Flying with a Puppy
When I learned about the Leonberger dogs’ loyalty to their owners and fondness for children, I convinced my husband that– it was not a bean-brained boondoggle– it was worth traveling to purchase a Leonberger puppy. Though we had sufficient airline points to pay for our flights, no one had warned me about the stress of flying with a new puppy. Much less, I didn’t know that we would be flying with a puppy in the airplane cabin that was an escape artist.
Leonberger Club of America
I began the process by joining the Leonberger Club of America. After speaking with several breeders, I finally found one in Seattle, Washington, who had recently mated her female.
Weeks later the breeder confirmed the bitch’s pregnancy. For the first step, I had filled out a questionnaire, and the breeder interviewed me. She wanted to feel confident that I would adequately care for the dog. Additionally, I had to commit to training the puppy so that I could handle the dog when he was full grown.
I convinced her that I had trained all of our dogs (and a few ponies) and that I would not return this one when he weighed 140 pounds. Consequently, the breeder accepted my application and deposit for a Leonberger puppy.
The puppies were born, and knowing that I had two young children, the breeder picked mine based on temperament. Though some in the dog business will ship puppies in cargo, I felt that it was cruel and opted to travel to Seattle to get ours.
I researched the cost of flying with a puppy on a plane, and though we paid about $50 several years ago, today the price for a pet in the cabin ranges between $100 to $200.
Flying with a Puppy on Southwest
Since Leonberger puppies grow quickly, we picked up our eight-week-old puppy when he was still small enough to travel with us in the airplane cabin. According to the policies for several airlines, a pet can fly in the cabin if it can fit in a pet bag under the seat in front of yours.
Not only did I check online, but I spoke with the airline personnel about flying with a puppy on Southwest, and other airlines like American, Delta, and United.
Therefore, the weekend that the puppies turned eight weeks old, my daughter, who was nine, and I flew to Seattle to collect our new family member.
No one had told me about the possible problems that could occur when flying with a puppy in the airplane cabin. While I anticipated the adventure, possible scenarios revolved through my mind like I was riding a tilt-a-whirl.
Traveling with a Pet
I learned that flying with a puppy causes perspiration and heart palpitations. Though we had flown to Seattle with the Sherpa bag under the seat, I wondered what would happen if Fido was too tall or bulky to fit. Suppose the airline personnel confiscated him and sent him to cargo? I was determined that no matter what, I would carry our puppy on the plane.
Flying with a Puppy is Challenging
When we picked up our puppy from the breeder in our rental car, my daughter held him on her lap, and she spoke softly as she ran her hands through his coat. Separation anxiety caused him to yelp and yap during the forty-five-minute drive to the airport.
Driving a rental car in an unfamiliar city with a screaming dog is an experience that you wouldn’t want to miss. But most importantly, I worried that he would bark in the airport and draw attention to us.
When we arrived at the airport and dropped off the car, we walked him to the pet area hoping that he would eliminate. It was his first time walking on a leash. Of course, with cars buzzing around, he was too nervous to do anything. So knowing that we would have to fly for several hours, we hoped that he wouldn’t be uncomfortable or have an accident.
Puppy in Airport
Though I had paid his airfare, I worried that passengers might suffer from dog allergies or complain to the airline personnel about flying with a puppy in the cabin.
After passing through airport security, we took Fido to the restroom and filled his water bowl. No surprise, he wouldn’t drink, and we headed to the gate that was two gates past our boarding zone, hoping to hide him.
We placed his carrier on the floor, and I cringed as high-pitched screeches erupted from within the bag. You would have thought that it was a group of fighting cats in that Sherpa.
Puppy Boards Plane
Hoping to calm him, I unzipped the top of his carrier so that Fido could stick his head out. To distract him, we slipped him ice cubes and puppy kibble from between our fingers. Also, we hoped that the breeder’s soft blanket, scented by his littermates, would soothe him.
Thankfully, he was asleep when they called our flight, and I had slung the bag over my shoulder like it was just another carry-on. But, I placed my hand on the black mesh end to prevent anyone from seeing the contraband. Only the airline staff knew that I lugged invaluable loot.
Puppy in Airplane Cabin
We boarded, and I felt elated when I slid the sack under the seat in front of us, and it fit. When the plane door slammed shut, I knew that they couldn’t throw us off. After we took off, I took a deep breath and exhaled. I celebrated with a glass of cabernet. Little did I know that I was celebrating a little too early.
The aroma of chicken and beef drifted through the cabin and Fido stirred. When the stewardess served our dinner, my daughter had taken her retainer out of her mouth and rolled it in a napkin placing it near her plate.
After eating, the flight attendant removed the tray, and five minutes later, my daughter noticed that her retainer was missing. We jumped out of our seats and hurried forward to alert the attendant who pawed through the trash with plastic-gloved hands and found it.
Puppy Missing in Plane
When we returned, I checked the pet bag and noticed that the zipper was open; Fido had crawled out of his prison. Then, I heard the lady behind me say, ” Where did you come from cutie?” Uh oh, the fugitive had fled.
I rose and edged sideways out in the aisle, and I turned around and grinned at the woman behind us who had an escapee sprawled across her Nikes, gnawing her shoestrings.
She picked up the dog, petted him and handed him over. I apologized and returned to my seat. When I placed the absconder back in his bag, his soprano shrieks pierced the cabin like he was in a choir. Sweat beaded my hairline. I wasn’t allowed to remove Fido, so I brushed my foot against the side of the canvas hoping that I could calm the criminal.
Puppy Disturbs Man
The grey-bearded man who sat next to me crossed his arms over his potbelly and said, “I had no idea that you were flying with a puppy in the airplane cabin. What kind is it?”
I flashed a smile and said, “He’s a Leonberger puppy.”
“Hamburger? Hamburger puppy? I eat those especially if they are noisy when I am trying to rest.”
I twirled my hair around my index finger and placed it behind my ear and said, “Sorry.”
The man leaned back and closed his eyes. A few rows behind, a baby screamed. I watched the hamburger-eating man open one eye and furrow his brow. Thank goodness it wasn’t us bothering him this time.
Flying with a New Puppy
As a result of Fido’s escapades, we made some drastic changes. The name Fido did not fit our new puppy, and we changed his name to Harry, as in Harry Houdini.
No Regrets: Flying with a Puppy
Even with the stress, flying with a new puppy in the cabin was worth it. First of all, I can’t imagine taking a puppy away from its littermates and putting it in airplane cargo.
Also, though it sounds bizarre to fly cross-country to purchase a dog, I wouldn’t trade the two days that I had spent with my daughter for anything. We explored Seattle and loved staying in our bed and breakfast. It’s a trip that we have never forgotten.
Additionally, we trained Harry and never regretted our decision to adopt him. He loved romping with the children and he became one of the best dogs that we have ever owned.
With that said, you may notice that the photos above represent different Leonbergers. Now we own our third one.
Do you think it is worth flying to purchase a puppy that you will keep for its lifespan? Would you ship one in cargo? Sometimes I feel guilty that I didn’t adopt a dog from Animal Services, what do you think?