Cooper and I were anxious to visit my parents in South Florida. I was very excited to hear that Southwest is accepting small dogs, as I normally fly Southwest because they have a direct flight from New Orleans to Ft. Lauderdale. I booked a round trip ticket for myself, and reserved an under-the-seat space ($75 each way) for my 9.5 pound Morkie. I also thought it best to order the Southwest Pet Carrier they offer, since I was clueless as to what travel bag would be best. I received the Southwest Pet Carrier, put Cooper in it and became very doubtful that we would be traveling together. It’s shaped as a suitcase and there was no way he could even lay in it. They were very literal with the 8″ seat clearance as the bag was at most 7″ high. I called Southwest and they informed me that any dog must be able to turn around and stand inside their carrier. Very disappointed that Cooper could not visit family, I called my parents and brother and told them the news.
I thought for a few days and realized that Cooper is under 10 pounds. How do other folks travel with their small dog? I decided to consult twitter, and after many less than 140 character tweets with @dogjaunt (my savior!), I realized that the Southwest Pet Carrier was just very misleading. Cooper is a small dog and could travel and all I needed was a better pet travel carrier. I bought a Sherpa carrier and with lots of treats and tough love, he learned to accept it (not love it).
The Day Of The Trip – No food. No water. Nice potty walk, but not enough that Cooper would need water. I packed his blanket and a chew bone in the carrier for him. As recommended by my veterinarian, we gave Cooper a mild sedative before the flight. The timing was tough to figure, but we gave it to him about 15 minutes before getting to the airport, as the 1/2 pill takes about 20 minutes to “kick in”.
Checking In – I was very nervous about checking in, since Southwest said the pet needs to be able to turn around and stand in the carrier.
I actually thought that meant while the pet was under the seat. We arrived at the ticket counter, I put Cooper between my legs and said “I need to check in my puppy”. Cooper is not a puppy, however I thought the word puppy made him appear smaller. They did not even look at the bag! I paid his fee, they put a ticket on the carrier, and away we went to security.
Security – I wasn’t sure of Cooper’s condition as we were headed to security, as he still appeared extremely hyper. He was scratching the inside of the bag, but nothing that a little treat and some love couldn’t handle. I was extremely nervous about security because I knew that I had to remove Cooper from the carrier. Heck, I can barely manage security by myself, usually fumbling around with my laptop and sneakers, etc. I knew enough not to take my laptop this time. I stripped down, put my personal belongings in the plastic bin and felt my heart beating a million miles a minute. Time for the dog. That crazy dog. UGH. I pulled him out of the carrier, quickly put a lead on him (in case he wanted to escape) but he held me so tightly as I put his carrier onto the conveyor belt. Together we walked through security and no alarms went off. At the other end of security belt, there were 2 airport personnel holding his case open for us so that I could easily put Cooper back in and go on with our journey. Excellent! Through security successfully.
Boarding – If you know anything about Southwest, you know the cattle call routine. I purposely paid an extra $10 each way to get early boarding, although it didn’t seem to make much difference as I stood online with a boarding pass that read A31. We finally entered the plane and I was headed for a center seat (I was told this is the largest under-the-seat space) as close to the front as possible. Middle seat, row 5 – Perfect! After all, who else would select a middle seat?
In Flight – As per the advice from my new twitter friend and her very informative small dog travel blog, I took a photo of Cooper with me. Brilliant advice because the carrier is difficult to see inside, especially stowed under the seat. My seat mates both asked me what was in the carrier and I was able to quickly whip out pictures of my wild beast. They were much more comfortable knowing how adorable he is! He scratched a little, barked a little, and I think slept a little. Most of the flight he laid still and stared at me. He didn’t seem to bothered, but he certainly wasn’t happy.
We made it! We landed, I met my father at the gate, retrieved the luggage and walked to the car. I put a leash on Cooper and let him relieve himself. We jumped in the car and headed to my parent’s house.
Our vacation had begun.