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Tag: traveling with pets

The first and last flight of Snickers the cat

I feel bad for what happened to Snickers the cat. But to be brutally honest, I’m having a hard time working up much sympathy for her owner.

Snickers died last week, shortly after arrival at the Hartford airport aboard Delta Flight 738.

Airline officials had promised Heather Lombardi, who had purchased the cat from a breeder in Utah and was having her delivered, that the cargo hold the cat would travel in was climate controlled.

If you can’t guess what happened next, here’s some additional information:

Snickers was 11 weeks old.

Snickers was a Sphynx, or hairless cat.

It is winter, and a particularly cold one.

Once a plane lands, the cargo area is depressurized, and that climate control stuff doesn’t apply anymore.

Lombardi sent out an email blast to tell the world about “the worst tragedy I have ever personally experienced” — not to gain pity, or money, or, we’d hope, bolster her odds in a lawsuit. Instead, she says, she wanted to inform the world of the dangers of shipping a cat, by air, in winter.

With her two children, Lombardi arrived at the airport and was told to wait in the baggage area. Fifty minutes passed after the flight landed, the delay in unloading baggage being caused at least partly by a cargo hold latch that was stuck, she was told.

“I wasn’t incredibly alarmed … I figured she would be fine as long as she wasn’t outdoors,” wrote Lombardi, who paid $290 to transport Snickers. Outdoors, it was 7 degrees.

Upon being handed the crate, Lombardi opened it and pulled Snickers out:

“The kitten was ICE cold, limp, and unresponsive. I IMMEDIATELY put her into my coat, grabbed my kids by the hands & ran out of the airport to get her into my car & cranked up the heat putting all vents on her as I rubbed her trying to warm her up. She couldn’t lift or control any limbs, her breathing was labored, she had a blank stare in her eyes, and she let out a meow. As if to say help me — please. We rushed her to the emergency vet clinic, but to my utter devastation, on the drive, she let out a blood curdling cry & went completely limp …”

Ten minutes after handing the apparently lifeless cat to the vet, Lombardi was informed that Snickers was indeed dead.

“Her last hour of life was spent frozen & unable to escape. I am so utterly devastated — I cannot express to anyone how this feels. I am so sad for her, her little 11 week life lost for no reason. A tragedy that could have been prevented if the airline had valued her little promising life.”

Delta told her it is investigating, but, she said, “the bottom line is that they can’t bring her back to me or my family, there is nothing they can say or do to make this whole. We don’t want a new kitten; we fell in love with HER. She was our new child & there is nothing that can be done to bring her home to us. Snickers lost her life unnecessarily …  Value life everyone, I have just experienced something I pray no one else has too. Don’t let Snickers lost life be in vain, I pray you guys read this & maybe another animals life won’t be lost to the cold & lonely Delta Cargo holds.”

Reading over her summary of events, what stuns me most is that a customer would even consider having an 11-week-old hairless cat transported by air in the dead of winter. That the breeder would permit it is surprising as well. That Delta signed off on it is equally shocking.

So, much as we regret Snickers’ passing, we, unlike Lombardi, wouldn’t aim our anger solely at Delta. There appear to be plenty of humans to share the blame, including the one who — though her subsequent warning not to ship animals when it’s below 30 degrees is valid — probably should have done a little more research and used a little more common sense before having her new hairless cat placed on a plane.

And we have to wonder a little bit, too — coldhearted as it may be at her time of clearly anguishing loss — why, any allergies aside, someone would opt for a pricey, high-maintenance novelty pet from the other side of the country when hundreds of cats are in the Hartford area’s animal shelters, waiting for homes.

Heather Lombardi responds: 

“… I first wanted to thank you for bringing attention to what happened to Snickers. Knowledge is power & even if you don’t agree with my actions & poor decision, not everyone knows or understands the risks of placing your pets in a climate controlled cargo hold. I myself was guilty of that. I do not place blame solely on Delta, my lack of knowledge & belief that travel was safe for animals in this weather was the obvious reason she was on the flight. It’s why I decided to share her story. She died due to my lack of knowledge & an obvious service failure on Delta’s behalf. I can’t control Delta, their practices or policies, what I can control is how I handle the situation. I choose to raise awareness, and I thank you for helping with that.”

Seven things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe

There’s one thing you can’t avoid in Santa Fe, and that’s dogs.

They are everywhere — tall dogs, short dogs, big dogs, small dogs, black, white, brown, red, yellow and brindle dogs.

There are smelly hippy, just-passin’-thru dogs (and I’m not saying from where the odor is emanating – human, or canine, or perhaps the sweatstained, refrigerator-sized backpack).

There are gigantic purebred poodles, as regal-looking as their owners.

