I love to fly. Well, OK, I hate most things about the process of flying, but I love the fact that you can board a plane in Ohio and deplane a few hours later somewhere on the other side of the country. I can be in Montana in about 4 hours or to California in 5+ hours. Unless your intention is a cross-country drive to take in all the sights, flying is the only way to go.
Most trips I take include taking along one of my dachshunds. In recent years this has been Katie. She is an excellent travel companion. She is a far better flyer than the seat-kicking, screaming, bellowing kids that seem to follow me onto every flight. Or the Greek divorcé who entertained (and I use that term sarcastically) my travel mates and me during an entire 3-hour flight to Austin, Texas, with his life story, his heritage, and details of his recent divorce and ex-wife. Oh, and he wasn't talking to us … no, he just happened to be in front of us. The unfortunate woman seated next to him should have demanded reimbursement of her airfare for being a victim of motor-mouth terrorism.
And the airlines want to charge me $80 one-way for my extremely well-behaved dog to sit quietly in a soft carrier under the seat in front of me, like common carry-on luggage. But I digress.
I've become spoiled with how well my dogs fly. Katie, Spencer, Rhett – all are perfect little travelers. People are always amazed to discover that I have a dog in that ubiquitous black duffle bag. They don't notice that the sides are made of black mesh. Katie and Rhett are both black and Spencer is a dark chocolate, so one has to really look closely to notice the bag is different than all the other carry-on bags.
They are always quiet and calm. Nothing gives them away. Usually only when I unzip the top flap and a head pops out does anyone notice.
But a recent trip home from out west was different. Katie had gone with me back to visit her first home: 2 Dogs Long Dachshunds in Power, Montana. From there, Katie, myself, and Becky Burguess of 2 Dogs Long would travel (by van) to Spokane, Wash., to be a vendor at a pet fest.
Now traveling as far west as Washington State is a pretty big adventure for a lass from the Buckeye State, but it was the flight home from Montana that proved to be the biggest escapade.
All was well until my layover at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. With the 45-minute delay tacked onto the already hour and 15 minute layover, I had time to get something for dinner before the final leg of the flight to Cleveland. There's an Asian food vendor in the food court that has pretty darn good Udon Noodle Soup. It's one of my favorites to get when I'm at this airport. So I got my soup (with tempura shrimp) and found a table that had room to set Katie in her bag next to me.
I unzipped the top flap of her Sherpa bag and she popped her head out. The look on her face was not her usually gleeful "Hi, Mom!" expression. Something wasn't right. Figuring she may have been too warm, I offered her some water. She drank readily.
After she finished, I returned to my soup. I reached down to pet her on the head without looking. Instead of feeling her soft feathery fur, I felt something slimy. Something wet and slimy. My hand had landed in a puddle of watery vomit on top of the bag. Katie had thrown up the water she just drank. It was a "stealth puke" because I hadn't heard her make the usual precursory retching sound.
Clear, but slimy, the watery substance was all other the top of the carrier right in front of the opening. I had with me only one or two small napkins......what to do? The mantra of airport security boomed through my mind: never leave your bags unattended. But I had to – just for a moment – just a brief moment. And so I made a 5-second dash to the condiment station and plucked dozens of the barely-big-enough-to-wipe-your-mouth napkins from the dispenser.
My effort to clean up the mess resulted in smearing it rather than wiping it off. Katie tried to duck back into the bag and, in doing so, she managed to collect some of the watery slime from the top flap onto her feathery ears, head, and harness. So I had bag and dog to clean up. I took one look at my soup, the tempura shrimp now completely soggy. For some silly reason, my appetite had left.
I gathered up my things, closed Katie in her bag, tossed the soup in the trash, and headed for the women's room.
Fortunately, this was one of the larger airport restrooms with two separate sides of stalls and sinks. Also fortunately this was not a "blow dry" only restroom. There were paper towels available. In fact, there were two rolls of paper towels sitting on the counter top. Lucky thing for me.
No one was in the side I chose. I unzipped the bag and got Katie out. I immediately discovered why she had been restless in her bag prior to my dinner break: she had thrown up the contents of her stomach inside the bag. This also clarified why the substance on top of the bag was all water and no food.
