Saturday, June 4, 2011

Transporting A Feline Across State Lines

Nine years ago this week Tom and I bought our house in Arizona and eight years ago on June 1 my parents moved into their current house, so Mom and Dad and I have been swapping moving stories for the last couple of days.  The moving memory most indelibly etched in my mind is of our final trip here from New York - the flight on which we transported poor Rusty to her new home.

Our only previous experience with taking her somewhere other than the vet was when we moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn.  Tom's sister drove us in her car and Rusty howled non-stop the entire way.  We would have liked to ship her to Phoenix as cargo, but the airlines won't carry animals to hot places in the summer except in the passenger compartment.  We were afraid she would wail for the whole five hours - Not A Good Thing - and asked the vet to sedate her for the trip.  The good news: the injection knocked her out before we got to the airport.  The bad news: before passing out she threw up all over the inside of the cat carrier.  Alas, we were in the cab at the time with no way to clean it up.

This was less than a year after 9/11, so security at the airport was tight and we were asked to take Rusty out of the carrier so it could be X-rayed separately.  I hauled my poor limp, vomit-smeared cat out of her carry-on bag.  "Spread it," the security guard said.  "Pardon me?" I said, thinking I couldn't have heard him correctly.  "Spread the animal out," he ordered.  (I guess they were supposed to check for bombs strapped to her stomach.)  I tried to obey.  Poor Rusty's eyes were rolled back in her head and her tongue was sticking slightly out of the side of her mouth; the guard's expression turned from stern to uneasy and he asked, "Is something wrong with that cat?" "She got a little carsick on the way here," I said glibly, hoping he wouldn't pull me aside on suspicion of using a helpless animal as a heroin mule.

As soon as we escaped from security I rushed to the nearest women's room to wash the worst of the mess off Rusty.  It had a diaper-changing table where I was able to lay her out, but the paper towel dispensers were all empty.  I hauled all of the Kleenex I had with me out of my purse and wiped her down as well as I could; in the meantime, a seemingly endless procession of women filed past behind us on their way to the stalls, most of them shying violently at the sight of the crazy lady dabbing at her dead cat.  I finally abandoned the cleanup as a lost cause, stuffed Rusty back in the bag, and headed for the boarding gate.

The first four hours of the flight were uneventful except for the increasingly ripe aroma coming from the bag under my feet; I wanted to apologize to the person sitting directly in front of me, but if he hadn't deduced the source of the odor I wasn't going to give it away.  Then, an hour from Phoenix, the carrier started to thrash violently.

I was certain that Rusty was having a seizure.  I yanked the carrier out from under the seat and unzipped part of the top.  Rusty's head popped out, bright-eyed and curious.  Apparently the thrashing had been her waking up, sniffing, and thinking "Good God, I need a bath!!"  I was immensely relieved.

Tom, on the other hand, panicked.  "Stuff her back in!  Stuff her back in!  What if she gets loose?"  Rusty and I both stared at him coldly, but when he persisted I zipped the bag up and she resumed bathing.  By the time my sister picked us up at the Phoenix airport both Rusty and Tom had recovered from the rigors of the trip, but the carrier was so smelly that Sue almost made us take a cab to her house.

And that is why Rusty and I will never move anywhere more than a day's drive outside the greater Phoenix metro area.

"Remember the Old Traveler’s Saying: 'You may lose your money and your health and your sanity and some important organs, but they can't take away your travel memories unless they hit you hard on the head.'” ~Dave Barry, Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need

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