Tag Archives: dogs

Through the Glass…………….

As soon as we knew we were moving to India, we made plans to take our cats with us.

Unfortunately, our one cat is diabetic and it really didn’t make sense for her to be on a plane for over 24 hours without access to water. I wrote a very fun resume for her when we were trying to find a place for her to live. If you want a chuckle, you can read it here. A lovely family adopted her while we were gone and spoiled her rotten.

We decided it would be very helpful for the kids to have their other two beloved furry siblings with them – and, not for nothing, someone else was going to be cleaning out the litter and wiping up the inevitable furball throw-up. Yeah. In case it’s not painfully obvious why that was awesome, you can catch up here.

Our first attempt to get the cats to India was a colossal fail. I do not heart United Airlines and if you want to be mad at them too, you can read about that here.

Now that you are all caught up on the history, let’s get back to the story.

Eventually, the cats made it all the way across that big ocean. Alive and well and very confused – kind of like the rest of us.

They settled in quickly and were very well cared for.

But our staffs initial reaction to them was hysterical. They could not believe that we had cats as pets. I should explain that cats aren’t really kept as pets in India. There are tons of stray cats on the streets but it is very rare for someone to actually bring them into their home, feed them, care for them, and make them a part of the family. To love them.

I guess it’s hard to worry about stray animals too much when there are so many stray humans without food and shelter.

Someone also told me that Indians consider cats to be bad luck. I cannot verify that, but it might be true.

Cats are so rare as pets that India does not even have a manufacturer of cat food – at least not one that delivers Indian cat food to any of the pet stores in Delhi –  there may not be an Indian dog food manufacturer either because most dogs are simply given table scraps. The only cat food I could find was imported and ridiculously expensive.

Good thing we brought, not one but two, very large cats who really like to eat.

When we first moved to India and lived in an apartment, the cats very rarely saw the light of day. But then number one hubby found us a house and the cats had access to glass doors at ground level. (We did not feel comfortable letting them actually go outside because there were hawks in the area and tons of stray dogs and cats.) Our cats seemed happy enough to just look outside and they immediately discovered that they were not alone in the world. That other cats lived just beyond that glass horizon.

The difference between our American house cats and the Indian stray cats was nothing short of amazing.

Ours – big and fat and shiny – not a scratch on them. Loved and cuddled. Not afraid of humans in the least. Not particularly fond of every single human, but not one tinsy tiny bit afraid of them. No front claws.

The strays – little bitty – boney – ears ripped – dusty and dull fur with patches missing – never touched by humans hands and terrified of people.  Their faces looked more alien than feline – too wide at the eyes and too narrow at the lips. And their bones nearly poked through their fur. They would never survive without their claws.

They did love our patio though. Largely because it always had a bowl of fresh water and some very expensive cat food on it. The shade from the scorching sun didn’t hurt either. And it was enclosed by a gate, so the dogs could not get in. I wonder if they felt safer in it. But I believe they must have been curious about our cats too.

They would sit and watch each other through the glass.

Part of our morning routine as humans was to put food in the bowls for the cats outside and watch them slink in and get breakfast. It was always fun to see who came first and we worried when one of them didn’t show up for a few days. We noticed who had new scratches and delighted when kittens arrived one morning. We counted them and named them and wondered if we could catch even one and bring it inside.

The pet store that carried the cat food and the cat litter I liked best was not very close to our house. So, I would often send our driver to pick up several packages of each.

This means that the cook, housekeeper, guard, gardener, driver, and the man on the moon all knew just how much money I was spending on these ridiculous creatures that pooped and threw up in the house. And I am sure they compared that to their own salaries and calculated in their own minds what they could do with that kind of money. To us, it wasn’t a hardship – but to them it could have been all the difference in a nicer house or better schools for their kids.

I am not sure why I am stuck on the thought of all of this. How anorexic the stray cats looked compared to our literal fat cats. How the staff must have been fascinated and miffed by the resources we dedicated to them.

One day, our cook was finally able to say out loud what he must have been thinking for months….

Francis: Ma’am, why do you feed the outside cats such expensive food
Me: They look so hungry
Francis: They will eat your leftover rice
Me: I guess that never occurred to me. Let’s try it.
Francis: Duh.

We did try it. And those cats had grown too accustomed to the the tastiness of the meat flavored cat food. They merely picked at the rice.

Francis was not about to be outsmarted by a street cat. He started adding leftover gravy to the rice. They were happy once again.

One of the things that struck me was that those stray cats never got any fatter. They knew what “full” meant and never seemed to gorge themselves.

I guess that is what was hardest about helping others in India. It was easy to feel taken advantage of. To feel like generosity was expected. Those cats came and took only what they needed and left the rest for the next cat who might pass by.

