Jack went missing over 7 months ago. And I’ve been struggling with the complexities that have emerged as a result of my vow to him that no other animal would be die because he or she had flown a commercial airline. And yesterday I received two more wake-up calls that this work MUST move forward.
In the middle of the afternoon, I got a text from Friend of Jack Eileen Pollan that a post had been put up on the page about Nahla, a Viszla who had gone missing from Delta’s cargo area at La Guardia Airport (just across the borough of Queens from where Jack had gone missing at JFK). Knowing the FoJ community would respond with help and prayers, I immediately posted Nahla’s picture to Jack’s facebook page and asked the FoJs for search help. And then I went to the vet with my oldest dog, Trixie.
You see, Trix has been limping off and on for about the last month. And the limp (her right rear leg) has been getting more prominent. I was worried she had a torn meniscus and figured it would be good to get an x-ray and have a doctor take a look. And so we were at the vet for about an hour. Turns out my Trixster (age 10) has arthritis.
Just as we were finishing up with the doctor, Bonnie Folz, Jack’s on-site search coordinator and missing pet finder extraordinaire, called to tell me there was a flyer to post on the Jack page and that help was needed getting the word out in the area surrounding La Guardia. It was pretty clear that Nahla had left the airport property.
And as I got off the phone with Bonnie and paid my bill, I looked up to see one of the receptionists filling out a health certificate for a gentleman and his dog seated on the other side of the reception area. I listened for a bit – seems he was taking his dog to St. Croix, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands. And then I looked at the dog. The dog was too big to go under the seat. And the dog was not young. Not young AT ALL.
That meant this guy was flying out of Miami (temperature yesterday: 88 degrees F) with his dog in cargo – a dog who, it turned out, was 13 years old – and was not even having a vet check him over!!! I had to ask…
“Sir, are you flying your dog out in cargo? Are you aware of the stresses older dogs are subjected to when they fly cargo?”
He looked shocked. “Yes, he’s flying to the USVI… it’s only a 2 hour flight… ”
“Sir, do you know how many animals are lost, injured or killed by the airlines every year? And do you know that older animals are particularly at risk? Did you hear about Jack the Cat – lost by American Airlines’ negligence for 61 days, and then he died?”
“Oh my God no… you’re freaking me out!”
So then I went and sat with him and his dog (great dog, by the way – rescued from the streets in Mexico) and told him about Jack. And even though what happened to Nahla was not Delta’s fault, I told him about Nahla, too – to remind him that flying in cargo is very stressful, and that dogs coming out of that situation might be very stressed and still not be safe. And then I got his email address and promised to send him some information, which I did, right after I got home and posted Nahla’s flyer to Jack’s page, asking all the FoJs for help.
And then, later that night, Bonnie let me know that Nahla had been found. Unfortunately, she was not found before she had crossed the rainbow bridge.
And I was reminded, yet again, how important it is that all of us keep Jack in mind all the time.
- Nahla was lost because her guardian (who was an experienced handler) was trying to take her out of her crate in the open cargo area. When Karen and I talked about what it was like to look for Jack in the baggage area right after he went missing, what she said over and over and over again was that the baggage area was LOUD – not a place a cat would want to stay. And clearly, not a place an overstimulated, frightened dog would want to stay, either. NO ONE (not airport personnel, and not even pet parents) should be allowed to remove an animal from his or her carrier in anything but a secure room in the airport. And airlines must be required to provide such a room if they are going to move animals as “checked baggage” or “cargo.”
- Most people just do not understand the stresses that a dog or cat (or any other animal for that matter) goes through when flying as cargo or checked baggage. First and foremost, the animal is separated from his or her pet parent – the person he or she trusts for protection and love. Secondly, conditions are loud, bumpy, and even possibly smelly (remember, dogs and cats have a much stronger sense of smell than humans do). And thirdly, the animal will disembark from this stressful experience in what may be an extremely unfamiliar environment – an airport in an unknown city. Unless the animal is very mellow by nature (since sedatives and flying are not a good combination), this has the potential to be a recipe for disaster unless all the humans involved are EXTREMELY careful.
- All the vets and vet techs in the practice I take my animals to are well aware of what happened to Jack. Several times, they have referred pet parents to me to help them prepare for travel. But this was a new receptionist, and clearly the dog had recently been seen by a vet and just needed a health certificate. If I hadn’t been at the right place at the right time — and spoken up! — this poor 13-year-old dog would have been put in cargo without a second thought… and definitely without his guardian understanding that at minimum, he needed to do some things to make sure this fur-kid would be safe. BOTTOM LINE: it’s up to all of us, all the time, to keep our eyes and ears open, to be aware when people are planning to fly with their pets, to be prepared to raise awareness and help them prepare in the best way possible.
I know the Universe was speaking to me yesterday – reminding me that even thought honoring Jack’s legacy is complicated and sometimes difficult, it is absolutely necessary. We must educate people and require that the airlines – and the government – change the way they approach pet air travel. Jack, and now Nahla, deserve nothing less.
And I pray that Guido, the 13-year-old rescue dog I met yesterday, will have a safe passage to the USVI. He’s moving there. And I hope he gets to enjoy a nice long retirement on those pristine beaches.
April 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm
Well said, as always! I believe that making people aware is truly what is needed. I believe, too, that humans will be thankful to have that information shared, as sad as it is.
I keep Jack’s photo in my scrolling screen-saver. Even if I didn’t, I would never forget him and the awesome experience we all went through together.
I pledge to always be aware of an opportunity to help other pet people avoid a painful loss.
