Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ark of the Arfs

I’ve been on a couple of flights where pets have been onboard. A few years ago, my sister Kath and I were flying back to Boston from Florida, and we kept hearing this yipping noise. We actually thought it was someone with Tourette’s. But when we were disembarking, we watched as the woman a few rows ahead of us took a pet carrier out from under the seat in front of her and freed up the furry little head of her mop-mop dog Charlie.

The other pet experience I had was even more memorable. On a flight home from a business trip to Cleveland, a passenger took over one of the two toilets on the plane so that she could try to calm down her howler monkey. That monkey wasn’t having any of the calming down, and all I can say is that they don’t call them howler monkeys for nothing.

Anyway, whether yipping under the seat or howling in the rest room, a traveling pet is a lot better off in the cabin than it would be in the cargo hold. Honestly, it’s hard to think of a more disturbing experience for one of our furry friends than being cooped up in a cage in a cold, dark, and noisy space for a few hours. Traveling in the cabin if you’re a human flying steerage isn’t exactly a picnic, but at least we all know what we’re getting into: no leg room, bad or no food (not sure which is worse), the person in front of you reclining with his head in your lap, the kid behind you kicking, etc. The thought of how the animals have to travel. The horror!

While not much is happening on the in-flight end of the pet travel continuum – unless you’re willing to spring for a private plane – there is something that will make man’s best friend, as well as other members of the animal kingdom, more comfortable while they’re hanging out pre or post-flight at the airport.

The Ark at JFK, a new, $65 million facility in a 178,000-square-foot warehouse, is one step toward improving the latter [i.e., non-flight] experience. It will have a splash pool, overnight kennels, and pre-flight micro-chipping services to track your animals. Eventually, this first-of-its-kind service in the U.S. will feature an in-house pet spa, too.(Source: Bloomberg)

The JFK location is the key here, as one of the main services is helping dogs clear customs.(Is there extreme vetting for pooches?) It will also take care of the animals during layovers and see them through the boarding process.

I was going to say that I wished there were something similar for humans. But, silly me. It’s the First Class or Frequent Flyer lounge. I have been in enough of those to say that it really does make a difference to be able to lounge around, in a comfy chair, without having to fight off every else looking to use a plug. You’re away from the hoi polloi waiting for your flight to be called, and you get to the gate through the secret entrance.

The Ark at JFK's equine component will have stables for importing and exporting racehorses, show horses, and polo ponies, all of which follow relatively predictable schedules.

An aviary is also in the works.

I’m not all that fond of birds as pets. And I don’t know any horses. But I’m happy that there’ll be some more creature comforts from the canine creatures who do so very much to make human life worth living.

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