In the weeks/days before leaving we got new cage fencing, water bottle, zip ties, clear plastic sheet, bag of grass, and box of food. We also prepared the kennel. The kennel came with a large piece of absorbent furry fleece. My sister sewed two fleece pockets from the material and put velcro on the bottoms. A small doggy diaper would fit folded in half inside the pocket. She also sewed a cover for the kennel from dark blue cotton. It was light weight enough to let a air and a little light in. We chose dark blue so it would be inconspicuous. There was a slit in the top for the handle and the front had a velcro flap. Rodney took trips in the kennel for about six months before leaving. He could stay in the kennel for 9 hours with no problem. We left him in it overnight once about a month before leaving. I printed Live Animal in three languages and stuck it to the sides and top. We printed a double sided picture of Rodney that said, "My Name is Rodney," laminated it, and zip tied it to the kennel handle. I also printed copies for my sister and I to carry in our purses. We put a leather luggage tag and an airline luggage tag with our US address on the kennel as well. I printed four red arrows with "UP" on them and stuck them on all four corners of the kennel. Two days before flying I called the airline to confirm the reservation and find out if any other animals were on the flight. It was good I called because they were missing some information about the kennel size and what kind of animal was flying. Fortunately for us there weren’t any other animals scheduled for the flight. We also went to the vet and got our health certificate signed.
We packed 6 pieces of fence, the plastic, Rodney's wood house, hammocks, and half the box of food, and water bottle in the suitcases. I had a large Ziploc bag of grass and bag of food in my backpack. I also packed the spare fleece kennel lining with doggy diaper in a large Ziploc bag in my back pack and a clean towel/rag with diaper. My sister packed a small bag of food and grass in her backpack as well. The day we left we got up at 4:30 AM. We were leaving the house at 7:00. We cut vegetables and put them in a Ziploc in my sister's back pack. We let Rodney run around on some rags (our friend rents a house with wood floors) while we took apart his cage. We threw away the whole cage except his dirty hammock which I put in yet another Ziploc bag and his food dish that I washed and put in the suitcase. We put fresh water in the water bottle, put several handfuls of hay in and filled the food dish. We gave Rodney kisses and put him in the kennel, not knowing if he would come out alive. We put the cover on the kennel and left for the train station only 5 minutes late. We made it onto the train fine and nobody (even our friends) recognized the kennel. I sat in the window seat and put the kennel on the floor with the door facing the wall so we could open the cover flap and he could get air. When there wasn't anyone walking through the car we put the kennel on our laps and fed him vegetables through the bars. We had to change trains twice. We ran into an old Japanese friend on the first train and when it was time to get off she wanted to help us get our bags off the train. (You only have 30 seconds to get off the train.) She tried to grab the kennel out of my hand. It tipped suddenly nearly on end as I held on for dear life and explained that there was a pet inside. I was afraid Rodney was thrown against the inside and might have been hurt. We had five minutes before the next train and I peaked at him to see if he was okay. He was eating so I figured he was fine. Sigh of relief. [:f] While we were riding the train we were wishing we could go the whole way across the ocean by train. It's so easy. We arrived at the Airport before 1:00PM and got into the check-in cue. We were nervous and on edge (at least I was) but we tried to look cool and collected. I reminded the family that we weren’t asking any questions. We were just going to act like this was a perfectly normal thing. We can check in at the first class counter, something I highly recommend. You don't have to stand in line as long and the treat you better. We plopped the kennel on the top of the counter and took the cover off. She made a copy of the health certificate and taped it on the top of the kennel. I signed the tag saying he had been fed and they put that on too. They printed the normal luggage routing tag and put it over the handle. We continued to stuff vegetables into the kennel while she did all this. After they finished checking us in a guy carried the kennel to the end of the counters and put it on the oversized baggage cart. We didn't know what was going to happen next so my sister and I stayed next to the cart while the rest of our group went to get lunch.
