My husband is a talented builder. He doesn’t build giant apartment complexes. He builds small things that our family needs. One of his most clever creations was a wooden box so that we could take our ancient dog, Gringo, to Israel in 1973. The design was ingenious. He worked for many nights planning it. How does one make a dog comfortable on an enormously long flight to Israel from JFK, with a several hour stopover in London, a stopover that only increased her time in the cargo hold? And how does one provide water for this frightened animal, water that will not spill and allow her to remain hydrated?
He spent many, many hours planning, building, and rebuilding the crate. And it was finally done to perfection. The kids even decorated it. Didn’t matter. Gringo remained unenthusiastic.
When this plan was implemented, we padded the device with carpeting and gently placed Gringo inside. This was a dog who never even had a leash. Suddenly she was confined to a wooden container, to adhere to requirements of El Al Israel Airlines.
I told El Al that Gringo was old and sick, that she might not survive the flight in the baggage department. I even showed them a letter from our local veterinarian attesting to this. Clearly Gringo had to be transported with the human passengers.
El Al Israel Airlines had a good laugh at my expense. Gringo would go with the cargo, or not at all.
So Gringo was packed and I worried.
We had no choice. What does one do with a 12 year old dog when one is going to Israel for a year? There were no alternatives that were acceptable.
By my calculation Gringo spent about 24 hours in the handsomely equipped crate. It was, for a mutt, First Class. But she was terrified and so was I.
As soon as we landed we rushed through passport control to claim our luggage, especially our package in cargo, Gringo. Would she be alive? How would I explain to our four kids if we found a dead dog in the lovely crate?
Israel is not like any other country. So, when we arrived to pick up our cargo, there was Gringo, wagging her tail and greeting us with the exuberance that you can imagine from a beloved and spoiled dog who has just spent 24 hours cooped up in a box like a chicken. The baggage handlers, hearing her cries, had released her from bondage, something I cannot imagine baggage handlers doing anywhere else in the world. Free at last!
Only problem was she had to go out. Her box was clean and dry. I knew she had the bladder of a camel since she never had an accident and always refused to be walked on a snowy day. Too nippy out there.
I looked for a solution and began heading towards an emergency exit. I’ve told you this was Israel. Israel knew about airport security long before the rest of the world. No sooner did we get near that door than we were surrounded by many soldiers with weapons pointed straight at Gringo…….and me.
Somehow Gringo knew that surviving the trip was good but getting shot was bad. She relieved herself on the floor of the airport, to the relief of the soldiers who really did not want to shoot us!
Much to the surprise of my husband and me, when it came time for our trip back to New Jersey, fourteen months later, Gringo had survived the Yom Kippur War and all sorts of other insults to her dignity. She needed to be walked with a leash. No free roaming dogs in Jerusalem.
But Gringo was alive to make the return trip. Back in the crate. For an even longer ride in cargo.
Once again she lived through the trip and its indignities, to die peacefully in my arms a year later. What a life she had! Born in the slums, sent to a pound, enchanting us right before the scheduled execution so that we could love her for the next 14 years, and traveling First Class to Israel, round-trip. Who says it’s a dog’s life!