#BringRandyHome Episode 2
We woke up side by side on the morning of the 18th, flying day. Randy, paws stretched out and tail wagging like she does every morning, unaware of the huge 24 hours we have ahead of each other. I looked at her and wondered if she had the faintest idea of what was happening. It was possible she suspected something as I had packed everything, but we could have just been going on one of our usual trips somewhere for the week.
I was extremely nervous, so nervous that leaving what had been home for the past two years wasn’t even on my mind, I didn’t shed a tear for Antigua that morning, and anyone that knows me knows that’s a very big deal. I was completely focused on Randy and the question of will this or won’t this actually work; will I be able to leave the country with Randy beside me on all four flights, a 24 hour long trip where she wont be able to access the out doors and which will include entrance into two separate continents, one being the United States of America the other of course being Europe.
I had very good sane company on the way into the airport who was assuring me everything would be fine and that I just need to relax but if shit happens to hit the fan, then go the other extreme and totally loose it and scream in English. But, if that didn’t work he told me he would be waiting outside the airport until I confirm I had got through.
So we said our goodbyes (I did cry for this one) and I walked in the doors of Guatemala airport, Randy on her lead walking beside me. So far so good, so far so good, I am officially inside the airport and nobody has even batted an eyelid, keep walking keep walking keep walking, I thought to myself. Spirit airlines, bingo that’s me, and just like that, cool as a cucumber I joined the line.
I didn’t want any attention on me or anyone to even see Randy so I had her sitting quietly at my feet at all times, so that people could see she was a support dog who had been trained. Unfortunately Randy has some kind of power that’s above the normal powers a cute young dog has and she attracts an insane amount of attention. Randy is like one of those people at a party that everyone wants to talk to, wants to hang around, wants to get to know. Randy is that girl at the Christmas party who your boyfriend falls in love with, who get the promotion, who has sexy office outfits and sexy black rimmed glasses and she always has a sea of people around her laughing with her and pouring her more champagne (maybe not always but it feels that way) and you cant even get mad about it because you’re also attracted to her. Randy is a social vampire, she sucks you in and once you’re bitten you cannot move away from those silky grey floppy ears or even her gammy red cock eye which goes more off track and more red as it gets later into the day.
Randy portrait, shot by the amazing Claudia Viglianesi
So, we are standing in the line for spirit airlines for me to check onto the first flight which goes to Floria, an easy 2.5 hours, and before I know it, I have a man and a woman around my ankles asking Randy how she is and what’s her name etc. Of course Randy has lost all support dog mode mentality and is now flopped across my feet, legs in the air with her “oooowww scratch my belly” face on. I shuffle my feet and slightly press into her back and give her that look as to say “Jesus Randy this is no time for belly scratches, you’re supposed to be here for my emotional state of mind which as we practiced is no bueno, and we haven’t even got you through yet so look professional!!!” That was the first of many interruptions from passer byers who wanted to know everything about her and how she was in the airport with me, thankfully these questions only came from fellow travellers as everyone that worked in Guatemala airport didn’t seem to think anything of it, including the man who checked my papers at the Spirit airlines desk and gave us the all clear.
So off we trotted through security and into the waiting lounge where I bought a beer and watched the football where my beloved Antigua won the championships, what a send off; a win in football whilst drinking a beer, with Randy at my feet, safely inside and through security in the airport.
watching the game after we got through security
Before I knew it, it was time to board the plane, I gave Randy the low down, a little pep talk and off we went to join the line. I was in the middle of telling a family all about Randy when I heard my name being called on the intercom, ‘oh god I thought, this is it, they’ve clocked I am with a dog and it’s not going to be possible to fly.’ I walked up to the front where a woman asked to see my ticket and my passport, she asked me to confirm Randy was my support dog which I did, she then nodded and lifted the rope which sectioned off priority boarding. You have got to be joking me. So there I was, standing in priority boarding behind three families with members in wheelchairs. I looked down at Randy and there she was looking at me, I think we had a moment here where I telepathically said ‘don’t give me that look I didn’t ask to be priority, all I said was that I needed a support dog, this was not my choice.
We boarded the plane and we were three rows from the front and from what I could see it was a very empty flight and thus far the other two seats in my row were unoccupied. Randy was completely cool, calm and collected, looking out the window in fascination. Then the plane started to move and we were ascending into the sky, that’s when she had a momentary panic, but I put my jacket around her and held her close, until one of the airhostesses saw Randy on the seat and asked that I have her under my seat at all times. I really didn’t want to force her into a small space on top of all these other new experiences, but as Randy always does, she completely obeyed me and remained under my seat for the whole 2.5 hours, looking up at me for reassurance every now and then. I admit that I am obsessed with this dog, but I think any dog owner would feel as proud as I did when walking off that plane. She was an absolutely dream, didn’t make a sound, no barking, no crying, no fidgeting and most importantly no diarrhea all over the cabin, in fact not even a pee.
