups to relieve themselves. How about a fake or old fire hydrant or something? My boy needs something to pee on!
So, after about an hour and a half, Brutus went back into his kennel, and I went back through security. By then, TSA agents recognized me. I’m still not sure if that was a good thing or not! Back down to Gate 15, I go! But as the time of boarding creeps closer, I see that the flight is delayed. There is bad weather grounding the plane from where it will be coming from. Finally, an hour late, it arrives. Robert asks me what I want to do. I tell him that I will take the flight, and at least I will be a step closer to my destination. He sets about the task of finding me the next flight to Frankfurt from there. It will be the next day, the 10th at 14:55 EST via Lufthansa. He instructs me that when I arrive at Dulles, to go directly to customer service and get them to comp me a hotel, considering our ordeal. We board the plane, and we are on our way! We took off in typical form, and I can only imagine what was going through Brutus’ mind: “Holy shit! What the hell is going on!”
As we flew north to Dulles (Virginia), there was a storm front off the western side nearly the entire way. The lightning was flashing like a bunch of uncoordinated strobe lights, the thunderheads looked like huge trees dark amongst white fog. A beautiful sight. I looked around to see if anyone else was enjoying the site, but almost everyone else was deep in thought, sleeping, reading, or on their computer. I tried to take a few pictures, but none of them came out.
We arrive in Dulles, and I stop at the Customer Service desk for United. They are really overworked people, with so many people screaming and throwing ‘tude at them. When it is finally my turn, the lady has a tired and weary look about her. I greeted her with a smile and ask her how she is doing. She says that she is not supposed to be there, and I smile and tell her that neither am I (with a laugh). I tell her my plight and tell her what Robert from Columbia instructed me. She says that she cannot comp me anything because my flight was delayed due to weather. I explain that my original flight was due to mechanical failure this morning. She gets on the bullhorn with her boss, and about 15 minutes later, I’m walking away with my vouchers: 1 for me, and 1 for Boo.
I arrive down in baggage claim. No luggage, and no Brutus. I walk into baggage claims and a wonderful woman is sympathetic and tracks down everything. She found that baggage handlers had set Brutus into an area that was set aside for the next day’s flight. My luggage was on a plane already. After showing her that my ticket was for the next day’s flight, she had everything including Brutus brought up. I was soooooo happy to see him. We waited outside for the shuttle. I recognized some people from the Columbia Airport, and they said they were all wondering if Brutus and I got there safely. Despite their concern, when the shuttle got there, they made sure they were the first to be loaded up. I had to wait for the next shuttle.
I arrived at the hotel at 02:00. It was a Holiday Inn, but a 5 star one. The room was immaculate! I got Brutus settled with his food and water and outdoor excursion of relief, and then jumped into the shower. Believe me when I tell you that it was pure heaven! The bed was H-U-G-E !!! A storm rolled in as I closed my eyes. I could hear the rain falling on the air conditioning unit and window sill, and the low rolling rumble of the thunder as I drifted off to sleep. Brutus and I slept the entire 6 hours. Brutus didn’t move a bit! Nor did I!
We packed up the room and were ready for the shuttle to take us back to the airport. We rolled up to the Lufthansa ticket desk. Everything was going smoothly. Handed her my tickets, and then she handed me a bill for Brutus. When I informed her that he was already paid for, she searched her computer but couldn’t find anything to indicate that in her computer. She held my larger luggage and the dog crate while I made my way across the terminal to the United Airlines counters. After waiting for my turn, I finally got to the counter and was helped by a lady named “K. Kaur”. She said that indeed Brutus was paid for all the way to Germany, and she wrote me out a hand receipt to take over to the Lufthansa desk. Finally, I made it back up to the Lufthansa desk and we were good to go. They said they would put Brutus in the kennel in 15 minutes, and indicated a safe zone for Brutus to use to relieve himself. It was a cute little area surrounded by a nice wrought iron fence, Astroturf on the ground surrounding an old fire hydrant. Pure doggy tinkle heaven :D. We then went back inside and waited. After passing through TSA inspections, I made my way through security. Let me tell you: If you ever go to Dulles, it is a H-U-G-E airport!! You take trains to terminals… and my ticket said Gate B49!
I sat beside a wonderful Indian lady named Manjiree who also lives in Germany. She was a wonderful delight to talk to, and is also enjoying of horticulture. It was nice to be able to actually use technical terms and have someone understand what I was saying. Her daughter has a degree in law, and was just commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy. Major congrats for her on that. She should be, and is, very proud. I watched a couple of movies, finishing “Clash of the Titans” and “Alice In Wonderland”, and getting halfway through “Sherlock Holmes”. I was worried about the food, as USA Today reported that food inspectors found safety flaws in the way the food was prepared for the airlines at Dulles, but it was pretty good. Finally, we were descending into Frankfurt. Something she told me, and that stuck with me, is that Germans write their “1”s like “7”s.
The first thing on my mind when we landed was finding a bathroom! I wanted to use the facilities, but also wanted to fill my water bottle for Brutus, as I knew he would be thirsty. I got into the bathroom, and afterwards, I didn’t see how to flush the stupid thing! (laughs) I finally figured it out! After filling my water bottle up, I hurried down to baggage claim.
When I got there, Brutus was waiting for me! I was so happy to see him. A positive thing about Frankfurt is that they don’t charge you for the luggage carts. I don’t think I would have been able to get out of the baggage claim area if it weren’t for the cart. Jeff said he would meet me in baggage claim, but it was a secured area. So Brutus and I made our way to the reception area slowly. We met a lady there that was living in Iowa, but was from Germany. She was missing her dog, and was loving on Brutus. She marveled how Brutus would sit up in the seat like a person. Finally, Brutus spotted Jeff. We just had to wait for Spc Fernandez, who, btw, drove like a freakin’ race car driver, pegging that van out the entire way back to Schweinfurt. I don’t remember too much about the trip to the hotel, as Brutus and I slept most of the way. We arrived safely, unloaded… and slept some more!
I feel that overall, this made Brutus a better dog. He’s not so shy around people, became used to people just reaching for him, and is better in the vehicle.