2011 Apr 03 Sunday
Finally it looked like we had a narrow window of good weather for this flight. This San Diego family had relocated to Whidbey Island, Washington nearly two weeks ago and had left their lovely fur family in boarding, waiting for On Wings Of Care to return from the Gulf to fly them north. But when we returned to California, there were cold fronts one after another hitting the Pacific Northwest and bringing down rain and snow and icy clouds, making it impossible for us to fly the brood northward. We still went to the boarding kennel to meet and 'free' the two giant dogs 'Rascal' and 'Lady' (about 280 lbs between them), and kept them at home with us for a couple of days, along with their three cats -- 'Marvin', 'Jet', and 'Liz'. The fur kids were happy to be out of the boarding kennels, and the dogs especially loved the walks and attention from us for a couple of days. But like all beings with hearts and loved ones, there is no place like home with family; these fur kids were definitely pining for their human family.
They took up most all of the airplane! The cats in a large kennel in the far back of the cabin (back seats removed), and Rascal and Lady with the rest of the cabin to themselves. Rascal is an absolute treasure of a dog heart. A big guy, looks like a cross between a NewFoundland and a long-haired shepherd, with a sense of responsibility and quiet dignity and a grateful but proud nature. We found him quite extraordinary (and would take a puppy from his lineage some day!). And Lady is lovely and lively, a huge package of love and emotion. Marvin, the orange tabby cat, was leader of the three cats and quite the sociable, talkative one. Liz and Jet were not pleased with the whole situation, appreciated being held but otherwise just wanted to curl up and try to forget that this whole ordeal was even happening.
We left El Monte airport in southern California early, around 0700, anticipating the brutal headwinds that made for a very long day of flying. Refueled near Redding and then at Bremerton, WA, where we dropped off our only other passengers -- two chihuahuas 'Betty' and 'Jellybean', who rode the entire trip on our laps in their comfy soft 'cube'. (To read about Betty and Jellybean, click here.) The tiny airport on Whidbey Island (called "Langley") was a lovely sight but a bit intimidating with the local gusty winds. The runway is only 25' wide -- barely half as wide as our airplane! And only 2000' long, surrounded by very tall trees on all sides. It was definitely a very steep, power-off approach for this runway, and because of the gusty winds we didn't dare use full flaps until we were very close to the ground and needed that extra drag just before touchdown, and then we pulled them up right away to get the weight on the wheels. But it was smooth and actually a lot of fun. The turnaround at the end of the narrow runway was interesting, since we didn't dare run off into the soggy wet grass on the sides, but was accomplished easily enough.
The reunion with their human family was heartwarming. You can see the smiles all around in these photos! We took off immediately, as weather was closing in fast from yet another front, for which flood warnings were already in effect just west of us. We didn't make it back to California that night, had to land in Chehalis and couldn't get off the ground very early the next day (in fact, I'm typing this as we sit grounded in Chehalis). It's cold here too, at least for our warm southern blood. These are hearty folks who live in the Pacific Northwest!
Here is a video showing an aerial view of Whidbey Airpark. And more wonderful photos of these great dogs and their adoring humans.