Here is the first batch of photos and blog from my trip to the UK.
Saturday May 8th we were supposed to depart from Newark at 8pm. Well on arriving at the Continental Quickpak office with Drifter, we discovered that although all of our required paperwork was in order, my health certificate did not have a date on it. This was unacceptable for the airline, and so we had to reschedule for a flight the following morning. Thankfully Continental allowed us to change our tickets for only a $50 transfer fee. And so we drove back home and I called a local emergency vet who kindly agreed to do an "emergency" health certificate for me at 9pm on a Saturday! (Thank you Metropolitan!) So with that finally done I slept about 4 hours and got up bright and early (think 4am) and headed back to the airport (Newark is about 2 hours from me!). This time dropping him off went very smoothly and I felt very good about the situation. We checked our bags, headed through security, got to the gate with lots of time left. At this date, the volcano had been acting up again and we knew that many flights were being delayed or rerouted, but very few were being cancelled. Our flight boarded on time around 8:30am, I saw the Continental "Petsafe" van drive Drifter out to the plane and everything. Then, instead of the safety announcement, we hear that because of the ash, we may have to reroute. And, by the way, our plane would need a fuel stop in order to make it all the way above Greenland and back down to London. This worried me a bit - that's a lot of time in a cargo hold for Drifter. Well we sat at the gate while they worked out a flight plan. And then we sat some more. They communicated with the European air control. They told it would be another 45 minutes and so we were allowed to disembark if we wanted. And eventually after 2 hours on the tarmac they cancelled our flight. Yikes! Making me feel a bit better - the temperature was moderate and so I didn't worry about Drifter, and also that as soon as they announced the cancellation, the Petsafe van came right back to get Drifter off the plane.
Well before I could change my tickets I had to know that Drifter was OK and also which later flights would be able to take a dog (some "Continental" flights are flown by other airlines that won't take dogs to England). So back to the Quickpak office, where Drifter arrived immediately after I did, looking only slightly disturbed. I spoke with them, then quickly went back to check-in where they booked me on the next available flight - 7:20pm - then went back down to Quickpak and they very kindly agreed to hold my empty crate while I hung out with Drifter (and DJ!) while waiting for our evening flight. At this point it was not quite 12pm. So we had hours to kill. We spent the day in the Baggage area as that was outside security and seemed the least likely to draw attention with a dog, and there were seats, bathrooms, and food available. Sadly, it was while waiting here that I received the call and learned of my father's passing. (I'd like to thank everyone for the condolences and sympathies)
Eventually after much book reading, and eating of ham and cheese flatbreads from Dunkin Donuts (which Drifter was very fond of - he didn't get breakfast and was rather hungry by then), we took Drifter back down to the Quickpak around 5:15 and checked him back in. This time our security took forever. We got to the gate area and had a quick dinner, and then near boarding time we went to our gate only to find it listed a flight to LA. Uh-oh. Our passes had been printed so early that they no longer had the correct gate on them - so we checked a board and discovered our flight was now from the complete other end of the terminal. So off we went, walking quickly, when DJ stepped in a spill of some kind and fell. Unlucky for him but lucky after all because an airport person on a golf cart saw this and took us all the way (must've been a mile!) to our correct gate just in time - it was already boarding! Whew! I watched out the window and did see the Petsafe van again as well. And this time we took off on time.
The trip was longer than usual as we had to route up and over Greenland and back down over Scotland. It wasn't horrible though - added less than an hour, making our flight right around 8 hours. Our landing was uneventful, customs wasn't bad (i'm on vacation!). The rental car place though, was a mess. The line was very very long. My time at the counter was minimal, I paid for the upgrade to a nice Audi wagon, wanting more space, and they were very easy to work with. Got my GPS, got our stuff in the car, got in the "wrong" side and off we went to the Animal Reception Centre (aka the "Q"). Hertz and the airport had taken almost 2 hours, and so by the time I carefully drove into the parking lot at the Q, they told me Drifter was fine, his paperwork had cleared, and he'd be out in about 15 minutes. Yay! The whole of Team Canada's dogs were there as well along with the coach and a large bus for them to ride on, although Canada's handlers were oddly absent (Tracy was trying to round them up though).
Once Drifter was out, we broke down the crate (the car was plenty long but not that tall in back for his big 500 varikennel), stopped a pet store for some food, and then found our way to the hotel. We decided comfort and convenience would be primary this first day, and thus DJ splurged and reserved a room at the Sheraton Heathrow, which accepts dogs. It had lovely hardwood floors (click click dog feet!) and a very comfy room. While severely tired (it was about 1 or 2pm UK time when we arrived, which is 5 hours ahead of EST), we had lost an entire day that was reserved for sight seeing due to our flight issues. So despite our exhaustion, we went back out to head into London. We dragged poor Drifter along too. We took a 15min express train out of Heathrow to Paddington station. From there, we walked down to Kensington Gardens, through Hyde Park to Wellington Arch, then down to Buckingham Palace. From there we went to Westminster Abbey, which was closed (evening by then), past Big Ben to the Thames, saw the Eye (and the huge old building next to it which says Aquarium), then headed back up into town to Trafalgar Square. By this time Drifter was exhausted. We bought him a sandwich and he at the bacon and mayonaisse and bread from it, and we hailed a cab to take us back to the station. Drifter didn't like the London-style cab, but he was so exhausted he was falling asleep sitting up in my lap. Poor dude! I felt bad for him!
Once back to the hotel I put food down which Drifter didn't want, water which Drifter did, and then he passed out exhausted on the fancy comforter while we went to the hotel bar for dinner. We ate our first "chips" and tried to understand cricket on the tv. So that was the end of Monday! Photos to follow.