While I was inspecting the mess inside the bag, little did I know Katie was expelling more of what ailed her. This time in the form of diarrhea. And not just soft stool. Oh no. We're talking all liquid. No form or substance whatsoever. Liquid. Squirting. Squirting all over the restroom floor. Light beige colored liquid running through the grout of the tile floor. And she couldn't just let it all go in once place. No. Oh no. She had to turn this way and that, trying to get into proper "position" or in the right "spot" as dogs just have to do. And as she does this dance, her feathered tail is acting as a mop. Not only does she mop the mess up into her tail, but she also spreads it around the floor with every sweep.
I silently curse myself for not getting smooth hair dachshunds and then sent another curse Becky's way for breeding such beautifully coifed dogs. So now Katie is covered with watery slime on her head, ears, and harness, and her backend is now – simply put – a disgusting mess.
I picked her up and moved her away from the pool of yuck, grabbed the roll of paper towels and started sopping it up. Meanwhile several women and come in and retreated to the other side of the restroom.
I was in the middle of the clean up when I glanced at Katie to see how she was. This time she was under the sink cabinet doing her positioning dance and squirting out more of the same substance.
It took me nearly an entire roll of paper towels to clean up the mess. There was no time for squeamishness or embarrassment. What the hell, I was crouched underneath the sink in the women's room, wiping up dog diarrhea. Sweat running profusely off my brow and into my eyes. These people should live so well-rounded a life.
Now to clean up Katie. There was just no way around it – her backside was going to have to have a bath.
This was one of those modern restrooms with the motion-detector sensor on the water....which worked just fine except that it shut off after about 5 seconds. So one hand constantly moved in front of the sensor to keep water flowing while the other hand washed Katie's tail and butt.
The looks I got from both dog and restroom patrons.
After drying her with – what else – paper towels, I turned to the carrier. I surveyed the interior damage. The bottom lining would just have to go. The vomit was, of course, into every crease and corner. Ugh. The top still had slime on it. On closer inspection, it had also run down into the exterior pocket and was on her leash and various other items.
More paper towels.
The delay I had cursed earlier was now a welcome addition of time. Even so, time was running out. Just as I was finishing up and collecting my things, a mother with infant in need of diaper changing came in. She proceeded to change the child's diaper … as I turned to leave I heard her say something indicating she was not pleased about the chore in front of her. I couldn't resist: "I'll trade you messes" and then quickly told her about my restroom adventure. You conceded that perhaps her predicament wasn't so bad.
If you think this story is over, you're wrong. Wait, there's more.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Katie is always very quiet and calm when we fly. But on the flight from Minneapolis to Cleveland, she barked from inside her carrier. Oh no. I unzipped the top flap and she popped her head out. I offered her water. I talked to her, petted her. I even pulled her out and let her sit on the (fortunately) empty seat next to me. We did this three or four times. Each time I put her back in her carrier, she barked at me after just a few minutes in there. I knew by now what the problem was. She had to go. What do I do? No way could I let her go on the floor under the seat. I had only one solution. I carried her in her bag to the back of the plane and into the restroom. Now if you have flown and if you've ever had to use the airplane restroom, you know that this is not going to be pretty.
I squeezed into the tiny room – actually I stepped into the room and pulled it up around my hips – at least it felt like that's what I had done. I sat on the toilet seat and put the bag on the approximately 10 inches of floor space in front of me. I took out Katie and set the bag on the miniature sink to my right. I quickly yanked several paper towels from the dispenser and scattered them about the few square inches of floor space we had. I picked up my feet and set Katie down. She no sooner hit the floor than the squirting began. I had to struggle to keep my feet up out of her way.
OK, so I'm sitting on the toilet, the bag is taking up what little shoulder space I have, my feet have no where to go. How am I supposed to clean up this mess?? I flung the bag over to the other side where it landed on the handicap-support bar and rested partly on the bar and partly on me. More paper towels. I now have a glob of soppy paper towels that need to be disposed of. The trash receptacle opening is only about 6 inches wide. Everything in this space is made Barbie-doll size. Ain't no way Katie's butt is going to fit in this sink. I wiped her off as best I could with wet paper towels, shoved her back into her bag, made one last swipe of the floor and checked for any obvious signs that a dog with severe diarrhea had just inhabited this space.
I peeled myself out of the four-walled dress and calmly returned to my seat – just in time to hear the captain announce landing procedures for Cleveland.
Our best guess is that Katie picked up some kind of canine bug while at the Spokane Pet Fest. We came to that conclusion (and that it wasn't something she ate) because within a few days five more of the crew here had diarrhea.
Thanks, Katie, for a memorable trip.