Our vet, who had previous experience of getting our dog into a confined space with disastrous results, recommended sedation for the transatlantic flight. This was in the days of tranquilizing travelling pets. The tablets were prescribed, but it was not an option I was keen to explore. How hard could it be to get a dog in a kennel?
The sky-kennel was put together, equipped with Max’s bed and a few personal items, but he wouldn’t go near it. My plan to get him used to it, eventually sleeping inside, was failing fast. With my spouse away on the high seas, three children to supervise, and a house to pack up, the last thing I needed was to mollycoddle a neurotic dog. I was boss; the dog was not.
Time for action. He sat facing the open mesh door of the kennel, rigid and refusing to cooperate. Encouraging entreaties were met with contempt, and firm commands were dismissed with a scornful sneer. Standing behind him, I grabbed his scruff with both hands, shuffled my feet firmly against his well-padded rear, and tried to push him along. He resolutely dug his front paws into the floor rug. Lifting him by his scruff and scooting his rump with my feet, I moved him a couple of inches forward. Slowly, the kennel door came closer.
As we hurtled forward with one last shove, the dog roared into action. With a violent gnashing and snarling, he adopted the starfish position across the front of the cage. His modus operandi was to startle me into letting go of his scruff. We’d been here before; it was a bluff. Although the snarling, bared teeth, dripping drool, and the whites of his eyes glinting as he looked at me sideways did make me hesitate.
He was positioned with paws gripping the four corners of the kennel, his chin on the top turned slightly, so we could have direct eye contact; even his tail was a solid rod of refusal against the bottom rim of the kennel.
On the day of departure Max was calm but alert, the result of a finely-tuned dose of sedative. His journey to New Orleans via Chicago was uneventful, returning to his sky kennel quite happily after a bathroom break mid-journey at O’Hare International airport. We never regretted the decision to take him with us, and he remained a loyal and loving companion for nine more eventful years.
Years later, we relocated from New Orleans to The Netherlands with an adorable gentle-eyed southern belle called Sable. She was lightly sedated despite airline policy of not transporting drugged dogs. They assumed she was naturally calm and gentle.