But now that I am once again an ocean away from the struggles of so many, I am left to wonder why I didn’t do more. How I might better define the lines of graciousness that I was willing to tiptoe around but never fully cross over. I am not sure there is an answer but I am sure I will always question why those of us with too much (including myself) aren’t more generous to those with much too little.

Karma is Haunting Me – Wrinkle One………..

A blogging friend of mine Lola blogged about her dog “helping” her sled down a hill and right onto a stick which ripped her pants – her very favorite pants. The ones that she has never been able to find another pair of. You can read her story here. She’s fine – so now her readers are left to enjoy a pretty funny rendition of events. Her dog and her butt survived but her beloved blue jeans did not. So in her comments section, I suggested that maybe she needed a furry pair of jeans to replace her ripped jeans. She is sassy – she knows I was kidding. But, I am afraid the Cosmos were left completely unaware.

So the Cosmos and Karma joined together to conspire against me. I am sure it is because I made a little joke about a friend’s dog – there is no other reason on this planet that Wrinkle Number One in our plan to move to India makes any sense at all. So, I am adding “being nicer to the animals of others” to my new years resolutions list. In fact, I am moving “being healthier” to the number two spot. PETA watch out – I am going to out-love you on all things animal.

It went a little something like this…..

Hold on one minute – I am going to get myself a glass of wine to relax as I re-learn to breath. I would invite you to grab a cup of whatever it is you fancy. This is a long one.

Okay, now I am set and I am pretty sure I am breathing again – panting maybe – I put my wine in a water bowl just in case –  I told you PETA watch out.

Number One Hubby left tonight for Delhi on a United Airlines flight. Yes, write that down – the airline not to use when flying your cats to India. United Airlines. Number One Hubby was taking two of our furry children with him. We arrived at the airport well outside of the requisite 2-hour time allowance to check in, kiss the furry ones goodbye, hug Dad – twice, and tearfully wave goodbye until we meet again in three weeks. Thank God we are timely folks because we spent well over an hour at the ticket counter. Can you guess what part of this did not happen?

And the winner loser is – the cats are not on the plane. I wish I could completely explain to you all of the pieces of the puzzle that did not fall into place but I am not absolutely clear on all of this myself. And, do not ask the first counter attendant, the second counter attendant, the counter attendant standing by watching,  the supervisor (who is not a supervisor, but a manager – so sorry), or the actual supervisor who only makes ghost appearances via the telephone (think of the banker in Deal or No Deal – only minus the shadow and minus the million dollar potential – but annoying all the same). None of them can explain it either. Some of them did not even try.

We have had these pet reservations for weeks. Oh yes, United allowed us to book these pet reservations thru Dubai and on to Delhi. We called this very morning to confirm our said pet reservations and were given the okay – your pets are booked – two thumbs up. We have the right crates (well minus the holes on all four sides – that was easily fixed), we had the right bowls, the right paperwork, we thought we had done everything, well, right. WRONG.

First, there was a lot of discussion about whether the cats would be considered cargo or freight or baggage and whole lot of other stuff whispered that we were not (supposed to be) privy to. So, I won’t go into how nerve-racking that was for my three little children who were standing there listening to whether or not their cats would actually be allowed on the plane or if they would be strapped to a wing. Hey, they have fur coats, don’t they? I completely lost my sense of humor at this point.

The first problem is that this airline does not interline pets. WTH? Interline – English please. We are still in America right? Interlining pets apparently does not mean putting little skates on them and letting them figure it out on their own – that would have been funny. Welcome back sense of humor – but, oh no, not so fast. Interlining means that they do not transfer pets from one airline to another. Okay. So, number one hubby can go pick up the cats from United in Dubai and hand carry them over to the connecting flight for Delhi. Right? Oh silly you. That’s what I thought too. Nope.

Dubai does not accept live animals. Then why were we allowed to book live animals on a flight that goes to Delhi – oh yeah, via Dubai? Good question – still no answer to that one. Why were we allowed to confirm live animals on a flight that goes to Delhi – via Dubai –  just this morning? Oh, you little pink panther you – another good question. No answer to that one either. Why do United regulations specify that each passenger can check two live pets with their ticket that goes to Delhi – say it with me – via Dubai? Oh you are really good – a criminal justice degree is certainly in your future.

Just as a side note – there was another couple standing right beside us with pet problems. Seems prevalent with United – at least tonight. And there was a United Representative going out of her way to help them. GASP. And I am not kidding when I say this – I really am not – she got written up for her (very helpful) actions. She helped the passengers – who were pleading with her for help – make their crates compliant. The couple had flown on United just a week before and several times before that with the very same crates that had passed inspection every single time. But tonight – well, they must have made fun of a friend’s dog too. Or they got caught in my wrath. So sorry.

But did you read that? She got written up for helping passengers follow United Airlines guidelines. Yes, my dear, something is very wrong with that. And now future passengers who are foolish enough to book their pets on United probably won’t be helped by her either. She is surely not going to want to lose her job in customer service just because she helps people get their furry family members on the same plane.

