Flying high with(out) Fido!
Arati Menon Carroll / Mumbai September 29, 2007
POOR PATCHES. All he wants to do is fly to his new home. Only, nobody will help him along his way. Patches is a Lhasa apso, and by virtue of his pedigree (the snub-nosed variety), along with chow chows, Persian cats and some others, hes presumed more susceptible to health risk associated with travel stress; several airlines will not have him on board.
My uncle, the aforementioned doggieҒs vexed owner, is migrating from Dubai to Bangalore and is beside himself with frustration at uncooperative airline staff. The Indian carriers, while more lax with policy, are less obliging with furnishing him with simple details like the temperature in the cargo hold (which is where, unfortunately, larger pets are stored), and whether it will be a pressurised environment. Does nobody appreciate the no question is a stupid questionӔ rule, he vents.
Increasingly, people want to take their pets along, even on trips. In the United States alone, last year 30 million people took their pets on at least one overnight trip. And while the sharp growth in travel by private jet has enabled the well-heeled to take along the family pet without a second thought, for the most part travelling with pets can be a terribly stressful experience.
I read a rather humorous (and completely fictional, of course) account recently of the time when the United States, in another spectacular stroke of paranoid genius, decided to paw-print migratory pets along with their owners at airport entry points. Who knows when a jihadi could attempt unlawful entry in the guise of a pit bull, right?
Enter the pet travel agent (none in India yet, of course), committed to transferring pets hassle-free to their new homes and families. For pampered pets and frazzled owners theres nothing quite like these pet relocation specialists who are best acquainted with the fine print of airline pet allowances, vaccination and quarantine obligations, and who will handle the reams of red tape required. Their intervention particularly helpful, one can only imagine, when transporting something a little more intrusive like a nine-foot alligator!
TheyҒll help you identify hotels chains like the Marriott and Holiday Inn that see marketing merit in hiring pet sitters and dog walkers. And airports like Phoenix City International in the United States which have gone to great lengths to build landscaped pet relief areas (with kitty litters, drinking bowls, and plastic mittens for owners) within premises so pets can goӔ on stopovers. Or airlines (there are a few) that are enticing customers with frequent flier pet programmes that allow animals to earn bonus miles toward free flights.
My favourite flying pet story is that of Fluffy the parrot. On board an American airline, Fluffy, who had been trained to repeat everything said around her with hysterical consequences, was coaxed out of her cage by amused cabin crew who then turned her into one of them. Fluffy was soon saying seatbelt sign is onӔ and high maintenance flierӔ to any passenger who asked for more than two drinks.
Birds, it seems are generally highest in the pecking order (pun intended), perceived to make the most unobtrusive of animal travel companions. Several Middle Eastern operators allow falcons, part of the Arab sporting heritage, to be transported in passenger cabins, up to 15 of them at a time even. In fact, dont be surprised if you bump into a falcon with a passport. In the UAE falcons are being issued passports with the aim of reducing illegal trade in the species.
Meanwhile, Patches is still waiting to take his first flight. Do I hear people say, now how about a policy on those shrieking children?