Saturday, February 28, 2009

Puppy Breath

In keeping with the animal theme from my last post, a recent flight from Tulsa, Oklahoma to DFW provided some interesting passenger comments and a few unique photos.

Before takeoff on every single leg, we are provided with what we call a "closeout". That is simply a record of what we are carrying on that particular flight. It includes total fuel, passengers, cargo weight, trim settings, flap settings, takeoff weight, any restricted articles, and live animals. This "closeout" comes to us via our onboard printer after the crew chief, gate agents, and load agents have closed out the flight after we push off the gate. We cannot takeoff without a closeout.

With that being said, we were in the process of being pushed back from the gate at Tulsa when our closeout came over. It said we were carrying 47 live animals!! It's not uncommon for us to carry live animals, in fact it's an everyday thing. But 47 seemed odd. So I asked our tug driver over the interphone what was up. She nonchalantly said we had 47 puppies onboard! She went on to tell us that this is a regular occurrence on the weekends. Apparently there is a puppy mill somewhere near Tulsa that ships out puppies all over the country on a regular basis. Very interesting we thought.

I made a quick call to our crew to advise them about the dogs just in case any passengers were to complain about the barking, and then off we went to DFW. 188 passengers, 5 flight attendants, 2 pilots, and 47 dogs.

Almost all the newer planes these days have automated pressurized cargo compartments so there is no need to worry about carrying live animals in the belly. But that wasn't always the case with older jets. I remember that the 727's had a switch for shutting off pressurization to one of the cargo compartments. It was normally left in the "on" position. But in case there was a pressurization problem with the airplane, the first thing to do was to turn off that switch so as to maintain sufficient pressurization for the main cabin. Unfortunately that would suffocate and freeze any live animals that had the bad luck that day to be in the cargo compartment. We sometimes called that switch the "freeze the dog" switch, or the "pupsicle" switch. Fortunately I never had to use it!Upon arrival at DFW we taxied up to our gate and a rather large crowd of rampers were waiting for us and the dogs. Several small pickup trucks and baggage carts were standing by for the transfer.These dogs weren't just going to Texas, they were being transferred all over the country.

I had to go outside and take a look. I had my earplugs ready!

All these guys seemed pretty well behaved. In fact they were probably better behaved than some of our passengers at times.

Their first airplane ride was a success!
I sure hope they all went to good homes....

For a look at some more of my photos, please aviate over to Plane & Simple.


Curdle1 said...

That is a lot of puppies! I agree with what you said, I hope they go to decent families.

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Curdle1,

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Good luck with your training. I grew up in Arizona...been to Prescott many times. Great flying weather!


High Flyer said...

Those are some good looking dogs! The pupsicle comment is priceless!
In the 57 are all the holds heated? I know from my ramp days on the 737 that only the aft hold was heated or suitable for AVIH??

Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi High Flyer,

All the cargo compartments on the 757 are heated.

The MD-80 only had one heated compartment like the 737.


Mark Lawrence said...


I too loved the pupsicle comment - that really is priceless. I'm sure you want to be away from animals for a while with the birds and dogs saga! But, in all honesty - those puppies were probably better behaved than a few of the people sitting in the seats above them! :)


Len (Barfbag) said...

Hi Mark,

You're right about the dogs behavior. They were surprisingly quiet. Can't say that about our passengers sometimes!


Linda said...

Congratulations. You just aided and abetted a puppy mill in transporting (usually) sickly and always, inbreed animals. While this is out of your control, you should lobby your airline to make this activity much for difficult for these puppy mills. How about requiring a pax for every three animals shipped???

Len (Barfbag) said...

So Linda,
If it's out of my control as you stated, then why are you congratulating me?
Am I aiding and abetting global warming every time I go fly a jet aircraft? How about noise pollution?
Should I go lobby my airline for quieter or non polluting jet engines?
My job is to get my passengers and cargo from point A to point B in a safe, professional, and efficient manner. I am generally not allowed to decide who or what gets boarded on my aircraft. Occasionally I have to have an unruly passenger removed or I must deny boarding to a drunk, but to think that a line pilot as myself could possibly have any influence with management is ridiculous.
While your cause is a worthy one, I would suggest you take it to my airline yourself and see how far that gets you.

Linda said...


You obviously missed the sarcasm/irony in my 'congratulations'. And BTW, your plane IS aiding and abetting global warming and noise pollution every time you fly it!

Your response reminds me of the Germans, post-WWII: "I was just doing my job". If each and every one of us does not start, on an individual basis, to change this world, it will never become a healthier place.

Pets are defenseless with humans and puppy mills are one of the most flagrant abuses of animal trust. Millions of pets languish each day in shelters, yet these despicable, uneducated people are allowed to continue to breed/sell carelessly for profit and others, like your airline, facilitate this.

I was merely trying to offer a suggestion as to what you could do as an employee; think about it: It would add pax revenue to your cash-starved airline! Maybe you would even get a bonus for your suggestion.

P.S. I would be happy to write your CEO. Who do you fly for?

Len (Barfbag) said...


Now that I've stopped laughing at your response, here's where you need to write. It seems that you have plenty of time on your hands to do so.

Gerard Arpey
American Airlines Inc
PO Box 619616
DFW Airport, TX 75261

P.S. I won't be publishing any more of your rantings, so you can direct them elsewhere from now on.

futurepilot said...

Wow 235 souls on board ! :D, I just discovered your blog today and I must say, I love it !
And long live to the puppies !

Fly safe


Len (Barfbag) said...


Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoy my writing.