On their way! A houndblogger and a porter wheel Strawberry away to be weighed before the hounds' flight from Heathrow to Chicago O'Hare
YOU wouldn’t normally expect to find foxhounds at the world’s second-busiest airport
, but on Oct. 21 four of our canine friends arrived at Heathrow in London to board a flight to the United States.
The two dogs and two bitches started their journey at about 5 a.m. that morning at England’s prestigious Cottesmore hunt, where whipper-in Jack Bevan loaded them into the hound truck for the drive to the city. It was a long day for hounds and houndbloggers alike (not to mention Jack, who had to face London traffic going to Heathrow and heading home again!), but the hounds arrived in good order and now are at Iroquois. They’ll resume their careers as working pack hounds with the Iroquois Hunt
, then retire for the rest of their natural lives in the care of the Hound Welfare Fund
Here’s how the day went. Cottesmore bitches Strawberry and Structure and dogs Samson and Hawkeye got to the airport at about 8 a.m., where the houndbloggers were busily assembling the extra-large traveling crates for them. Whipper-in Jack Bevan pulled in as close to the airport entrance as he could, then unloaded them two at a time and, with Iroquois member Christopher Oakford, led them through the surprised crowd of travelers, right into the airport lobby, where the crates were waiting.
The hounds' arrival: country life comes to the world's second-busiest airport
The hounds all fit comfortably in their crates, which were equipped with water bowls and diaper pads (which a couple mistook for chew-toys, much as Paper
did on his long drive from Florida to Kentucky last year!).
Two things surprise you when you travel with hounds. First, how well they adapt to the completely new experience, and, second, the reaction of passers-by, who are fascinated and charmed by the sight of these canine travelers. The hounds are excellent ambassadors for their breed and sport. Well behaved and beautiful, they thumped their tails cheerfully at everyone who stopped by to see them, from airport staff to pinstriped businessmen to parents with young children.
The hounds loaded into their travel crates at Heathrow without any fuss.
Anyone in the airport lobby who didn’t see the four hounds in their travel crates soon heard them, thanks to Samson. While Hawkeye, Strawberry, and Structure all curled up immediately, watched the passing people for a while, and eventually just fell asleep, Samson decided early on that this was a day worth talking about. And he did.
Samson started barking at about 8:45 a.m., and he hardly missed a beat until we and the porters wheeled him off for a security check before loading him and his packmates on the plane at 11:15 a.m. He barked standing, he barked sitting, he barked lying down and between drinks of water. Only two things made him stop: interesting activity outside his crate (especially children stopping by to visit him) and a ride through the terminal on the wheeled trolley, so we suspect Samson, like most modern business travelers, was simply fed up with the wait! At least he didn’t have to eat airline food.
The hounds drew curious crowds and made new friends at Heathrow. Okay, yes, Samson (just out of the picture to the right) was a little loud!
Coincidentally, one of the American Airlines representatives we met at Heathrow was a foxhunter herself. She was the daughter of a former whipper-in at Ireland’s famous Scarteen Hunt, and she was delighted with this unexpected chance to say hello to some foxhounds again.
"Wow! They're beautiful--and big!" Many of the people who stopped by to ask about the foxhounds were surprised by their size and by their gentle dispositions.
The hounds have to be weighed before flying, and their crates have to be inspected both for humane and security reasons. They don’t get sent through the same baggage scan that your carry-on does, but they get a special inspection and the same chemical testing that checked baggage goes through, which took place in a cargo- and baggage-handling area. Samson thought the security procedure was especially fascinating and watched that with such great interest he entirely forgot to bark.
Once the hounds and their travel crates passed inspection, they were on their way to the hold of the plane. When we took our seats on the plane about an hour later, we knew the hounds had been loaded, because, you guessed it, we could hear the faint sound of Samson’s barking coming from somewhere under our seats! Fortunately, he quieted down very quickly, and probably slept most of the way back to the U.S.
Zzzzzzzzzzz ... Hawkeye (seen here), Strawberry, and Structure curled right up and went to sleep soon after arriving at Heathrow.
The unloading process at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was straightforward. The baggage handlers brought all four crates to the oversized baggage pick-up point in the customs area, where we met them after we passed through immigration. Needless to say, we had declared the four hounds on our landing cards! U.S. customs sent a public health official out to inspect the hounds and their veterinary paperwork, and then we were ushered through customs in fairly short order.
The hounds looked bright when we picked them up, and even Samson was pretty quiet. He barked a few times while we waited to get our own suitcases, but as soon as he got another fun ride on the trolley through customs, he quieted down, perfectly happy to watch the world rolling by again.
Outside, we met Iroquois joint-Master Jerry Miller, Hagan Miller, and kennel staff member Alan Foy. They had brought the hound truck, deeply bedded with clean straw and with buckets full of water, and they also had a second truck to drive us home and serve as a back-up in case the hound truck had any problems. Fortunately, the drive home to Lexington from Chicago was uneventful. The hounds had plenty of water, had a nice feed themselves when we stopped for dinner, and slept all the way to their new home at Iroquois.
MFH Jerry Miller, kennelman Alan Foy, and Hagan Miller met the hounds in Chicago with the specially equipped hound truck.
MFH Jerry Miller and kennelman Alan Foy load hounds into the hound truck for the ride home to Lexington.
The four new arrivals from Cottesmore will spend some time in quarantine at the Iroquois lower kennel before eventually joining the pack at the main kennel. It will be fun to follow their progress as they learn all about their new surroundings and new huntsman in the Bluegrass. Considering how talkative he was at the airport, we expect Samson will be happy to tell us his opinion of life in the States!