Karen and I were living in Bloomington, IL, the town we'd gone to college in, with Karen's first Seeing Eye dog, Lyric, and Holden, a generally worthless cur whom we nonetheless adored irrationally.
For reasons too convoluted and stupid to go into here, we decided that it would be a good idea to move to Los Angeles to begin our adult lives together. We didn't have jobs, didn't know a soul there, but with Randy Newman's, "I Love L.A.," echoing in our obviously hollow heads, we knew without doubt that it was going to be the Promised Land for us.
We just had to get there. We were working on a tight budget, so we had to get there as efficiently and economically as possible. It was decided that I would drive from Illinois, in a Chevy Malibu stuffed with our belongings, and find us a place to live, and then Karen, Lyric, and Holden, would fly out.
Because this is a web site of dog stories, I'm going to skip my nightmare solo trek across the continent, involving major engine trouble in Denver. Bad as my trip might have been, it was nothing compared to poor Holden's.
Lyric was Karen's first Seeing Eye dog, so there was a special bond, and Holden was my special boy, because…well, because Holden needed to be someone's special boy, didn't he? Not every dog can be a Seeing Eye dog, or handsome, or smart, or consistently housebroken. I won't argue that Holden had any intrinsic or objective worth, just that every dog, A.K.C. champ or lowly cur, deserves to be someone's special boy or girl.
Initially, we considered me driving to L.A. with Holden. The difficulty there was Holden was a terrible traveler. He was alternately carsick and disruptively buoyant, with a hound's howl that he could keep up for hours when he was unhappy, and at that stage of his life, car rides made Holden unhappy. Obviously we knew he wouldn't like the experience of flying more than driving, but at least it would be over for him much more quickly.
We had used acepromazine successfully on Holden before. Acepromazine is best described as knock-out drops for dogs. If you wanted to date-rape a dog, acepromazine is what you might want to slip it. I know now that acepromazine is not absolutely safe for all dogs, but our vet at the time said it was, and none of our dogs has ever had an adverse reaction to it. One little white pill, and Holden would sleep peacefully for a two-hour car trip. Two pills, and we had the bio-equivalent of a dead dog on our hands. For his cross-country voyage, it was decided that Holden would have four acepromazine tablets.
Upon arrival at O'Hare, Holden's sweater was put on him, he was placed in his crate, and given the rest of his tranquilizers. Karen reported that he was doped up to the gills. Then Karen brought the crate to the guys who would load Holden onto the plane, and extracted promises from them to be extra careful with him.
The second Holden was transferred to the custody of the airport crew, he woke up and began to scream. His screaming got louder as he was carried away from Karen and taken to the plane.
I wasn't there, so I'm not sure how Karen did this, but after she and Lyric boarded, she had a chance to ask a crew member how Holden was doing.
Five or six hours later, the plane arrived in L.A. Karen and Lyric were the first to disembark (ah, the perks of being sightless!), and we hurried to the area where we were to pick up Holden. We were there waiting as the crew member carried Holden in his crate out of the baggage area. We knew it was Holden because we heard the screaming as soon as the door to the luggage area opened.
The crate was set down in front of us, and Holden grew quiet. I was on the floor, opening the crate to let my poor boy free.
Holden half crawled, half staggered, out of his crate. His eyes remained on the floor.
"Holden, my good boy!" I exclaimed, petting and hugging him. He continued to look at the floor, and turned away. He didn't seem to have any idea who I was, or Karen and Lyric, for that matter. Never a bright bulb, the light behind Holden's eyes was completely out.
Holden ultimately recovered, mostly, but he was never quite the same dog again. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, his innocence was gone. Before his flight, he still had a puppy's outlook on life as an invariably joyful place. Then he'd been drugged, put in a box, taken away from his mom, and put in a small, cold, noisy place, alone, for hours. The dog that got off the plane in L.A. wasn't a puppy anymore. His flight had been a rite of passage, a journey into the existential void from which one can never fully return.
© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands