Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More -- On the Road with Chesty and Rocca

We left off this story having landed in Panama City.

   Unfortunately, we need to clear customs before we can leave the building. This is expedited for us when the veterinarian comes to greet us as we wait in line. We are easy to spot. We’re the people with the crowd of giggling porters surrounding us wanting to see the two big dogs that we’ve actually brought in the passenger section of the plane with us. The vet and his assistant introduce themselves and take us to the front of the customs line. This seems unfair to those other folks waiting, but we let it pass.

   We are now in possession of two big, active dogs who have had no exercise and no opportunity to pee for fourteen hours. Chesty is absolutely goofy with pent up energy. He’s bouncing along beside Jack looking at the people, his tail in constant circular motion. Rocca is walking stiff-legged, plotting her revenge on Chesty who she is intent on blaming for all the difficulties of her long hard day. Gee, I wonder where she gets that from?

   Jack and I are being careful to keep our own bodies in between the two dogs as neither of us trust Rocca not to tear into Chesty or Chesty not to provoke her just to get some action going. At this point the vet tells Jack to leave the dogs with me. Jack must go with three officials to fill out paperwork and pay the money needed to get us the hell out of the airport.

   Here’s the thing. I can control one of these dogs, but not both of them if they decide to act up. And they’ve already decided to act up. Rocca is doing a near constant low rumble and Chesty’s eyes are round and sparkling and he’s just waiting for a chance to play.

   I put Rocca in a sit and tie Chesty to a steel rail that is bolted into the marble floor of the terminal. I move slightly away from Chesty and, making sure I’m in between the two dogs, tell the boy to sit. He looks at me like he’s never heard that particular command before. Could I maybe say it again, or better yet, bring that rumbly girl dog over here a little closer while I make him do what I’ve told him to do. I ignore him in the hopes that he’ll settle down, pray Jack won’t be gone long.

   A porter is escorting our luggage through customs. The inspectors open the largest bag and discover the dog food, dog toys, and other assorted doggie paraphernalia. This causes the officials to call over all the other inspectors. The checkout line comes to a stand-still while five men in uniform peer down into our luggage. Are they going to tell me that we can’t bring dog food into the country? No. They’ve just never actually seen anyone stupid enough to bring a giant bag of dog food into the country and figure it has to be seen to be believed.

   Eventually the other passengers have left the terminal and the porters entertain themselves by teasing the dogs. These playful gentlemen challenge each other to see who’s brave enough to get close to Chesty who is wagging that abbreviated tail in tight circles and itching for an opportunity to play. This little game of chicken ends abruptly when one of the porters gets too close, Chesty lunges and the steel rail to which I’ve tied him comes unbolted from the tile floor. Before it can come completely loose, bringing to fruition my nightmare of my dog running amuck in the airport terminal knocking people over and having a slobbery good old time while the police come to haul us all away, I manage to grab the leash. I have visions of having to pay for the broken rail, but the feeling seems to be that this is a hilarious happening and why don’t I tie him up again so they can return to their fun game.

   Now I have both dogs on leashes, one in each hand. Rocca, thank you Jesus, has decided that Chesty is too stupid for the likes of her to even bother to interact with and she is behaving wonderfully. Chesty, on the other hand, is bursting with excitement and energy. Another plane has arrived, bringing a whole new group of passengers as well as two crated dogs. The crates are placed directly in front of me and my two dogs.

   You know that old saying about how two brothers fight, but when a cousin shows up, it’s the two brothers against the cousin. And when a neighbor shows up, it’s the two brothers and the cousin against the neighbor. Well, it works that way with dogs too.

   The two dogs in the crates are yellow labs. No sweeter, more clueless dog exists. They bark a greeting to Chesty and Rocca.

   “Hey! What are you doing here? How come you’re not in a little doggie jail like us?”

   Chesty, nearly vibrating with joy, answers, “Wanna play? Do ya? Huh? Huh?”

   Rocca, giant head up, stiff with annoyance comes in with, “Don’t you come near me. I’ll tear you a new one if you so much as look at me.”

   The yellow labs are now frantic to interact and they have a chorus of, “Let us out! Let us out! Let us out!” going nonstop.

   Chesty is lunging toward the crates and I am using an old dog trainer trick of which I’m not proud but that is effective in situations just like this. I lift him straight up off the ground by his collar, causing him to have to choose between lunging or breathing. He chooses breathing. But, remember, he was named after a marine, and he forgets the lesson basically one breath after I set him down. So we repeat the experience a dozen or so times as I back him and Rocca slowly away from the yellow labs.

   By the time Jack returns with all the paperwork stamped, signed and approved, I have both dogs across the terminal, Chesty is doing one of his loud whines and Rocca is rumbling like a volcano about to spew molten lava on everything in its path. All the passengers from the last flight of the night have been processed through and are gone. My arms and shoulders feel as though I’ve climbed Mt. Everest. Plus I have to pee again.

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