April 5, 2012 at 10:19 pm
i am so sad that you had to go through everything you did in trying to save your beloved Jack. I hope some of the tears are being replaced by thoughts of beautiful moments with him. I wanted to make sure you knew about the situation that is happening in Orlando Florida the past 9 days. While these poor kittties aren’t flying, they are being subjected to some horrific animal abuse. Please, if you haven’t already, visit Save Loews Cats on facebook and read about them and see the pictures . We are trying to spread the word and get these cats help immediatly. It would be great if you could post this on Jacks page. I know he would want to help =)
April 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm
You stated the facts perfectly and Jack would be honored to know that his death was not in vain and the fight in the transporting of animals will continue because of him. What happened to Jack must never happen to another animal again. Animals being transported need to be transported in the cabin with their human guardian. Weight limit restrictions must be changed or eliminated, so that most animals can be ensured a safe arrival at their destinations. Transporting an animal in cargo, is not proper. People need to be educated on the ramifications of pet travel in cargo and the only way to educate them, is to get the word out. Because of Jack, this WILL be accomplished. A beautiful, defenseless life was taken, and all because of rules and regulations. Jack’s Mom lost him, not because of her negligence, but in my belief, due to the negligence of the airlines. No human guardian should EVER go through what Jack’s Mom went through. Special secured rooms need to be set in place in order to make sure a situation like Nahla’s never happens again. Remember, these might be “just a cat” or “just a dog” to some, but to others, they are our children, our family. They cannot be replaced, nor, can or should they be treated with any less respect than a human when it comes to air travel. RIP Jack and Nahla. Neither of you will ever be forgotten.
April 5, 2012 at 10:35 pm
Mary Beth, thank you for this necessary post. I refreshed my memories and feelings last night when I saw your post about Nahla…Rest in Peace, new Angel…Definitely vet offices should notify the owners of pets before their travel in a process of getting their travel certificate. If everybody start doing this campaign we will save our furry friends and our desperate life without them if we loss them. We must prevent it for the honor of Jack, our Sunny Hero.
April 5, 2012 at 10:48 pm
Thank you for this post and all you’re doing to educate the masses about pets traveling in cargo. I have my Jack tote bag, and my kids tell me it makes them sad when I carry it. I tell them it’s important that people know what happened to Jack so they don’t end up heartbroken over their furbabies.
April 5, 2012 at 10:57 pm
As always you did a great job educating the man on the dangers of travel with our loved furbabies. As far as Nahla that was very sad and disturbing to hear about. This poor dog was traumatized and that is what happens to these animals in cargo. Thank you Mary Beth for keeping the fight alive for Jack’s sake.
April 5, 2012 at 11:01 pm
Jack brought us together for a purpose; I am glad MaryBeth you had the opportunity to speak to that owner about his pets’ safety. It is up to us to educate people of the dangers that are associated with flying pets and make them aware of the options (or lack of them).that exist. Hopefully he made other arrangements. If it weren’t for Jack, I would not have been made aware of the dangers. Hope Karen, Barry and Millie are doing well…
April 5, 2012 at 11:29 pm
I am so glad that you were there to educate Guido’s father on the dangers of traveling with a pet in airline cargo. Bless you, Mary Beth! This is something we all must do as the opportunity arises in Jack and Nahla’s memory. I think of dear Jack often and hope all is well with Karen, Barry, and Millie.
April 5, 2012 at 11:34 pm
My husband is in the Army and while it hasn’t happened yet, it is always a possibility that he will receive orders to be stationed overseas, i.e. Germany, Hawaii, etc. We also have 10 cats. My husband knows that if he ever does get those orders, he will be moving there alone unless we can find a safe way to get all our furbabies there and obviously not flying them via cargo. It may cost a few thousand dollars to charter a pet only flight or to fly back and forth several times with 2 cats at a time under seat, but that is worth it to me to make sure they are safe. I know some people and many military families don’t have this luxury, and we may not even if this ever happens. Things need to change in regards to pets traveling on airplanes. No one (especially military families) should have to choose between leaving their pet behind (whether it be for a trip or moving to a different country) and having their pet fly in the unsafe cargo area.
April 5, 2012 at 11:59 pm
Well said MB, as always. I think you were meant to be in that vet office at that exact time. Prayers up for Guido and a safe trip. Jack, dear boy, will watch over him and his family:-). Ty MB
April 6, 2012 at 12:25 am
What a great post…couldn’t have been more perfectly said. I look at Jack’s picture every day, and tears come to my eyes when I think of what happened to him, his Mom and family. thank God you were there to help that man and his beloved dog before it was too late…the rules have to change so that our beloved furbabies can fly safely with their parents…my best to Karen, Barry and Mily…RIP Jack and Nahla
April 6, 2012 at 12:53 am
Another great, informational, thoughtful and touching write up from you. It makes me sad to think of Jack and now, Nahla but I am glad that their stories are out there to help & educate people. Thank you for sharing your thoughts & all your knowledge. Travel safe, Guido!
Keep up the amazing work, FoJs!!!!
April 6, 2012 at 1:47 am
Bless your heart Mary Beth 🙂 You are such a courageous angel for all our beloved fur babies. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. And a million snuggles and hugs for Jack, who is taking care of Nahla right now.
April 6, 2012 at 2:20 am
Thank you for continuing to carry on Jack’s legacy.
April 6, 2012 at 12:48 pm
As always well thought out! You make Jake proud. Keep up the good work Mary Beth
April 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm
wonderfully worded post MaryBeth, i still think of Jack every day, he will be forever in my heart, his legacy must now help other pets, so sorry Nahla did not make it, another angel helping Jack bring awareness to the danger of flying our pets in cargo….
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