Leaving New York

Leaving New York

My final day in New York was filled with last minute errands and a quick goodbye to Bandit. I was somewhat distraught about leaving him behind but I knew he was under the loving and watchful eyes of my barn mates.  John, Natalia and Derek were on hand to help.  It takes a village was an apt phrase given my situation.  I couldn’t have finished it all alone.  After five months of planning, packing, general craziness and copious amounts of alcohol, my village had seen me through the storm.

My plane wasn’t scheduled to leave until later in the evening and we needed every spare moment.  At one point, we thought Patches had escaped the house amidst all of the chaos.  We were in and out the entire morning and she’s a wiley one who’s flight pattern when she’s scared is always away.  The cats were all anxious. There were a lot of changes happening around them and they were none too pleased.  Poor John got an earful when I accused him of allowing her to get out.  Once Patches leaves the house, I don’t usually see her again until the evening and given the current state of the house probably not even then.  So if she was out, we had a BIG problem – a flight changing, plan altering problem.  As it turned out, we found Patches 30 minutes later hiding behind the washing machine.  I don’t need to tell you what those 30 minutes were like, do I?

I’d spent hours on the phone with Air France finalizing the reservation for the cats. The trip was complicated.  Traveling alone with four cats was bound to be the most difficult aspect of the move logistically speaking. Under normal circumstances, Air France had a three pet maximum.  But we managed to find a solution that would allow me to bring all four of my guys.  The two girls would travel together in one large crate.  Before we left, everyone spent some time in their respective crates getting acclimated.  The trip all told was going to take close to 16-17 hours door to door.  They would need to be comfortable in their carriers.

Traveling with four cats is like traveling with an infant.  I had to pack a separate bag just for them with food, dishes, a litter box, etc.  There would be no time to do this after we landed so I brought everything with me.  We loaded everyone into their carriers and into the car.  My bags and the special flight crate traveled with John.  Natalia drove me and the cats.  Melanie and Lyria met us at the airport to help with everything.  My village was out in full force.

But if it took 5 people to manage all my stuff in NY, how did I expect to do it alone in France?  That’s an excellent question and one that I wasn’t entirely certain how to answer.  But first, I needed to get on the plane and that was beginning to look like it might be a problem. Despite having had not one but two separate conversations with Air France about bringing the cats, when we arrived at the airport, I was told that only three of my guys could travel with me.

At the airport waiting to board

I took a deep breath and calmed myself.  My mother always said ‘Moni, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.’  Now, I should mention that the reason this little proverb was necessary is because my go to reaction when faced with an obstacle is to bulldoze my way through.  My mother was very sweet and soft spoken.  You’d be hard pressed to find a single person who had anything bad to say about her. Everyone loved her.  I am however, nothing like her.  But I knew that if I was going to get my way this time, it would require a bit of tact on my part (and possibly some tears).  I calmly explained that this had already been approved by the manager and that the reservations for all four cats had been put in the system months ago.  This salient detail didn’t seem to matter in the least.  I was breaking protocol and they didn’t have the authority to override it.  ~stay calm. you can do this.~ 

AF: ‘You are only allowed 3 cats per passenger per flight’
Me: ‘I spoke with the manager months ago and we set up the reservation.’
Me: ‘I had to buy a special crate just to transport them to your specifications.’
AF: ‘Well, I don’t know who you spoke with but three is the maximum allowed.’
Me: ‘Yes I understand, but I can’t leave my cats here.  They must travel with me.  ALL OF THEM.’
AF: ‘Ok let me get the manager…’

The manager came out.  She was a young woman no more than 35.  As it turned out, she was a cat person.  Hallelujah!  I knew at that moment everything was going to be ok.  She was so sweet and completely understanding of my dilemma.  She cleared the extra ‘passengers’ with the pilots and just like that we were good to go.  I stayed with the cats until 30 minutes before boarding and then we went our separate ways until we landed in France.

The frenetic pace of the previous months had left me mentally and physically exhausted so I had hoped to get a little shut eye on the plane but as you can imagine I was worried about the guys.  I knew they must be terrified but at least they had each other.  I hoped that would be enough to get them through.

We landed a quick 7 hours later.  I immediately went to the holding area to check on the cats but they hadn’t been taken off the plane yet so I went in search of the large cart I used in NY to put all of my bags and cat crates on. The only cart available on the France side was a small handcart capable of holding my bags or the cats but not both.  That was only one of the problems.  The carrier I had to purchase for the girls to fly in was quite large.  Too large in fact to fit into a European size car.  But this I had planned for.  In the ‘cat bag’, were 2 small unassembled cat carriers.  The plan was to reassemble the carriers, transfer the girls into their own smaller crates and break down the large crate so it would fit in the back of the car.

Picture this: Me sitting on the floor in the middle of the Charles De Gaulle Airport baggage claim area surrounded by random unidentified parts assembling cat crates.  Now that I think about it, I’m lucky they didn’t arrest me.  From the outside looking in, I’m sure it was a bit suspect.  That’s probably why the gentleman came over to me and asked if I was alright.

With the crates assembled, I decided that the only way to do this was to take the bags first, rent the car and come back for the cats.  They were being watched by a special receiving department so they would be in the office safe while I went to get the car.  (or so I thought) I let them know my plan and headed off to get the car.

When I got back, I realized that the cats weren’t kept in the nice quiet office, they were left on a baggage claim rack in the middle of the busiest area in the airport where the din of thousands of travelers reached a fevered pitch.  People were walking by gawking at my cats who were justifiably terrified.  Patches was literally sitting on top of Omega’s head in the back of their crate.  I was pissed but there was no time for that.  I soothed them as best I could, got them tied up on the cart and headed to the car.  There was one more tricky hurdle to jump.  I had to transfer the girls from the large crate into two smaller ones – in the middle of a loud parking lot.  I hoped they were sufficiently happy to see me and that they would remain docile when I opened the crate because if either of them made a break for it, it was all over.

Tibbs’ hiding spot

The transfer was successful and without incident. Aside from a moment where I had to threaten physical harm to another car rental customer, (some people are just rude no matter what country you’re in) the worst part was over and we were on our way.

We arrived at the apartment safe and sound.  I unloaded the cats and everyone scattered to their own private hiding spots.  I collapsed on the bed and was asleep in minutes.  We made it.  Tomorrow was a brand new day.

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