Saturday, March 20, 2010

When Dogs Fly

What a perfect teaser for Spring! The Mid-Atlantic wx this past week has been fantastic! I got some IR work in, Mary and I had a date night flight and today we decided it was time to take our two dogs flying.We went back and forth about a place to go and we even considered just taking a short local flight to see how they handled everything. We came up with two locations; Ocean City NJ and Cape May NJ. Ocean City would be fun, short hop and close to the ocean. Cape May provided the same short hop and plenty of space through out the airport complex and industrial park that we could let the pups have fun. The decision was made to head to cape may.

For those of you not familiar with our family let me introduce Maggie our Italian Mastiff, obviously on the right and Rudder our Yorkie, yeah, the little blip there on the left. Our crew loves to hang out here at home, sometimes on patrol but most of the time doing something goofy to make us laugh. The Maggie girl is 115lbs of cuddle bug, she honestly thinks she is one of the cats and loves to rub and lean on you as often as possible. The little guy is a bundle of energy and zooms around the room at full speed when he is ready to play. When his batteries are low he is the first one to crawl in your lap and sleep, heck, he'll sleep curled up on a pillow or will take your spot on the couch as soon as you get up.

Mary and I headed out to Angels for breakfast, a perfect opportunity to plan our day and plot how we would handle the two new flyers. With two eggs over medium, pork roll and rye toast consumed it was time to get this party started. We packed the SUV with a moving blanket, a backpack with the collapsible water bowl, 3 bottles of water, handiwipes, paper towels, dog treats, a leash for each and plastic bags. I opened up the back hatch/door and they came running from the house like it was on fire, the little guy barking up a storm. The rule is no boarding until they take a mandatory potty break. It's a riot they want to jump in but I point to the yard and after a stare down they both humor me and head to the grass for a pit stop, rules are rules.

We arrive at the airport and as planned pull the SUV on the ramp so we could better contain the pups and Mary can help with the pre-flight activities. I unloaded the plastic container from the baggage area that has our oil, a few tools and cleaning supplies. I also removed the pilot side back seat so Mary could have easy access to them between us in the front seats. The moving blanket went in and I finished my normal pre-flight. We were set for the test, could Maggie jump in through the baggage door. I placed my hand on the edge of the floor at the door and gave her the kennel command, one jump and she was in the plane looking out the rear window at me, as if to say whats next! The little dude was handed in and I closed the door. Mary was in the process of climbing in the front right when Rudder boy went between the seats out the right door and down the wing on to the ramp. His time on board was very short, he was outta there. Mary gave him a scoop and put him back in the plane then closed her door. I had walked in from parking the vehicle and was almost to the plane when our ramp neighbor fired up his Sierra. I climbed aboard and asked how they handled the plane starting and Mary said they didn't even notice, that's a good sign.
My checks completed it was now time for us to start. Clear prop got their attention and 08R came to life. Interesting, not much of a reaction. As you can see from the picture above Maggie looked like she was all business and ready to help out. This has to be one of my all time favorite shots of her in the five years we had her, it captures the best of the breed, squared off ears and alert look. The Ruddernator was everywhere, not quite sure what the heck was going on, just a bit confused. As Maggie settled down he stuck close by her, hey safety in numbers. We taxied out and received clearance to take off runway niner and pointed 08Romeo into the wind, the adventure is about to begin. Both dogs were quiet, and pretty much either laid down or in Maggie's case looked out the window.

As we crossed the Delaware river there were a few bumps and Mary noticed that Maggie looked around. We didn't get the shot but Maggie sat up and looked out the window, and for you dog lovers you'll understand, she squared out her ears cocked the head from one side to the other and just stared out the window, it was priceless. The trip to cape may was maybe 25 minutes and we were on the ground. We secured the plane and headed towards the FBO (Big Sky) and just for the heck of it I asked if we could taxi into town with the dogs. The man working said the taxi's would take all of us, it's not the first time with dogs, although that one is pretty large. The van pulled up and the guy asked does that one bite, pointing to Maggie, well I said, she does have teeth but no she's plenty gentle unless of course you grab her mom. He said that's not a problem. However I said, if you grab me she would most likely not notice, he laughed.

We headed into town and got dropped off at a big gazebo one street from the shops. The place was really packed with people taking advantage of the wx. This would be a great test for our pups. I asked Mary if she felt comfortable handling Maggie and she said yes. It only takes an instant for a dog to lunge or pull free although Mag is great on the leash and has never once displayed any tendency to act out. I got to take the little fella, yep, me and the Rudder man, what a foursome we were. Maggie was perfect, all the training we did really paid off. She listened very well, let everyone pet her from granny to kids as only as tall as Maggie. Rudder had a following too and he did very well. The best part of all is when people walked by and Maggie does not even reach out to sniff, that made me happy. Nothing worse then a dog in public wanting to sniff every hand, scrap of food or other dog that walks by. There is a place for that stuff and it's not around other people.

I guess we spent an hour or two strolling along while Mary checked out a few shops. We headed back to the gazebo and called Ace Sharper for the taxi ride back to the airport. Both dogs climbed in the van and quickly settled. The question now would be if Maggie wanted back in the plane. Rudder had no choice I could put him anywhere. We let the dogs stretch a bit in the grass areas and gave them a last drink of cold water before we boarded. Mary kept the pups in the shade while I packed our backpack and situated the baggage and back seat area. Ok time to get Maggie in the plane. With a simple touch of the baggage floor and a kennel command she jumped right in, what a good girl. Rudder followed as I lifted him on board. Mary was in and I finished the pre-flight.

Cape May (KWWD) was very busy today. The ramp at the terminal was packed and there was a lot of planes and action at Big Sky. We taxied out and had another aircraft coming head on so we moved right towards the wide open ramp and passed each other by. I gave a wave and got nothing back, sheeesh like a simple thanks wave would have killed the guy. I followed an Archer out to runway one nine and we turned in unison to point into the wind for our run-ups. By the time I was at the hold short ready to go there were four other planes waiting behind us. Three planes had landed before we got the chance to depart. Finally rolling on the runway and going full throttle, I hated shutting off the blower fans for the cockpit. At 3,500 feet it was 60 degrees and the vents were streaming in cool air. We have six headliner vents, two panel vents, two leg area vents up front and two back seat floor vents, needless to say we had good flow.

Maggie picked a spot and passed out, Rudder found a spot between the back right and front seat. He positioned himself with his back feet on the floor, body against the seat face and front feet and face curled up against my flight bag, I guess it worked for him. Once on the ground I taxied to red eagle and shut down. I decided I needed to wash the plane since the birds used 08R for target practice. I gave her a quick scrub, loaded the seat back into position and the regular supplies we carry. Mary had the back hatch open with the dogs relaxing in the shade taking advantage of the gusty winds that were now blowing pretty strong. I fired up one last time to taxi to our tie down and secure the plane. I ordered fuel and we put the cover on. As we pulled away from the airport we decided on pizza for dinner. We called the order in and headed to the house. Once home the dogs passed out, they were beat! We ate dinner, I unloaded the truck and we kicked back to watch the NCIS marathon. A fun day out with my Bride and now we know both dogs can fly without any problems.

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