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2008-06-11 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Blaze is taken home
Pets by Joanne Anderson

Part 2 of "The Fugitive Feist": Blaze Flies Home to Atlanta

Saturday June 7th AirTran Flight 341 out of La Guardia had a special Babylon Shelter passenger, one who had been featured on News 12 the night before. The airline treated him like a canine celebrity and as an extra added bonus- paid for his trip.

Blaze has been reunited with his owner in Georgia; although it's still a mystery how the 1 year old JRT (Jack Russell Terrier) managed to travel north 930 miles and wind up lost on Long Island.

My June 5th "Pets" detailed the saga of this little brown dog with comical teeth at Babylon Town Shelter found with his leash wrapped around a bush in N. Amityville. At the shelter, a scanner revealed a microchip tracing to a 1 year old "Feist" (Southern variety Jack Russell) and Ashley, his ecstatic owner in Atlanta who had been searching for him since last December when the feisty Terrier eluded the grip of her pet sitter.

Last week we didn't know how we were going to get Blaze home. Ashley had no car for a possible Savannah rendezvous, so I explored alternative transports, including reaching out to the volunteers at Team Vivi (formed in honor of the Westminster Whippet lost at JFK) and the Mayor's Alliance because I was concerned about shipping such an energetic JRT home in cargo unattended.

Carmen welcomes Blaze at AirTran Carmen welcomes Blaze at AirTran It's amazing how many caring folks are out there in cyber "rescue" space. About 10 people offered to escort/drive/fly Blaze home later this month, including the Amityville man who found him and a kind flight attendant who would route Blaze through Atlanta in the cabin on one of her flights after she returned from a third world country (where she is also trying to "airlift" a desperate, runway stray).

As luck would have it, a sad coincidence became too good an opportunity to pass up. My friend Monica of MCM Rottweiler Rescue was scheduled to fly AirTran to Atlanta June 7th to visit her sister who is quite ill. Yes, I did impose and booked Blaze in the cabin with her. (Air- Tran doesn't ship pets in cargo.)

Guaranteeing Blaze would be on board wasn't easy. It took several hours on the phone because I wasn't the passenger, plus pet regulations were a bit stringent for Blaze, an unseasoned air traveler. As a 14 lb., stubby-legged but long pup, our Feist was teetering at the size limit. He had to fit under the seat in a carrier 8.5 in high by 12 in wide by 17 in. long. We'd never get him into a hard Vari-Kennel. Well ventilated, leak proof soft carriers were allowed, but he'd have to squeeze like Cinderella's step sisters into the glass slipper and then lie down. The flight was 2 ½ hours non-stop; Blaze could stand it, but could Monica and the other poor passengers if he decided to fuss?

Monica and Blaze meet Alex before boarding AirTran Flight 341. Monica and Blaze meet Alex before boarding AirTran Flight 341. Success would depend on Blaze's "petiquette". Most Sherpa bagged Toy size passengers are accustomed to flying as puppies. Blaze, a speed demon dog who ran like a gazelle for the TV camera, is a rookie flyer. Would he sleep, stay quiet, and mind his toileting manners? We had to be sure.

Using the Flight Simulator: Blaze and I practiced "flying" 3 days at the shelter. I'd stick him a soft carrier with a Kong, push him under a chair and sit with my legs over him to simulate air time. This built his tolerance gradually a "digging" first half hour; a calm 45 minutes the next day; a perfecto 90 minutes; the last. Under the guidance of my vet, we were also testing slight sedation. Blaze, however, had no idea I was also socializing kittens in my lap while "over Dulles". Soon as we pretend deplaned, he'd zoom around the shelter yard at top speed, despite the mellowing meds.

The VIP JRT: Blaze was ready for his big journey but we still feared he'd be denied a spot on the plane because of size, breed, energy or our inexperience. We'd wait at the airport in case he was rejected. Monica, under enough stress already, didn't need the extra worry, so I called AirTran's corporate office and explained Blaze's unique situation.

AirTran was amazed about the Fugitive Feist and more than sympathetic. Corporate called Rosa at LaGuardia who hooked us up with the terminal staff. AirTran called back later to say they were "comping"

Blaze's ticket. Wow.

Picking our pooch up at the shelter at 5 a. m. so we'd beat the Belmont Stakes traffic, we securely attached 2 collars, a harness, 2 leashes and 4 ID tags. (Yup, I am neurotic.) I let him rip in the shelter yard like the toutedat the-time Big Brown, to tire him.

Blaze's entourage was escorted at the airport through AirTran security by Carmen and greeted in the terminal by Alex who bumped the duo up to business class. Blaze rose to the occasion. He kissed his well wishers, and behaved like a veteran traveler in the car, terminal and on board. When I got home, Rosa called from La Guardia to check that Blaze and Monica got off OK.

By noon on the same day, "hyped" Big Brown failed to snatch the Triple Crown, our hyper but happy "Little Brown" raced back in the arms of his Atlanta Mom-Ashley, thanks to many New York guardians and the kind crew at AirTran… Godspeed, Blaze, but, please, please, not too fast and not too far.

Sampling of pets still for adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon:

Dogs- "Riley" 1 yr. f. Foxhound/Saluki - knows commands Cage 27; sweet brown f. Pit pup Cage 37; m. apricot Mini Poodle-needs dentistry; "Scoobie"-pudgy Pit Cage 2.

Cats- "Simba" orange m. comes with a dowry C-4; "Kelly" declawed calico C-7; "Mousy"- gray & white m. in lobby, comes with a condo; kittens.

Pet Events:

•Last Hope's "Poetry & Pasta" wine tasting at the Walt Whitman birthplace- Fri. 6/13-www.lasthopeanimalsrescue. org.

•Amityville Historical Society "Pet Show"- Sat. 6/14, Park North School, free and reg. starts at noon; I'm judging.

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