And there are a whole lot of Labs, shepherds, terriers, hounds and who-knows-whats in between.

Santa Fe calls itself “the city different,” for numerous reasons, but perhaps nowhere is its diversity more noticeable than in its dogs.

Some I’ve seen, like Shadow (below), who all but blends in with the dirt paths of the dog park, look like they might even have a little coyote in the mix.

You see dogs on street corners. You see them in Santa Fe Plaza, the town’s main gathering place. You see them in outdoor restaurants, poking their heads out of passing cars and, by the dozens, at Frank S. Ortiz Dog Park — an expansive swath of high desert, dotted with cholla and juniper (provided by nature), and dog bowls, plastic chairs and poop bags (provided by its users).

Despite its lack of frills, Frank S. Ortiz Dog Park — it’s named after a one-time mayor –  has arroyos and hills, miles of paths, and commanding views of the town. (By virtue of its size alone, it appears destined to make our top 10 dog park list.) Yes, dogs are one thing you can’t avoid in Santa Fe.

Dogs and art.

Art, too, is everywhere — street corner stands,murals, ritzy galleries, rustic studios. The only thing there may be more of than dogs in Santa Fe is artists, many of whom draw their inspiration from the scenic beauty around them.

So, actually there are three things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe — dogs, art and nature’s beauty. It — along with a climate sent from heaven — make it a highly liveable, and visitable, city. Beauty can be found in nearly every direction you look, from the Jemez Mountains to the west to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, rising high to the southeast.

Speaking of rising high, there are actually four things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe — dogs, art, nature’s beauty and high prices. There’s no escaping high prices. Sooner or later, they will get you — or perhaps even stress you out.

If so, you can always visit a spa, because actually there are five things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe — dogs, art, nature’s beauty, high prices and spas. In town, on the edges of town, up in the mountains, there is an abundance of places to get wrapped, scrubbed, rubbed, boiled and oiled. I’m not sure who goes to all the spas, probably the same people that buy all the art and eat the high priced restaurant meals — namely tourists.

Which — in addition to dogs, art, nature’s beauty, high prices, and spas – are another thing you can’t avoid in Santa Fe.

So that makes six things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe, if you count the tourists, who stay in hotels that, like all other structures in town, are made of adobe, which is the seventh thing you can’t avoid in Santa Fe — adobe. I’ve yet to see a house exterior of wood, brick or — heaven forbid — vinyl siding.

On top of those seven things, there are plenty of other things that can be found in abundance in Santa Fe– sunsets, rainbows, good food, opera, legends, history, crafts, and, my personal favorite, clouds.

Here’s my theory on the clouds, and why cooling afternoon showers are fairly common here. Clouds come in from the mountains, usually –  like tourists — in a group. The clouds look down and like what they see — harmony, art, spirituality, pleasing terrain, disposable income, seekers, healers and art appreciators. And, being an art form themselves, the clouds decide to stay around a while — so that they may both appreciate and be appreciated.

In my five days here, I’ve noticed that, unlike clouds in most places, neither the big fluffy ones or the wispy flat ones — to use the scientific terms — seem to be moving, and, if they are, it’s imperceptibly slow. Instead, they seem to be lingering, hanging out, enjoying the view. Meantime, new clouds come in, and they decide to linger, too. And so on and so on, until there are so many clouds, elbowing each other for space in the formerly big blue sky, that they become entangled, much like the traffic downtown.

As a result of all that brushing up against each other, and moving into each others’ space, meteorological things begin to take place, and — not to get too technical – rain and wind result.

Sometimes, after that, you get rainbows. Sometimes, you don’t. That’s life, in Santa Fe.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” the continuing story of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America, click here.)

Land of (doggie) disenchantment

Add New Mexico to our list of states with tiny, paw-unfriendly, less than inviting pet areas at their highway rest stops.

Land of Enchantment? I think not, at least not for dog owners whose otherwise pampered pets are restricted to gravel pits in which to pee and poop. Signs say that dogs are not allowed on the rest area’s grassy areas.

New Mexico may have its dog friendly pockets, and far nicer facilities elsewhere, but this rest area outside of Albuquerque – like similar ones we saw in North Carolina and Texas — isn’t one of them.

Interestingly, the other side of the rest stop had an area for livestock, with dirt instead of gravel, far larger and, unlike the dog side, with a source of water.

Near the human rest rooms was a sign that asked, “Do you approve of this rest area?” with buttons to push for yes and no. My long answer is a question: how much trouble would it be to designate one of the many large patches of unused grass for dogs, and supply some poop bags? Probably cheaper than the electronic sign. As you might guess, I pushed no. Five times.

(To read all of “Dog’s Country,” click here.)