Rodney on the Cart
After half an hour a guy came and loaded the cart. I was sure he was going to let one of the boxes fall on the kennel. We followed him all the way through the airport until he came to employee only doors. As he went through I called out to please be careful. I’m sure he thought we were nuts. We went and got lunch and then to the gate where they were ready to load. Rodney had been away from us for about an hour. Our agent was at the gate and we asked her if he had been loaded on the plane. She checked on the computer and said he was. Fortunately it was a cool, but not cold, day so I wasn’t worried that he would get overheated or cold. With clenched fists, prayers, and a few tears, we hoped that the takeoff wasn’t too scary for him. I couldn’t sleep the whole flight. Every time I closed my eyes I thought of my baby down in the dark all alone. Fortunately there was hardly any turbulence. I was afraid of a bad jolt injuring him. When we landed in San Fran. we practically ran to the baggage claim. We asked some staff where the animals came up and they pointed us to the elevator. My sister went to find him while I went back to our group. When she brought him he was alive and very frightened. She said he came up in the elevator with several cats and dogs from other international flights. There wasn’t any food in his dish so he either ate it or it fell out. I attempted to put pellets in through the bars while we knelt on the floor in the corner of the baggage claim and talked to him. We called to him and talked to him but he was unresponsive and frozen crouched in the middle of the kennel. We got out a carrot and pushed it in. He still didn’t move. Next we got some celery and shoved it in. Finally his nose started to move and then it was like he woke up and attacked the celery. We were very relived. We had to go through customs inspection because we were bringing an animal in. We also marked that we had vegetables. I knew you couldn’t bring fruit into California, but I didn’t remember vegetables. The customs people were very nice. The lady recognized he was a guinea pig right away and said she used to have guinea pigs. I don’t think they had every had one come through customs before, but they didn’t have a problem with it. They told us we had to give up all the vegetables and the grass! At first they said we would have to give up the food too. They scanned our suitcases and were going to take the box of food out but there was some commotion and they never got it. A break for us. We surrendered the bags of grass and vegetables from our backpacks. Then they said we had to get all the grass out of the kennel! It’s a good thing we had the towel and kennel liner. We got him to walk out of the kennel onto his towel and I held him while the guy pulled the liner out and attempted to shake it off into the trash. Rodney was soooo happy to be held and I was sooooo happy to hold him. We put the fresh kennel liner in which was good because the old one had been in there for about 18 hours and smelled awful. The guy said we could keep some food because he figured it didn’t have any meat product. Little did he know that we still had all the food. We gave Rodney kisses and told him he was a brave boy and he just had to go on one more airplane. Then we put him back in the kennel and spent the next hour running all over San Francisco Intl. trying to figure out where to re-check Rodney. Nobody knew a thing. We had a short layover and were beginning to panic when we finally found the right counter. The guy there slapped several new “Animal” and “Up” stickers on the kennel and then they had to walk us down to the TSA station so they could swab the kennel for explosives.
We had to take Rodney out again in there. The lady thought he was really cute and when she scratched his back he purred for her. Go figure. She attached an inspected card to the kennel and told us not to let the plane take off until someone had torn off the bottom and brought it to us. Rodney went straight outside from that room and we went to our gate. We were only there for about 2 minutes before we boarded. On the way into the plane I told a flight attendant that we were traveling with a pet and I was supposed to receive a boarding ticket for him. We found our seats and a minute later my sister looked out the window and saw Rodney’s kennel sitting on the tarmac, with other oversized luggage scattered around him. It was warm that day and he was on the black asphalt in the direct sun. Needless to say we freaked. My blood was boiling. The baggage guy was putting regular bags on the belt in a normal careless fashion. The four of us were glued to the windows and I was looking for a flight attendant to complain to, not that it would have done any good. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 10 minutes, they baggage guy had loaded every thing except the kennel. He bent down, pulled the tag off, picked up the kennel roughly, swung it up to see inside, and put it on the conveyer belt. Just then a stewardess came up the isle and I complained to here about how our animal was treated. I cannot remember now what I said. I wanted to know how to make an official complaint. I fumed internally while we sat on the plane waiting to push back. I was afraid it was too warm in the cargo area because it was warm in the plane. They finally brought us our tag and we pushed back. In this case the tag wasn’t necessary since we had seen him go onto the plane. I continued to be mad after we took off until I passed out from exhaustion. As usual the stewardess came buy about two minutes later asking if I wanted something to drink. My eyes cross easily and I guess they were when she woke me up because she jumped back and said with alarm “Are you alright?” I responded with, “I’m fine. I’ve just been awake for 30 hours.” She didn’t bother me again after that, but I never fell asleep again. We landed in Denver a little before 3:00PM. We went to baggage claim and found all our suitcases. We asked where to pick up animals. We went to the area and then waited for a very long time. They guy bringing stuff out asked what we were waiting for and we told him our pet. He said, “Hmm, that’s strange. They usually come up first.” Once again I was worried, but he came back in a minute with the kennel. I have no idea where it had been. Rodney looked fine so we put the cover over the kennel and trundled all our stuff out to the taxi area where we were to catch a van.
