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Getting There Is Half the Fun

Air travel, especially with a dog, can be challenging.

Air travel, especially with a dog, can be challenging.

I look forward to traveling to the different regions of the United States to attend each area’s marquee shows and talking with the local breeders and seeing the country’s top dogs. Let me amend that. I enjoy attending these shows. I hate traveling to them. My recent trip to Houston for the Reliant Series of Dog Shows was planned to be a leisurely trip, an 80-minute non-stop from Memphis to Houston. I arrived at the airport a cautious 90 minutes before my 2:15 PM flight. After a mercifully brief time passing through security and the good fortune of a gate a short stroll away, my luck ran out.

I received a text from Delta Air Lines informing me that my flight had been delayed four hours. I am a man who has been attending dog shows for 45 years and who has been married to the same woman for 43 years. Suffering the disappointment of a four-hour delay seemed easy enough for this stoic. However, when an hour before departure Delta told me they had canceled my flight and I would have to find book another flight, I started to wish I had opted to drive the 575 miles. In the end I was able to catch the 7:25 non-stop to Houston. Although I had to cancel my dinner plans, I still managed to get to the rental car counter before it was locked up.

After I arrived in the show hall, all of the aggravation of air travel was mollified by the pleasure of being amongst my fellow fanciers at one of the country’s top dog show weekends. However, as I sat talking to people about their own travels to Houston, I thought to myself, “Would I have been so calm if I had been an exhibitor traveling with a dog?” Not on your life. What if I had checked my dog into cargo for the short 80-minute flight? I was a bit concerned that my checked bag might not make my re-booked flight. I would have been hysterical if I had trusted my dog to the airlines. Even if I had opted to take my dog aboard with me, I would have been a bit unpleasant about having my dog waiting at the gate for six hours.

Most of the exhibitors in Houston traveled by car, truck or RV. That too can be a challenge these days. The route from Memphis to Houston has 20 construction zones in Arkansas alone, making a road trip pretty unpredictable. It is a testament to the dedication of our exhibitors that they travel these great distances to participate in these big events. Reliant Park, home to the Astrodome, is a vast complex, and some had to park hundreds of yards from the show hall. Nonetheless I heard few complaints about the parking, grooming spaces or access to the show hall. The Houston shows were down only about 4 percent, far less than most of the major venues this year. They must be doing something right.

My takeaway from this series is that clubs should not take exhibitors for granted. None of our marquee events should expect the show-going public to put up with too much inconvenience once they have reached the show hall. After all they have already run the gauntlet to get to the show. Did I mention that my flight home was also canceled? And that’s today’s Back Story.

Written by

Billy Wheeler has been attending dog shows as a spectator and exhibitor for over 40 years. Billy is the man behind the popular Dog Show Poop. He is a retired management consultant who has advised multiple organizations affiliated with the AKC and the Cat Fanciers Association on business management, long range planning, customer service, and legislative matters. After 25 years of living in the big cities of New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, he now resides in his hometown of Memphis TN with his wife, Brenda, her Toy Poodle and his Cairn, Scottie, & IG. When he is not blogging, Billy can be found in the kitchen cooking, and listening to opera.
  • Linda G. July 25, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Your story today is why I NEVER fly with dogs any more. In the 80’s and early 90’s I flew from the NW to the midwest and east many times a year, often with 4-6 dogs, in 200-400 size crates. Then we moved to the mid-west and chose a home near a Delta Hub. I’ve seen such deterioration in the airlines that I won’t fly to shows with dogs any more. I drive to Calif or the NW. I’ld rather give up time than endanger the dogs. And I don’t think a lot of a client that insists on shipping dogs. If they don’t want to pay the expenses for me to transport the dogs via a car, then perhaps they are not the right client for me. Only under extreme circumstances will I agree to shipping a dog on an airline. I could spend hours talking about the airlines from the “old” days vs today. The best was on Alaska Airlines in the late 80’s. In Anchorage they held a plane on the taxiway for me and my cargo dogs. The plane I was to go out on 1 1/2 hours later had a malfunctioning heater in the cargo hold. Instead of putting me on an even later flight, they held the plane on the taxi-way dropped the back stairs, which I only went up after they brought the dogs out to put in cargo. You would never see that happen today. The airlines have totally alienated me.

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