When the young family of Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate, went on vacation to Canada, they traveled from Massachusetts by station wagon, strapping their pet, an Irish setter named Seamus, to the roof of the car during the journey. Sitting up there in a zooming cage, Seamus was literally scared ***less. Indeed, the rain of diarrhea cascading from the roof caused the Romneys to pull over and wash the car. Don’t believe Dog Lady? Read about it in Boston Globe, which broke the story. Columnist Gail Collins frequently mentions Seamus in her New York Times pieces about Romney.
Dog Lady’s aunt Jane also contributes a far more humane Irish setter story (below) she wrote for her retirement community’s quarterly — about the time Dog Lady’s uncle saved their setter from being strapped in the cargo hold of a DC-3.
Dogs in the Air
Recently there have been a number of news stories dealing with airline travel for pets. A few major airlines have forbidden transportation for some dog breeds (e.g. pugs and bulldogs) because of the physical conformation of their pushed-in noses. This condition apparently causes breathing difficulties when airborne. As a result, some of these particular breeds have died on route. In response to this situation, several small airlines have developed whose sole purpose is to carry pets with special needs. The cost? Considerable. One story reported on a dog whose owner paid $800 for a one-way ticket to send it from New York to California.
All of these reports pertaining to long distance pet travel (including a news story which does not die and which involves an Irish Setter who traveled from Boston to Canada on top of the owners’ car) brought back memories of 1961 when my husband, three year-old daughter and I, along with our Irish Setter, Kim by name, were planning an 8000 mile trip from New York to Tanganyika, East Africa. We would be living there for the next two years. The most convenient plan involved flying from New York to London with an overnight stay there for business reasons. Then on to Nairobi and thence to Dar es Salaam.
However, a complication arose with the route for the dog. If we flew with her to London, British regulations required that all animals brought into the country would be quarantined for a three month period. From our point of view, and hers, that simply could not be done. So instead we made arrangements for Kim to go on a flight from New York to Rome and then on to Dar where we fully expected to all meet up.
Our veterinarian had advised tying a can of dog food and a can opener to the wire crate in which she would be traveling – along with a tranquilizer in an envelope providing instructions for its administration. Yes, we provided a plastic bowl for water. And hoped for the best. As it turned out, the can of dog food was never opened and the tranquilizer never administered. But the plastic bowl was gone.
After what seemed like a lifetime on planes, we finally did get to Nairobi and subsequently found ourselves waiting on the airport tarmac some distance from the DC-3 which would take us to Dar. To our surprise and to our horror, we recognized the crate carrying Kim sitting next to our plane. She was waiting to be loaded with the rest of the baggage. Baggage compartments of DC-3s were not pressurized nor were they heated – making for an almost certain death trap for an animal – even on a comparatively short trip.
My husband didn’t hesitate; he ran as fast as he could across the tarmac area to tell the baggage people that they mustn’t put the Irish Setter in that baggage compartment. Their response was that they had no choice. “Well, how about the passenger section of the plane?” “Not possible,” they rejoined. And why? They were already carrying two lion cubs in the passenger section.
From a distance I could see by the arm waving and other body language that a rather heated discussion was under way. But then it was over. My husband returned saying, “They agreed to put her in the passenger section. Lion cubs up front near the pilot. Irish Setter back near the tail.” People in between.
When we finally reached Dar, two hours later, and the plane was unloaded, we found that all occupants of the passenger section had come through unscathed – regardless of their seat assignments. Lions and dog were apparently oblivious of each other, but people passengers had been somewhat nervous.