Friday, October 7, 2011

Flight Plan

Inquiring minds want to know ... how many puppies do I have now? The answer is a blessed, blessed one. Cora is currently rasslin' with Esme on my bed while I recovered from a day I have no wish to repeat any time in the future. Gotham and Zayi were scheduled to fly out today on seperate flights - Gotham's was Westjet to Calgary at 7:25am and Zayi's was Air St Pierre to St Pierre at noon. Each puppy needed to be at their respective cargo bay 2 hours ahead of the flight's departure so Gotham had to be at Westjet for 5:25am. I live almost 2 hours from the airport so I had to leave my house no later than 3:45am to get there in enough time. Make sense?

I'd suspected that the Universe had been conspiring against me with these two puppies for quite some time. Each for different reasons had to stay additional time in my house and my patience was wearing thin - perhaps one day the details of Gotham's extended stay will be detailed but for today let's just say he could have left earilier had I been smarter. Such is not the case and anyway, both going on one day saved me a trip to the airport.

To the story ... there was a bit of a concern about Gotham even getting on the flight because Westjet already had a dog booked to go, if the flight was full Gotham would have to be rebooked for another day. After several calls back and forth to get confirmation I went to sleep still not knowing if he was going to fly. I was up at 3am after only a few hours of sleep and checked my email - voila ... he could fly!

In the wee dark hours I had everything ready since I'd prepared the night before, I just needed to load the crates and puppies and be on my way. Loading the puppies in the dark cold morning was kind of a hassle but I managed it without too much incident ... until I realized that I'd walked through some crap the neighbour's (seriously inappropriate expletive) cat left on my lawn. Not only had I walked in it, it was now spread through my house and embedded in the tread of my shoe. The only saving grace was that I discovered it while still at home and not partway to Halifax with the heat blasting at my toes. Some extremely unbecoming and unrepeatable language ensued as I cleaned up the poop. It cost me at least 10 minutes and I was not in the fairest mood...  Raimi was in fear for his life (GET IN THE ROOM! NOW NOW NOW!!!!)  and I left the dogs to nurse their battered egos.

The previous few day's weather had been very, very wet and quite a bit colder than is usual for this time of year but I didn't think anything of it. I knew that driving over Mount Thom (coming from Alberta the word 'Mount' creates rather a different image but I digress) sometimes results in heavy fog, slush and possibly snow depending on the temperature. It's safe to say I was prepared for changeable conditions.

On the highway my first obstacle was Zayi who had pooped in her crate. I stopped and clean her out, using a flashlight because my interior light doesn't work, then got back on the road. Clear sailing for about another 15 kilometres before I come upon flashing lights and a group of teenagers standing by the side of the road looking forlorn with police and tow trucks at hand. They were clearly driving too fast for the conditions.

The conditions? It was just wet ... until I passed the accident scene and then the road became severely heavy with slush. Here in Nova Scotia this is called a 'dirty' road. The slush stayed thick and heavy for some time and I kept my speed down a bit waiting for it to clear. How long could it last?

It lasted until it started to snow. A lot. Like ... more than you'd think was possible. I'd say for the next 30 kilometres the snow was as heavy as any white-out I've ever driven in. Ever. I could see about 10 feet beyond the front of the truck, if that. The only thing that kept me sane was telling myself to just stay between the lines. Stay between the lines. Why? Because beyond those line I couldn't see the road, the shoulder, the ditch, the trees ... anything but snow.

About 10 seconds after I thought "Just stay between the lines" a cruel cruel Universe planted a sign on the road that stated 'Reduced Lane Markings' and took my lines away. The road is being resurfaced. The language I uttered at this new development is also unprintable (it was not my finest hour), I slowed even more and crawled along the highway willing the truck to just stay on pavement. Every so often one of those ridiculous and useless little white markers would pop up to let me know that I was indeed still on the highway.

Eventually the road gave me back my lines. Ha! I met that challenge and beat it. The new challenge was even more snow. Heavy, wet, sticky, white, white, white. This went on for miles and miles at 4:30am after only 4 hours of sleep. My back is so sore from crouching over my steering wheel with a death grip I'll need a deep muscle massage to ease out the kinks. 

I passed the turn off for Bible Hill so I knew I was close to Truro where I had to turn south to go to Halifax. I didn't know what I would do if this weather continued all the way to the airport but I was determined to not to give up. Nothing was going to stop me putting these puppies on a plane - even if we were late we were at least going to try. I couldn't turn back and there was nothing for it but to keep driving.

And then, like a miracle, the snow eased up within 500 meters and suddenly I could see stars. A clear, crisp black night above me with bright stars and a flat, smooth, snow-free road ahead. I breathed a huge, but slightly confused, sigh of relief and crept back up to highway speed. I looked to the south and saw nothing but clear bight sky ... this was now going to be a cinch and the puppies will fly away safely.

I knew a split second before I got there that I was about to hit black ice. It is that moment in which you know you cannot do a thing to prevent it but because your brain works so fast, you can see the potential for disaster looming large. When the truck tires met the icy surface of a bridge over a railway line the vehicle was suddenly and completely out of my control. In 50 feet of highway it zigged sideways from the right lane into the left lane, the rear started to skew around to the right and then the tires grabbed at the wet pavement on the other side of the bridge and we zagged back into the right lane again. So when the road sign says 'Bridge freezes before road' ... they friggin' mean it.

At this point I'd had just about enough of the last hour of my life. I allowed myself a few panicky tears, shook my fist at the Universe and took the exit to Halifax. From then on down to the airport the road was clear, the stars were bright and we arrived safely at the Westjet terminal with 15 minutes to spare.

Worth it? I'm not going to say "absolutely" because it wasn't just my life that was being put through the ringer this morning, it was also the lives of the two puppies I needed to get to the airport. I couldn't bear the idea that something might have happened to Gotham or Zayi, or that they wouldn't be able to fly today. My consolation prize for this mornings trauma is hearing from two great homes that both puppies arrived safe and sound. Below is a photo of sweet Gotham in his new home in Calgary with Uncle Rory. They will have so much fun ruining that gorgeous new hardwood. Photos of Zayi have been promised but for now we can close the book on another successful litter of Ridgeback puppies all safely in their wonderful homes. Hugs to all the babies this Thanksgiving weekend but most especially to Gotham and Zayi for being so brave today - it's been kind of a big day for them!

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

OMG, what a scary trip. We didn't have snow but we did have wind and hail and sleet, and on the news was film of the Cobequid Pass and mountains covered with the nasty white stuff. Hoping your trip home later in the day was a bit safer and snow and ice all melted. Poor puppies (and you) getting thrown around in all that skidding and sliding, there must have been angels on your shoulder to keep you on the road. I would have been sweating bullets the rest of the drive.