"How would you like to hang out at a hotel with a super snuggly Labradoodle next week?"
This was the question I got from my sister when I picked up her phone call.
"Um, I mean, that sounds lovely, could I please have some context?"
Over the next fifteen minutes Elaine told me all about my would-be pet assignment. Zuko the Labradoodle was in the process of moving from North Carolina to Hawaii. However, due to his size, he couldn't fly straight from North Carolina, he had to leave from Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) airport. So, his mom and dad were going to drive him here, but due to scheduling issues, their flight was the day before his, and he needed a place to stay for the night before he could make the long flight himself.
Pets with Passports has enlisted my help several times over the past few years. My home is about 15 minutes away from DFW airport, and thus, I make a great pit-stop location for my sister and Sarah as they navigate the country with all manner of animals. This, however, was the first time that they had asked me to stay overnight with one of their customers ... since they were both going to be in Chicago at the XXX annual conference.
I asked a lot of questions about Zuko—how much does he weigh? Is he leash trained? What should his routine be? Did I need to drive him anywhere? Once I had all the information I needed I informed my husband that I'd gone overnight down the road at our local La Quinta Inn (who are extremely pet-friendly) and packed my bags.
The night before I drove over to meet Zuko's mom and dad (who were staying there the night before their flight with Zuko). They transferred his large travel crate to my room, brought all his travel papers, his favorite toys, and his food for the next 36 hours. We got everything set up, exchanged phone numbers, and agreed to meet the next morning at 6am.
The next morning I was ready for the :tap tap tap: at my hotel room door, opening it to find what looked like a large black poodle ... complete with black pompadour haircut on his head (hello, Danny Zuko). Zuko was excited to meet a new friend, but mom was quite emotional about leaving her baby. As she backed up to leave, tearing up, I threw my arms around her and promised her Zuko would be okay ... and that he'd be right behind her on tomorrow's flight to Hawaii. I also promised I would spam her with pictures of Zuko via text for the next 24 hours.
Over the next 24 hours Zuko and I got comfortable at the La Quinta. I worked, he slept. We went for walks, he slept. I watched a movie, he slept. I ordered dinner, he looked longingly on at my cheeseburger which I refused to share (but provided him with one of his designated treats). That night, he slept at the foot of the kind-sized bed, unaware of the huge, next step of his adventure that was waiting for him the next morning.
At 4am my alarm went off. I dressed, took Zuko for a walk, and returned just in time for XXX to arrive and let me know Zuko's transport to DFW was here. He looked up at his crate, now in a large transport van, and didn't bat an eyelash—it was like he knew that by getting in that crate he was one step closer to being reunited with mom and dad. Pictures were taken, hugs (and licks) were given, and Zuko was off to catch his flight.
I immediately called Elaine to let her know everything went as planned and that Zuko was happily on his way to the airport.
"I'm going to need you to send me updates on Zuko. And pictures when he gets to Hawaii."
"Yes, I told his mom I would send pics."
"No, Elaine—I want updates as well. I am now a part of this dog's care and I need to know he reaches his final destination and that he's happy."
She promised, and absolutely delivered.
I've now worked with several animals that Pets with Passports has transported, and it's always the same—you grow attached to them. You want to make sure they're happy and safe. That's the difference when it's family ... your pet isn't just an animal, it becomes family, too.