More than 1,000 chickens lucked into a peaceful retirement starting with a cross-country flight to upstate New York. The white Leghorn chickens are past their prime egg-laying days, too lean to be eaten, and would have been slaughtered if the Animal Place rescue organization hadn’t stepped in to find them new homes. On Wednesday night, 1,200 chickens were loaded onto a private cargo plane from California to Elmira, New York. Operation Chicken Airlift cost $50,000 and was paid for by an anonymous donor.
The poultry were just another example of animals transported by air:
After learning how overcrowded California animal shelters are with tiny dogs, airlines including Virgin America have stepped up with Operation Chihuahua, transporting dozens of dogs to New York for adoption. West coasters can help prep the dogs for flight with “bathing, caging and snuggling” with Project Flying Chihuahuas.
The Department of Transportation now recommends that U.S. carriers allow certain unusual animals in the cabin as service or therapy animals. This may include pot-bellied pigs, monkeys or miniature horses (!), as long as they don’t cause a “significant disruption” in service.
Last year, many internet users fell for an adorable hoax photo of a panda cub flying in business class. The fake China Airlines press release noted that Squee Squee ate bamboo, “with a side of bamboo, and bamboo mousse for dessert.”
I love my two cats and I miss them dearly them when I travel for extended periods of time. Though there are more and more options for traveling with a pet, I’m still not about to bring them with me. It’s just too expensive, too much of a hassle, and too much stress on the pet to fly them with me for a two-week jaunt. So they stay home and I snuggle-attack any furry friends I happen to make along my travels.
For dog lovers, there’s another option available. As Peter Greenberg showcases in a video posted on his site, several hotels around the country are now offering special pet “rental” programs. At select Fairmont hotels, guests can borrow a dog for a day to take it out on a walk around town.
At the Fairmont Tremblant in Quebec, Gracie the canine ambassador is available for walks. At the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, Catie the former guide-dog fills the role. Other hotels offer similar programs, like the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek. Greenberg also highlights a program run by a shelter near Aspen. The shelter “rents” out dogs up for adoption for play dates. Many local hotels like the St. Regis and The Little Nell even allow the dogs to stay overnight. Of course, as Greenberg points out, the hope is that the temporary owner will then become a permanent one.
So next time you are traveling and missing your pets at home, you may not be out of luck. Just look for a hotel that offers one of these innovative pet-lover-friendly programs.
Virgin America and American Airlines are rescuing Chihuahuas from California by the dozens. As it turns out, California is not a place to be a Chihuahua. There are just too many of them. When Chihuahuas became the dog flavor of the day, thanks to the movies “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” and “Legally Blond,” and the Chihuahua carrying habits of celebrities like Paris Hilton, dog breeders overshot the numbers of Chihuahuas. Supply, in essence, overshot the demand.
The numbers are astounding. 4,700 Chihuahuas have been taken in by animal shelters in California this year, some from owners who couldn’t afford their dog any more due to the recession.
Thankfully, people on the east coast don’t have enough small dogs so Virgin America and Project Flying Chihuahua, and American Airlines and Kinder4Rescue, a non-profit started by actress Katherine Heigl, are taking the Chihuahuas there. The Chihuahuas have a discounted fee and money is being raised to help with the Chihuahua rescue efforts. So far Chihuahuas are going by air to New Hampshire and New York City.
Dogs have also been sent to Arizona, Washington and Oregon, but by S.U.V.
There is a chance that Virgin America may offer a week of half price trips to people who are willing to take a Chihuahua to New York from California. This doesn’t mean you’d be the one adopting the dog, just the one helping it make it to its new home.
Warm waters caused by El Nino currents may be responsible for the record number of sea lions that have shown up weak and hungry along the California coast this year. In Sausalito, the Marine Mammal Center says it has rescued a record number of exhausted and malnourished sea lions, who can’t find enough food to survive because the squid and anchovies they normally eat have headed out into colder waters. While the center normally helps around 600 sea lions, so far they’ve rescued over 1000 in the last 7 months. In southern California, the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro has taken in 365 sea lions since January.
Want to help? You can book the “Save the Sea Lions” package at the Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club in Redondo Beach. For $299 per night (plus tax), you’ll get an ocean-view room, a sea lion stuffed animal, a disposable camera, and a two-hour paddle-boat rental so you can get up close to the sea lions in the water. 10% of the proceeds from each package sold will go to the Marine Mammal Care Center to help them rescue and care for the sea lions. You can also visit the Center to learn more about their efforts firsthand. They don’t charge admission but do accept donations.
