Monday, October 14, 2013

Westward Ho! Piper at RDU Airport

Last Saturday six-month old service pup in training, Piper, reached a special milestone - his first air trip - from Raleigh-Durham, NC to Los Angeles, CA. As his raiser, I would say it was a journey worth writing about. In fact so much happened I am splitting the story into two posts:  Part 1 - Piper at the RDU Airport, and Part II - Piper on US Airways Flight 461.

Part I - Piper at the RDU Airport
Our flight from Raleigh-Durham was scheduled to depart at 4:10 on a Saturday afternoon. Although we left the house with plenty of time to spare, a terrible snarl on I-40 caused by a combination traffic accident / UNC football game made our airport arrival a little too close for comfort. At the parking lot we "parked" Piper, then Frank and I walked in and went thru ticketing and check-in on US Airways in record time. As I started to thread my way thru the maze of ropes and posts at the security entrance, a TSA agent motioned me to a much shorter line for the flight crew. Yes! I turn and wave good-bye to Frank who smiles from the departure entrance and gives me a thumbs up.

In order to pass thru the security check, I decide to keep Piper's leash, collar and vest on (I live to regret this decision). So I put Piper in a Sit/Wait, walk thru the scanner myself, and then call Piper through, which he does like a pro. Piper needs to be checked, wanded and patted down, but first we have to wait till they call Al over. I am guessing Al is the dog-check man. Arriving, Al is a large, friendly security agent whom Piper takes an immediate and serious liking to. However when Piper curls himself into a "C" around Big Al's legs, it definitely makes Al's dog-check job a little tricky. Peeling the encircling dog from off his legs, agent Al next unzips Piper's vest pockets and digs thru the poop bags and rabies certificate stashed inside. As he stuffs them back and zips the pockets shut, Piper reacts with a "Whoa, that tickles!" and twists onto his back, exposing his soft underbelly for scratching and inspection. Thankfully Al has seen (or had) enough and gives us the OK to leave. Piper follows me reluctantly with a backward glance at his new friend while I make a mental note:  next time remove the vest and send thru on the conveyor!

After collecting my belongings, we grab the elevator, and head down the concourse toward our gate. I like the RDU Airport. It is not very big, yet the terminals have high, sunny spaces that make you feel as though you're already airborne. On this Saturday afternoon it is blessedly quiet. Checking our gate, we discover we still have a half-hour before boarding, so I decide to familiarize Piper with the concourse surroundings. Yet I notice as we walk along that Piper's ears are pulled slightly back, his head is just a little too low, and there is not a nice looseness to his gait. Instead of walking with me, he is a little too far in front and staring fixedly ahead. Basically, Piper's body language says "I'm not so sure about all this." So I spend several minutes engaging and relaxing Piper until I see the sweet sparkle return to his eyes, and the flash of his toothy grin reappears. Once again he is enjoying his day at the airport and we're a team as he loosely trots at my side. That's my boy!

I love watching Piper's reaction (or lack of) as we meet odd and interesting airport personalities. There is The Cowboy, clunking along in his 8 gallon hat, with white toes on his boots so long and pointy he could skewer a horned toad. Piper gives him a perfunctory glance. Later my pup observes a little boy dangling a strange doll that looks like a cross between the Phantom of the Opera and a skeleton. Piper's gaze takes in the little guy and his toy and moves on, as if giving his dog stamp of approval that every preschooler should have a cadaverous doll for a best friend. Come to think of it, some of Piper's best playthings are bones....

Soon the loudspeaker blares that it's time to board and off we start on Part II of Piper's journey westward across America.

1 comment:

  1. Go Piper!!! Sounds like he is if off to a great start of a new adventure! RDU is also a good first airport experience as well (I can share with Piper that it was my first too :). I've only flown once with Dante (and my mom was handling another CCI puppy who traveled with us), and it was a great first experience. We flew AirTran, and after hearing about bad experiences from others, I was prepared for the worst so you can imagine my surprise when the gate agent fell in love with our two puppies and upgraded us to business for free because she felt bad for the cramped spaces. I never expect special treatment with my puppies, but it sure is nice when others go out of their way to be kind. :)