Before another word is written…

You know Sandy (BIG Otter Hound) but I have been remiss in not introducing you to The Cats. They are: senior cat Norma Jean the Dancing Queen, lovely orange cat with Persian in her ancestry; Rob Roy, looong orange cat who came to us in the Sierra Nevada Mts. from two of the meanest little boys in California (confirmed by neighbors) who I had threatened with assasination if any harm came to any cat on our street. (They were known to use cats for target practice!). Rob was reputed to have a wild cat papa; Sister Kitty who appeared outside my office in Marin County dragging her hind legs after a bad encounter with a raccoon. After an expensive reconstruction of said legs, we had an adorable brown/black striped kitty.

Now you know the Gang of Three by name we can continue the journey and cross the mighty Atlantic (aka The Big Pond).

Our worldy goods stashed in the pick-up and trailer on a flat bed car crossing Canada by train to a port city, we went home to sleep on a mattress on the floor. Reg had ordered a large van-taxi to take us to the airport in the morning. Cats corraled in their carriers and Sandy sleeping soundly on top of us (“Why are they on the floor?” asked Sandy.) The van driver was not happy about all the animals, but after crossing his palm with a ridiculous amount of silver, he drove at break-neck speed to the airport.

Pat had arrived earliar and after hugs and kisses we settled into our suite in the Fairmont located inside the terminal. We decided that someone should be on cat watch at all times, even though the cats seemed fairly content. Our Gang have long since adjusted to the craziness of living with Reg and me (especially after that unfortunate incident when baby Rob got fluff dried in my drier)and know better than to do something wild. Nevertheless, we opted to eat dinner in the restaurant in relays so as to not to hazard a cat escape if we had room service and a door was left open.

Dinner accomplished, Reg took Sandy for a walk while I constructed the traveling litter box in the bathroom. The cats were released to the bathroom, a secure area, and began to sniff around, visit their water bowl and use the facilities. We said our goodnights, left a wake-up call for five am and, exhausted, went to bed. About five minutes later by my calculations, three bell boys knocked loudly on our door, announcing that it was five am. I persuaded them to go away after placing two luggage carriers in the room.

In the bathroom it appeared that Rob Roy had spent the night destroying the mesh “window” on the side of his chic carrier with Norma Jean and Sister observing, no doubt. I put Norma Jean and Sister in their carriers while Pat, bless her, employed her sewing kit to repair Rob’s damage. We didn’t believe her sewing would survive the whole trip but it might get us down to the gate where we could either buy another carrier or get help securing Rob in his now not-so-chic mess of a carrier.

The bell boys came back and loaded up Sandy on one luggage rack and luggage on the other. Sandy would leave us now to go to a holding area until departure. She was in heaven over all the attention being paid her.

In the terminal lobby, Reg’s letter to Air Canada’s very understanding CEO had done the trick. We were met by Air Canada personnel who had all sorts of ideas about containing a large orange cat. A large roll of strong Air Canada tape was employed to bind up every possible excape attempt. We stuffed Rob inside while about twenty hands deployed the tape.

Something else you learn when you travel with animals: be prepared for the looks of disappointment when fellow travelers insist upon seeing what they believe to be either cats on their way to Hollywood or at least to a Big Cat Show. I try to tell them but they never believe me and then those sad looks and someone says, “They’re just ordinary house cats.” Like we must be nuts.

Rob well taped up and Norma Jean and Sister reasonably calm under the circumstances, we made our way to security with hope in our innocent hearts. What else could possibly happen?

“You can’t leave the cats in their carriers to go through the x-ray.” The security woman was polite but resolute. She hadn’t noticed the panic on Reg’s face. After all that taping, Rob was going to go through that gate in his arms. Pat produced scissors and Rob was extracted. The people in line behind us were were sympathetic… well except for the ones who got a glimpse of what that tape had done to Rob’s head. Reg placed a hand over the bald spot and walked with dignity through security while Pat and I, with cats under our jackets, strolled through as if we did this everyday. We got them back in the carriers almost without incident. In the end we allowed Rob’s head to stick out. It calmed him.

Eventually we were on board and found our seats and placed the carriers under the seat in front of us for take-off, according to regulations. Once air-borne, we held the cats on our laps where they were content as long as the nibbles lasted. We made it to Toronto without harming either animals, passengers or staff. A woman executive from Air Canada waited for us at the gate with a golf cart which greatly expedited getting across the airport, through security and onto Air France for the last leg of our journey. She managed to get Reg into the secure area where he could see Sandy before she was loaded onto the new jet.

About a ton of nibbles and a sleepless night later, we were in Paris. Reg and Pat retrieved the luggage while I sat with the cats and looked for Sandy. Pat spotted her at the Arrivals desk despite her many fans crowded around her. Pat (who speaks French, remember?) convinced the woman at the desk that this was our dog and then convinced me that it would be cruel and unusual punishment not to allow Sandy to go outside and pee.

I leashed Sandy and went outside as instructed without a thought as to Customs and how to get back inside. Pat was right. Sandy had the longest pee session in history. Happily an Air France Captain was watching and realized my dilemma and escorted us back inside.

Reg, Pat and Sandy’s carrier now full of cats were the last in line at the Customs desk. I fell in behind them and smiled my most charming smile at the Customs people when they smillingly waved us through without so much as a glimpse of our passports.

Unaccustomed as we were to local customs, we had no idea that we had arrived at noon when all work ceases until every last French person has been properly fed. They hadn’t smilingly waved us through because they loved us. The Customs people were leaving at noon come hell or high water or crazy Americans with three cats and a large dog!

The French, you gotta love ’em. They have their priorities straight!