When Michael and Kathya flew in from Nicaragua on Sunday, the two-hour layover between flights wasn’t long enough. The lines were long in customs and as they ran to their gate (something that changed several times that day), they found themselves 5 minutes late and missed their connecting flight to Austin. It’s a little complicated because their Nicaraguan cellphones don’t work in the United States, so they had to explain the situation to the attendants, and call us. They were going to try to get on the next flight at 1:30 p.m. If we didn’t hear from them, we’d assume they were on the flight and head to the airport. But nope. Phone rings. “Didn’t have 2 seats for standby. Next flight is at 3:15 pm.” So we waited by the phone for the same drill. The time rolls by, Grandma and Alyssa were waiting at the house with us. We were all excited to spend Sunday afternoon with Michael and Kathya. No call, as 3:15 passes. We get ready to head to the airport, when the phone rings. Didn’t make that one either. Evidently tons of people were overbooked that day, and United can guarantee them on the 11:15 p.m. flight. They’ve been in Houston since 11 a.m. Michael asked them if he could get the flight refunded, since the lines were so long to get through customs. The United Airlines personnel said no, two hours was plenty of time. Obviously, it was not. And also, obviously, Michael doesn’t know how to make a scene at an airport the way his mother might. He accepted their response and called us again. This time, we decided to just go get them. Houston is only about 3 hours away, and they had waited there long enough. Kathya was on the back-end of having some sort of flu/head cold, so the “American Airport Experience” wasn’t really all they had hoped for.
There was a little confusion over whether Alyssa should go, since being cooped up with someone in the car who was recently sick, might not be that smart. The wedding is only five days away. But she didn’t want to miss out on the excitement, so we cleared the counters of food, and left the dogs. Rider is quite the scavenger, and when we leave the dogs at home, he will go looking for anything he can find. I went to the car, Alyssa and Ron moved some wedding breakables into the garage and we were off.
It was beautiful weather, the sun was behind us as we drove through the back roads of east Texas. Alyssa decided to take a little nap, and Ron and I talked about plans for their upcoming sailing trip the next day. Ron, Josh and Michael were going to learn how to sail, sleep on the boat, and try out the new bow-fishing gear we bought Josh for his birthday last summer.
Two hours into the trip, Alyssa’s phone rings. It’s Josh. Evidently, the dogs got out of the house. He has the number of a woman in the neighborhood who has them, but he’s at the fire station and can’t leave his shift. Alyssa calls a couple of Pflugerville friends, but they can’t help. She calls him back. We can’t hear him, but her eyes fill with tears. She keeps asking, “What?? Are you kidding me??” She hangs up and tells us that Josh is going to leave the shift and go get the dogs. Evidently the neighborhood woman isn’t really from our neighborhood. She was driving down our street and saw a man with a baseball bat chasing Gracie. Then she saw him get into his truck and try to run over her. The woman decided to drive up next to the dogs and see if they’d jump into her car. They did! Rider, Gracie and Buddy were all on the loose.
Evidently, Gracie had gone to the neighbor’s yard and shook their cat, dislocating his shoulder. The cat owner was clearly distraught. Once the woman, a 20-year-old girl really, who had been out shopping with her friend from our neighborhood, once she had the dogs all in her car, the man’s wife began chasing HER car, yelling frantically. She had retrieved the phone number from Rider’s dog tag and called Josh three times. By the end, she was hysterical too! She was telling him that the man was a lunatic, screaming that he was going to “have that dog put down!”
Josh’s fire station is not too far from our house, so he was there pretty quickly. Something about a uniformed firefighter seemed to calm the man to some extent.
“What’s going on, sir?” Josh asked. “Think you could put down that baseball bat now?”
The man complied. “I just want to get the information off that dog’s collar! He nearly killed our cat!”
“Well, I’m the owner. So let’s see what’s going on.”
The cat was pretty limp, but alive. Josh told him to take it in to the after hours vet, and, as a responsible dog owner, he’d cover the bill. They agreed to meet after Josh’s shift ended at 7 a.m.
Then he moved to the girls in the car. They were quickly telling him that if he needed a witness that the man was crazy, or if he comes after the dog later, call them and they’d attest to what they saw. He thanked them and took the dogs back to the house.
Sure enough, that inside door to the garage didn’t get pulled shut tightly. And since the garage was cracked for our cats to get in and out, the dogs just slipped out and took off on their adventure. Hank was still in the house. Whether he was feeling too old to go with them, just knew better, or maybe he didn’t even know they were gone, he was snoozing in the front hall. The other three dogs were clearly traumatized – ears back, tails tucked, jumpy. Rider is a rescue, so it’s hard to know what he’s experienced before. He is easily spooked, and this little incident didn’t help with his anxiety.
So Josh reported all this back to Alyssa and she was really regretting going on our Road Trip. But we were almost to Houston, at that point, so we’d all be back as soon as possible. Josh went back to work, and we arrived at the airport rescuing our own weary travelers. They were relieved to be out of there. We’ve decided that United isn’t worth the good airfare – last time they lost the kids’ luggage. And now this. I read later in the week that lots of flights had been overbooked on Sunday, and perhaps that’s why it was such a struggle to simply get from Houston to Austin.
We chatted for a bit and then everyone napped as the sun set. We got home around 10 p.m., a little nervous about what we were going to find. Sure enough, the dogs had gone a little wild in the kitchen. In spite of our best efforts, it looked like they had walked on the counters! The bag of lentils was opened and spread all over the floor. The bird seed bag was torn and seeds were all over the dining area. The counter tops were wet from the pineapple plant tops I was trying to propagate – the water smelled horrible.
What a lovely way to welcome Kathya back into our home!
Rider began to bark at Michael and Kathya. Nothing Alyssa did could calm him down. This is REALLY unusual behavior for him – he’s used to lots of people coming and going. But clearly, something was triggered with him after his neighborhood nightmare. Alyssa decided to take both of her dogs back to her apartment to calm them down. She called later and they immediately both climbed into bed with her – each on one side of her for the entire night.
Michael and Kathya went with Ron to the Austin airport to pick up their luggage. I stayed back to clean the kitchen and dining area. The next morning, Ron went with Josh over to see the neighbor. There were no signs of the lunatic that he had become the day before. Ron thought he was pretty pleasant. (I had to remind him that this man had been running around the neighborhood screaming with a baseball bat, so…maybe not that pleasant. But at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning, he seemed a tad different.) Anyway, they opted not to do surgery – since his cat was THIRTEEN years old! Ron recognized the cat as one that is often in our garage, picking fights with our cats. The man presented the bill. It was $588 for after hours care and meds. Thank heavens they didn’t choose surgery!! Ron felt responsible for not getting the garage door shut properly, so he wrote the guy a check for the amount.
Then they came back to the house for breakfast before trekking north on the sailing/fishing trip at Lake Texoma with Michael. Yes, there are only five days until the wedding. Lots still to be done. No telling what craziness is lurking around the next corner!
Dog Adventures: Locked Out on the 3rd Floor Balcony
Dogs! Dogs! Dogs!