But, back to us and hold on a second, we thought we had progress. Ticket agent number one printed stickers for the cats. He was pulling them off the printer when the phone rang. And then he ripped them up. Huh? That’s what we said.

Circles – we danced all night in circles – no answers – not even one. Number One Hubby was actually on the phone with United Airlines in Delhi and they approved the cats – they had every intention of accepting the cats and were very willing to stand by that decision – if they could just be given the opportunity to do so. And still, somehow, the cats are still at home with me. The Delhi employee asked to speak with the United employees on our end. One spoke with him. Okay. Now what – she was looking for a supervisor. And, alas, we only  had a manager who would not even answer our request to speak to him.

So the supervisor who is actually not a supervisor but a manager (I am so glad she could clear something up) was very happy to spell her first and last name for us – repeatedly – would not even come back to the counter until she thought we were gone. The first counter attendant became Houdini and disappeared completely – he could feel our pain but could apparently no longer bear to share it with us. But we fooled that manager/supervisor – we were still there – because we had a representative from United Airlines in Delhi – her sister station – asking why they wouldn’t put the cats on the plane. She would not speak to them. She had gotten an answer from another invisible banker-boss in Chicago. Oh, that makes perfect sense because no part of our journey involves Chicago. So, I could see why she would not speak to the person from Delhi – where the cats were (supposed to be) going. Nor would she even look at us. Except to spell her name for us – again. She was helping someone else now. But sweetheart, you aren’t done with us yet. You should really read my blog on Part B.

Okay – I have one (more) question. Was she (not) helping someone else get their pets on the plane? These pets are a part of our family. Period. We have children – we are not crazy pet people – I am not really going to out-love PETA. But I am standing in front of you with real children who love their animals very much and my furry children who are frankly scared out of their minds. Help me. Find a solution that works. Do not walk away as if you have no responsibility to resolve this. You work for United Airlines. Your little uniform and the whole standing behind the counter thing has completely given you away. You may call yourself a manager rather than a supervisor – but the front-line employees called you because they did not know what to do. Your banker-boss was in another building. Honestly. Do something.

I am not kidding when I say that none of the CUSTOMER SERVICE representatives we dealt with offered any solutions. They only told us what could not be done. We could not put our cats on that plane. Fine. Let’s work with that. Is there another plane we can put them on? Can we reschedule to not go through Dubai? Can you talk to India about this – WE have them on the phone for you. No need to even exhaust yourself dialing the phone. How about a little understanding? Compassion? Alternative thinking?

If I had to pick a worst moment of the night it would be when the first counter attendant tried to finally explain something to us. He actually said to us in front of our three young children that the reason they were trying to be so careful is that his computer has a note right here that says that animals arriving in Delhi might be destroyed. And he, in fact, has known this to actually happen. Yes, he did say that out loud. Angel knows what destroyed means – she’s only seven, so she doubted herself and asked me repeatedly what destroyed means, with very big tears in her eyes. I finally (thought fast) and explained they were talking about the paperwork.  Guess who I won’t be nominating for employee of the year.

Here is the best part of the story. It seems that United in Delhi is very confused and a representative from United (and I believe he is actually a manager and a supervisor who admits to being both) plans to meet Number One Hubby when his plane lands in Delhi. But he won’t get to meet our cats, so this might fall under the “too little, too late, there are no actual cats with me” category.

I am so thankful that we had this little dry run. Honestly, I do not know what we might have done if we were all leaving at this time. Maybe Karma is not exactly conspiring against me but just showing me the ropes.

So, we kiss number one hubby goodbye, because he is now in serious threat of missing his flight, and we took the cats back to the car.  The cats thanked us by pooping and passing gas all the way home. The kids were in stitches.  I heard every elementary school bathroom joke on the planet. As if the night had not been entertaining enough.

There are implications that reach well beyond the tremendous stress that all of us experienced tonight. Changing our flights means changing a lot of things – the day the utilities are switched, the day the kids leave school, the day the kids start school, the day my husband flies home to help us, the stress level of our next trip has already quadrupled, all of the travel arrangements need to be rearranged – you see there is a ripple effect.

The kids are now in bed with cats curled up beside them. There are five (temporarily) happy hearts right now in this house. My heart is (barely) beating – but that is about it. Because in three weeks we have to try this all again and there will not be an exit plan. Five people are getting on a plane – there will be no one left to take the cats home – home is now in Delhi and those cats have to come with. So we have decided to vote with our wallets and are switching to American Airlines.

Notes – I reread this when I woke up this morning and then again just now. I wanted to make sure I did not exaggarate what happened out of frustration. I did not – in fact, I was quite gracious in my depiction of events. Yes, it was that bad. And I want to be clear that Number One Hubby and I did not yell – we did not make a scene – we were certainly frustrated but we were adults about it. Paying. Customer. Adults.