Flying with Dogs


I had just stepped off a cramped 25 seat propeller plane at the Reading Regional Airport in Pennsylvania. The airport has a single terminal with a small restaurant, a few ticket takers, and virtually no security. I had flown in to and out of RDG many times with Allegany Commuter Airlines.


Reading is about 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia via the Schukylkill, otherwise known as the Sure-kill, Expressway. As the nickname intimates, it is a highway fraught with hills, turns, and lots of stop and go traffic. It was something we tried to avoid—so, we often flew in and out of Reading on itty-bitty airplanes.

During the summer of 1993, I packed up my suitcases, my two golden retrievers, and my apartment and returned to my family home in Shillington, a small suburb of a small city. I had just moved to Oceanside, California where the unemployment rate was over 9.5% and my military husband was sent on deployment.

The house I grew up in was affectionately known as Camp Brown. Life there was always an adventure and we learned to expect the unexpected. If we weren’t mowing grass or playing tennis, we would be chasing gophers from the yard or birds from inside the house. The last time the dogs visited, a swarm of bees stung them until they jumped into the pool.

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The trip from San Diego to Pittsburgh was on a standard large plane with lots of people, several flight attendants, and plenty of peanuts. The flight from Pittsburgh to Reading was noisy, cramped, and bumpy.

Landing on the tarmac, the flight was greeted with stairs attached to a large golf cart. I made my way down and followed the line of passengers into the terminal. The stale air filled my lungs while the day’s heat was visible on blacktop.

Mom and I hugged and chatted while waiting for my bags and dogs. Rather than a conveyer belt, there was an open window where luggage was placed. My bags appeared but I wondered where I’d meet the dogs.

“Ma’am, your pups are ready to greet you in the front of the terminal,” the bagman said.

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“Great, we’re ready to go,” Mom replied as she bounded off to get the car. She had a choice of three: a pickup truck, a roomy Cadillac, and a Mercedes coup. I assumed she brought the truck.

Excited to see the dogs, I raced to their crates where I was presented with problem number one. Flying didn’t agree with them. They didn’t seem to mind as tails wagged and they pranced with joy over feces and excrement.

I opened the crates and slip leashes over their heads while doing my best to not let them touch me. Glad to be free, they stretched and looked for a place to do business. Fortunately, a man tending flowers nearby had a hose and offered the dogs some water. They slurped and panted and rolled on the freshly cut grass.

As my mom pulled her tiny blue car forward, I noticed problem number two.

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“Well this is interesting,” she said with a sigh. “I’ve got a roll of paper towels,” she added slyly as we both started to laugh.

We borrowed the hose and gave the dogs a good bath. The dogs, my mom, and I piled on top of one another leaving the crates to be picked up later. I wasn’t sure what Mom was thinking when she came to pick us up, but I knew I was about to have another adventure.

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