No Pet Left Behind

For humans, it can be exciting when the Army transfers you to Germany. It can be less than a thrill for fur-covered family members. The Army doesn’t move your pets. You do. Which is usually not a problem. However Meg, an Army wife, didn’t count on Unhelpful Airlines (not its real name) and the “catsicle” opportunity when she tried to fly with Tike and Cheshire.

Tike, exhausted from travel.  Or maybe just being a cat.

This is Tike exhausted from travel. Or not. With cats, it’s hard to tell exhaustion from relaxation.

Cheshire, just before the packing began.

This is Cheshire just before the movers came. I think she senses something’s up.

Unhelpful Air

Meg made sure Tike and Cheshire got the required shots, microchips, and paperwork (5 copies, just in case.) Then she called Unhelpful Air to find out what size crate she needed for this trip to Germany. They asked her how big the plane was. They said different planes had different requirements.

MEG:  Umm….I was hoping you could tell me that.

Eventually she got the info. Then Meg and her husband (and the cats) drove from Ft. Knox, Kentucky to St. Louis, Missouri. They shipped their car and went to a hotel. The next morning, they would fly from St. Louis to Atlanta to Frankfurt.

There were a lot of storms that winter and normally warm locales were cold. Flight delays were massive. Meg was hoping things would go smoothly. She called the airline the night before her flight, one last check that she had everything needed for her pets to fly. That’s when she found out that Tike and Cheshire couldn’t ride in the cabin as she had been told. The agent said the cats had to travel in the cargo area.

MEG:  Is it heated?

UNHELPFUL AIR:  No.

MEG:  Unheated?!  I would have catsicles!!

UNHELPFUL AIR:  Then you’ll have to leave them in St. Louis.

Meg told me, “You have to understand, I was seven months pregnant with my first child, about to move far from home….and now, after I did everything required, this agent tells me that I have to leave them behind? We had them since they were born. They are part of our family. At that point, I was a little emotional.”

At that point, Meg’s husband called a travel contact at the Army for help. They were able to switch airlines to Delta and yes, the cargo area was heated. But Tike and Cheshire would have to wait on the tarmac beforehand. It was stormy and below freezing outside. Meg was upset. Then the Delta agent took the extra step and called the Luggage Loading Manager to see if he could do anything. He agreed to keep the cats in his office until it was time to bring them on the plane. Meg said, “At that moment, Delta got a customer for life!”

This is how they traveled when in their crate on the way to Germany.

This is how they traveled when in their crate on the way to Germany.

Searching for home

Meg and family (furred and un-furred) lived in a hotel while trying to find a home to rent. It had to be good for the soon-to-arrive baby and allow pets. This took a while and in the meantime, they became close friends with a waiter at the hotel named Ralf. Ralf helped them look and acted as a translator when needed.

Meg searched the Automated Housing Referral Network (AHR). She found a place in Olsbrücken that seemed perfect. Ralf informed her that it was located at “the end of the world.” It was a bit of a drive to this very small town. When Meg went to view the home, she saw that beyond the backyard were hills…hills possibly alive with the sound of music. They moved in.

Olsbrücken, Germany

Now I have that song in my head.

What pets bring

Traveling and house-hunting with pets can be extra work, but think of all they bring with them. Such as unconditional love and the ability to reduce stress with their mere presence. That’s good for anyone, but I think it’s especially good for those in military life. Even when not deployed to a combat zone, troops will be separated from their families for weeks and months at a time for training. In their first year of marriage, Meg saw her husband for all of two weeks because of boot camp and training. It can be isolating for all involved. Pets are a positive force against some of those feelings. Meg knew that. She also knew she didn’t want to leave behind the chance to have moments like this:

Tike and baby Maximus.

Tike and baby Maximus.

© Gina left the mall, 2013

10 thoughts on “No Pet Left Behind

    • Ginger,
      Thank you and thank you for reading! Until I started doing this, I never realized how many separations and moves there were even when troops were “home.” As well as the logistical stress that can go along with it.

      You know, I always say that small actions can make a big difference (sending the troops coffee or a few kind words etc) but it’s true everywhere. Those two Delta employees took small actions — a phone call, an office “visit”…but both showed care and concern for Meg’s pets and that meant the world to her.

  1. Gina, so glad this story had a happy ending (the bottom picture says it all). It’s amazing how callous and insensitive some of these big bureaucracies and their rules can be. But there are kind and compassionate people everywhere and, fortunately, Meg and her friends ran across a couple of them.

  2. so, i was showing a friend of mine on google images where we lived in Germany (olsbrucken) while my husband was stationed at ramstein. the image of your backyard popped up and i immediately recognized the metal fence. 🙂 I believe that’s the house we lived in a couple years ago. on top of a hill, landlord is a nice German lady named Sybille that lives next door with her daughter?

    • Hi there! Yes this is that same house! We lived there from Mar 2011 until Feb 2012. Sybille and her daughter still live there and are doing great. We just had a “Thanksgiving” dinner last November! What a small world!

      • oh wow, we moved out in march 2011 back to the states, its definitely a small world! glad to hear they’re doing well, they were lovely people. her parents lived next door too, moved out in feb 2011 right before we did. they were adorable, some of the nicest people i met over there lived on that little hill 🙂

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