First we need a little traveling music: www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_rTICMVXQQ
In order to train the puppy, you've got to have the puppy. Presto! was in Chicago. I was in Phoenix. He was born May 2. Federal Avation Administration regulations decree that you can't have a puppy on an airplane until he's eight weeks old. For Presto! that would be June 27.
There was no way I was going to ship a puppy into Phoenix in late June. That's when our brutal summer heat outdoes itself. In fact, the hottest day on record in Phoenix came on June 26, 1990, a cool 122 degrees. The airport even shut down that afternoon. There were no data available about how aircraft would perform at that temperature. So rather than risk having sheet metal several feet deep all around the airport, they grounded the planes.
Okay, I'd fly to Chicago and get the little guy. My mission was accomplished in a 10-hour round trip. But not before some anxious moments in O'Hare, the airport where Chicagoan and winter snowbird Lynn Glickauf was to transfer Presto! (Wildfire Black Magic) from her arms to mine. Lynn, an excellent student and an even better friend had quarterbacked a puppying adventure which resulted in my getting the pick of an extraordinary Wildfire litter.
All went well until Lynn and I got our wires crossed about exactly where we'd meet in the airport. I was at the American Airlines ticket counter. Lynn was one floor below in the baggage claim area . . . without her cell phone. And the clock was ticking toward the departure time for my return flight to Phoenix. By the time we found each other, a precious 30 minutes had elapsed.
By the time I reached security there must have been 200 people in line ahead of me, and the P.A. system was blaring the news that American 1733 -- my flight! -- would begin boarding in 30 minutes.
No way! My God, I was going to miss my flight. I was going to be stuck in Chicago all night. No clean underwear. No toothbrush. No food for my little guy. Panic.
At which point Presto!, now ensconced in the Sherpa bag, tuned up. His yelping alerted the dozens of people in earshot that I had a cute puppy in that bag. Pretty soon a TSA security guard came over. What kind of puppy was that? Ah, a border collie, his favorite breed; he'd seen them on television. His son raises goldens. Yes, I told him, I love goldens; my first obedience dog was a golden. Etc.,etc., etc.
About five minutes into that yelp-punctuated conversation the light bulb went on over my head. I wagged my head sadly. "I'm really worried," I said, "I was detained and I'm afraid I'm going to miss my flight."
The TSA guard didn't bat an eye. "Come with me, " he said, and he lifted the restraining rope. That kind man took us past the hundreds of people who had been in front of us and shepherded us through each step in the security chain.
The last step in the process surprised me. I was taken aside to a small area where my hands were swabbed with some sort of fluid. Then strips of (I guess) paper were drawn across my palms and fed through a small machine. The purpose of that special check, I was told, was to see if I had traces of explosives on my hands. A wisecrack like, "Yeah, this puppy is dynamite," went through my mind . . . and stayed there.
So the idea was that terrorists might load a puppy with explosives and set them off in flight. The first thought is, Who would do a thing like that to a puppy? Followed quickly by, Well, I'm told they eat them, so I guess they'd blow them up.
As it turned out, my flight was delayed 30 minutes. "Maintenance issues." So it was nearly 10 o'clock when we landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Except for about 10 seconds of yelping midway during our flight, Presto! was perfectly quiet for the nearly four hour duration. I suspect being in a Sherpa bag under the seat in front of me was a lot more comfortable than were the rest of us packed like sardines at 33,00 feet.
I have no data to prove that my method of introducing a new member to our pack is sacrosanct. All I know is no new puppy has ever come into our house greeted by snarls and bared teeth.
I do the introductions on neutral ground. That's why midnight on June 27 found us in Moon Valley Park. Barbara met us at the airport, dropped me off at home and took Presto! directly to the park. I loaded Bravo! and Cheddar in my Chevy Express van and followed them. So there we were in the pitch dark in the middle of the night, introducing them one at a time. Surely passersby thought, Aha! A drug deal going down.
Like I said, I have no data. But the next day Presto! tugged furiously at Cheddar's tail. Later he stole Bravo!'s Kong toy from under his nose. All with nary a curled lip. And on the third day they staged a game of three-way chase in the backyard.
My case rests.