Nightmare Journey

My lovely bride and I are in the process of relocating. I am in our new house near Houston (about which more in the future) while she’s in our old house in Ohio. The work we had to do on the old place is nearly finished, but before we are able put it on the market we had to get the dogs relocated, the reason we’re reluctantly holding two houses right now.

So we were faced with the problem of transporting 20 large, heavily coated Borzoi – plus Talker, the Whippet and Fluffy (God, what a name!), the cat – from Ohio to Texas. Shuttling the dogs down didn’t seem realistic; the best thing, we decided, was to get them all down at once. This, we felt, would be most efficient and less expensive than the alternatives.

We settled on using a horse-transportation company to assist us. They move horses from one end of the country to another; why not our dogs? We made arrangements with one and were led to believe that they would provide an enclosed air-conditioned semi trailer to transport the dogs comfortably. My lovely bride asked for them to come the week of May 25th, most preferably Wednesday the 27th. We also sent them a picture of eleven of the dogs lined up in their crates, to give them an idea of their size.

Our plans were this: The three oldest dogs – Lacey, Silver and Titan – would be staying with my lovely bride in Ohio until the household goods were transported. Titan would be boarded at the vet’s because of his age and poor tolerance for long-distance travel. Lacey and Silver would ride to Texas (their native state) with my lovely bride in the minivan and return with her to Ohio. Stanley, a poor traveler, would also ride in a crate in the minivan. I would be taking Fluffy (God, what a name!) and whatever dog-related items in the (non-air-conditioned) conversion van. The remainder of the dogs would be riding in the (we supposed) air-conditioned trailer.

Three days beforehand, the transportation firm called to tell us that they would be arriving on Monday the 25th. This wouldn’t do from our end, as the vet was coming out that day to inoculate the whole crew of four-legged creatures. They said that they wouldn’t come out on the 27th as we requested and that they would be fulfilling their end of the contract if they came on Monday. My lovely bride, a skilled negotiator, bargained for Tuesday the 26th. Unfortunately, this was also the day that workmen would be coming to remove the asbestos from some of the old ductwork.

On Tuesday, the asbestos-removing workmen and the transportation truck arrived at nearly the same time. To our horror, the transportation firm sent us not the air-conditioned trailer we’d been led to believe we’d be provided but an ordinary goose-neck open-slatted horse trailer, still liberally garnished with old straw and horse manure. The bloody thing wouldn’t fit through our gate and had to be parked in a neighbor’s driveway a hundred yards down the road, requiring us to shuttle the dogs’ wire crates and the dogs down there.

First things first, the house dogs had to be gotten out before the asbestos removal could begin. Then my lovely bride and I slogged away at gradually moving crates and dogs down the road to the trailer and getting them loaded. The driver insisted on balancing the load, so they had to go on the two sides of the trailer. Unfortunately, the trailer was too narrow for any walkway between the crates on one side and those on the other. My lovely bride finally got them all fitted in, but to get to some of the dogs, others would have to be removed and their crates lifted out of the way. Needless to say, we prayed there wouldn’t be any emergencies.

Finally, after six hours on an increasingly hot day, we got underway on our 1200 mile trip. Despite having some 2000 pounds of dogs and their associated crates, the trailer was underweight and bounced badly on an uneven road. Dutch and Ilya, who were riding in the very back, were particularly badly shaken and Dutch had stress diarrhea. At a stop some 100 miles down the road, we found that almost everyone’s water had either sloshed out of their buckets or had dirt and straw floating in it. We had thought that the 50 gallons of water we brought with us would be more than enough, but between the heat, the stress and the ride, the poor dogs were going through it at a prodigious rate.

We got to Memphis at about 11:00 PM. My lovely bride and I got everyone exercised, took Lacey, Silver and Belle to the motel room with us and fell into bed for a couple of hours. At 4:00, we got up and did some rearranging of dogs and equipment to empty out the rear of the trailer to the extent possible. Dutch and Ilya were crated in my van, where they could ride less uncomfortably, and Faith and Belle went with my lovely bride, who now had five dogs with her. At 6:00 AM, we all departed.

The drive from Memphis to Houston, down through Mississippi and through Louisiana, seemed to take forever and the day got hotter and hotter. At a rest stop, we exercised the dogs and soaked everyone to the skin with water from a hose outlet before reloading them. Finally, after 7:00 PM, we arrived at our destination south of Houston. This time, the driver was able to get his rig through the gate and we unloaded the dogs and their crates as quickly as possible into their temporary home, the garage.

Within a couple of hours, Ilya fell very ill. Had not my lovely and very perceptive bride not noticed the symptoms immediately, poor Ilya would have gone past the point of no return. Luckily I had made contact with a vet clinic before the move and even more luckily they had a vet on call. We rushed Ilya to the clinic, where he was very expensively treated for a life-threatening disorder. He’s now convalescing here and, God willing, should make a full recovery.

A terrible, depressing, expensive experience. Never, never will we do anything like this again. But it’s over. The other dogs are settling in well and enjoying their new homestead. Within the month, the household goods (mercifully inanimate), my lovely bride, and the three remaining dogs will make their way down to Stately Hlatky Manor South. And, after seven months, we’ll all be a family again.

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