The picture that made Randy famous
We arrived in Florida without a single problem other than the two hour delay to get through immigration due to an overflow of arrival flights. This delay meant I missed my connecting flight to Stockholm Sweden and I was not covered for each flight as I booked them separately myself. Randy and I ran through the airport to Norwegian airlines where the women at the desk informed me that my flight was closed and that my only other option was to buy another ticket for the flight heading to London in three hours at a price of £490, more than all four of my flights put together. The women saw my distress and really sympathised with me, this was before they had even seen Randy. Then one of the women clocked the little dog waiting by my feet; ‘oh my goodness is she flying with you to Ireland?’ She asked. ‘Yes, Randy’s my dog from Guatemala and I am taking her home, I haven’t been home in nearly three years so we are both going back in time for Christmas,’ I replied, and within minutes hearts were melted and the sweet noise of that laptop key board resumed.
‘Ok ma’am let me get my supervisor and see if we can get you on that plane to London,’ and off she trotted while I took 5 seconds to high five Randy.
‘I can get you both on that flight for $200?’
‘SOLD!’ I paid for the ticket and off we scooted with a nice two hours before our plane left.
So then came the issue of the toilet situation. I hadn’t fed her that whole day and only given her a tiny amount of water as to try and prolong this for as long as possible. We were pacing up and down the hallways in between the gates in the hopes of tiring her out for the next and longest flight. I noticed she was pulling on the lead and looking anxious so I knew she needed to go. I made a dash for the women’s toilet and let her off the lead hoping something would happen. Nothing. So then I went into the disabled toilet with her and in the hopes of the monkey see monkey do effect, I started peeing in the toilet. The minute Randy heard my pee, she started peeing and it was absolutely incredible. My dogs back in Ireland don’t even know the command sit and I just got my dog to pee in the disabled bathroom of Fort Lauderdale airport? Proud mum moment, number two.
After the toilet episode, we went back to the gate area, sat down and I gave Randy a small meal. We were sitting alone at an empty nearby gate when all of a sudden about 15 airhostesses came over to have their dinner before getting their flight. In the crowd I noticed a very attractive blonde woman and the minute she saw Randy she lost it, she could barely control herself and only lasted about 3 minutes before she was kneeling down on the floor beside Randy and I asking Randy a million questions while scratching her tummy. She was beside herself, absolutely instantaneously in love with Randy and couldn’t get over her story.
‘What flight are y’all gett’in now?’ She asks as she looks up at me, instantly reminding me of Reese Witherspoon when she played the very innocent June Carter in Walk the Line, a story about love, faith and self destruction.
‘Em, the Norwegian airlines flight to London I believe,’ before I could finish the sentence the woman let out a little shriek,
‘Rebecca, REBECCA,’ she calls again as Rebecca was mid conversation/mid shoving a subway in to her mouth and not responding to shrieking airhostess colleague.
‘What?!’ She replies finally.
‘The dog is on our flight,’ commence numerous shrieking airhostesses.
I thought their delight in having Randy on the flight was great enough but these amazing girls went out of their way, for the entire 9 hour flight, to make sure both Randy and I were ok; blankets, pillows, water, anything we wanted was available. We were also flying on one of the new Dreamliner planes they have just launched, which was absolutely incredible. Everything was touch-screen and computer programmed to the movement of your seat to the colouring changing extra large windows.
Again Randy was an angel, a little panicked to begin with, but once I was holding her and stroking her as she was once again sprawled out over her seat and onto mine, she was ok and sound asleep for more or less the entire 9 hours.
I arrived in London a little exhausted as I had remained awake for both flights, I didn’t want Randy to wake and I was completely out of it, and I felt I had to keep petting her for the entirety of the two flights.
I know it sounds silly to say, but when we touched down in London, I finally felt safe, like nothing could really go wrong at this point because we had made it through the states and two flights and endless lines and check points, and now we were just a 40 minute flight away from Dublin.
Being both relaxed and over tired during this period is probably why I can barely remember what happened and that it felt like it all happened so fast, but in reality it was a 6 hour long nightmare that started at immigration and ended with me leaving Animal Aircare outside of Gatwick, without Randy, without a proper explanation and facing a £1,000 cargo bill which I didn’t have. Welcome to Europe Natasha.