We woke up the next morning, eager to see what Boquete looked like. We spent all day driving there from Panama City the day before, but by the time we got there it was too dark to see anything.
“Wow. It’s paradise here.”
It was. Whenever I imagine paradise, I think of a white sand beach with perfect blue water. But then when I get to such a beach, I get sick of it within hours and want to leave.
This was different. Boquete is in the Panama highlands and is bordered on two sides by mountains. The result is year round perfect temperatures (if not perfect weather), and the feeling of being nestled in some secret valley.
My first thought was of Galt Gulch from Atlas Shrugged. It was exactly how I had imagined Ayn Rand’s utopia.
If you go to Boquete, and you really should, I recommend staying at Hostel Nomba. I’m normally not much of a fan of hostels, but Nomba was really clean, everyone there was friendly, the location was perfect, and the owner, Ryan, was unbelievably helpful.
A lot of people had cars around town, but we also noticed that some people had horses instead. I’m not talking about horses for recreation, I’m talking about daily driver horses for transportation. They tied them up outside of cafes, just like a cowboy might.
Neither Todd nor I had ridden horses in ages, but we decided that we absolutely had to find some horses to ride.
We asked Ryan if he knew where to rent horses. Sure enough, he did. He gave us directions to his rancher friend in the mountains and told us to tell him that we were his friends.
The paved road became a dirt road, which led to a rickety wooden bridge that looked as if it may not be intended for cars. The idea of a rental car plummeting into the river below was too hilarious to pass up, so we went across it.
No plummeting happened, but immediately after the bridge was an impassable (yes, we tried) incline covered in huge rocks. We parked the car and started loading our backpacks with snacks and water to continue on foot.
“Hola! Me llamo Didimo!”
I looked up to see a short Panamanian rancher’s face smiling at us. It was Didimo, Ryan’s friend. I introduced myself and explained that we wanted to rent some horses.
No problem, he said. He had to leave for an hour, but there were hot springs on his property that we could soak in while we waited. Hard to complain about that.
After a short soak and a swim in the freezing cold river nearby, Didimo galloped up on his horse. He took us to some horses nearby and explained how he loved his animals and always treated them and fed them well.
We mounted our stallions and he lead us towards the woods. I had no idea if we were going to be walking around in circles in a pasture, or if we’d actually get to have fun.
Any reservations I had were put to rest when I saw the trail we were about to climb. It was narrow, rocky, and so steep that I’d be hesitant to climb it myself. To be totally honest, I had no idea that horses could even climb rocks like that.
For two hours we climbed through mountain trails, galloped through open fields, and walked along the banks of the river. Occasionally we’d stop in a pasture to play with other animals. Of particular interest was jumping on and riding a water buffalo bareback.
Didimo was the perfect guide. You could tell that he was delighted to show us around and was really proud of his animals and his land. We hadn’t worked out a price ahead of time, but after the ride I was willing to pay just about anything. He charged us almost nothing.
To go ride horses, soak in the natural springs, or just hang out with Didimo, talk to Ryan at Hostel Nomba. Didimo doesn’t have good cell phone coverage out there. I also imagine you could just show up and he’d be happy to have you.
I could talk about Boquete all day long, but I’ll leave you with one more great off the beaten path thing to do in Boquete.
The next day we were eating lunch at the Hostel, not sure what to do with the day. Ryan offhandedly suggested going to Paradise Gardens, a wildlife rescue shelter.
Great recommendation. The awesome thing about places like Panama is that they don’t have the same problems with people suing over everything, so there are often times less regulations. This was the case with Paradise Gardens.
We made friends with one of the volunteers, and he took us around personally and let us inside a lot of the cages. We played with a giant parrot, a lemur, a two toed sloth, and even a jaguarundi. At the end, after the center had closed, we stuck around and helped take care of baby owls by feeding them and warming them with our breath.
The grounds themselves are designed by an expat stone mason and his wife. They’re covered in beautiful flowers, stone walkways, fountains, and cages full of wild birds being rehabilitated.
The whole experience was magical, and well worth the $5 donation they ask for.
If you go to Panama, you must go to Boquete. It’s my new definition of paradise, and feels like a whole new country hidden within Panama.