We had signed up with the Super Shuttle van company inside and once we were outside they gave us the runaround for an hour. They kept telling us to go here and then to there and then we wouldn’t fit in this van so wait for the next one. After being out there in the cold wind for an hour we demanded our money back and hoped in a different van line that was just waiting for passengers. We didn’t tell any of them we had a pet with us and they didn’t notice. It was an hour drive. I held the kennel in my lap and fell asleep with my head on the top. Kennels do not make good pillows. I had the worst crick in my neck. When we got to our house we put the kennel on the floor with the towel in front of it and opened the door so Rodney could come and go freely. He mostly wanted to stay in the kennel. I guess it seemed like a safe place.
Rodney in America
After my dad went to get gas in the car my mom and I went to the grocery store. Fortunately they had wood chips and timothy hay there. I have since discovered that it is the only grocery store that does, so it was a lucky break for us. We picked up dinner breakfast for us and vegetables and bottled water for Rodney. We all ate when we got back and then we put Rodney’s new cage together. For the first time in 30 hours he could get down in his cage. Rodney was very brave about exploring the new house. He loved running around on the big empty carpet. He was so hyper that night he didn’t want to go to bed. It was like having a two year old with jet lag. At 12:30AM I couldn’t stand or see any more and I told him he had to go to sleep. I had been up for over 36 hours. When I finally went to bed he was standing at the bars looking at me with puppy eyes. This continued every night for the first week, so I guess he really had jet lag.
In the process of building the cage a certain delirious member of my family threw away the extra piece of plastic that we were going to hang as an apron around the hay bin. We ended up with more hay outside the cage than inside for the fist month. We looked all over for clear plastic and the sales people kept looking at us like we are from Mars. We ended up using Plexiglas.
Well that was our horribly long adventure.
- Let Sleeping Pigs Lie
I think it is wonderful that you had a chance to write it all up for all of us to read; very helpful of you! :)
Rodney sure is an amazing guy, and so well-traveled! I love the photo where he snoozing on your (?) lap.
ETA: That is a great idea, putting his photo on the outside of the kennel!
I was wondering about planes not too long ago, because I am currently looking for a work term, and one of the jobs I applied for was in Toronto (and I'm in Newfoundland). That would be a 3 hour flight, or about a 5 day drive. I told my Mom and Dad that the pigs would be coming with me and we’d have to drive (if I had of gotten the job). Can small animals be considered carry on luggage, which come to the seats with you? At least then you’d know they wouldn’t be handled roughly. Has anyone had a pig that died on a plane? That would be so horrible.
Anyway, I’m glad you all arrived safe and sound, including Rodney!
They've been really good with me flying with him in the cabin, even giving me water during the insane TSA no beverages allowed days. The only thing that annoys me is the charge because I don't perceive how bringing the animal makes the airline incur any additional cost. If it did, I'd have NO PROBLEM paying but it seems as if they charge just to discourage everyone from doing it.
I still think this is the cutest little road journal! I wish I had had more time to write a longer response when I first read it. Rodney is a very lucky, and cute, little piggie.