A family trip got off to a rough start for one NWT family last week when their four-legged friend was left behind – unbeknownst to them.
Jo Kelly, the owner of Qimmiq Dog Day Camp & Boarding Kennel, said this sort of separation has been happening more than usual in recent weeks.
On June 30, Jennifer Pitt flew from Yellowknife to Inuvik along with her four kids and senior dog, Trina, via Canadian North.
“We came up here to visit my partner and to visit family, and the dog is part of our family, so she comes with,” Pitt said.
Having flown with the 12-year-old northern special before, Pitt said she made sure to take all the usual precautions to make sure the flight was a smooth travel experience for everyone, including calling the airline when booking her flights to ensure there was space for Trina on the plane.
“When I called to initially book the flight, I was very specific, like, ‘make sure that my dog is able to come on this flight,’ because I know they have certain weight restrictions. We shift our plans because she needs to come with us,” Pitt said.
Pitt brought Trina to the check-in desk early to ensure her kennel was weighed, paid for, and tagged properly in time for the flight.
“She’s a bit of a nervous traveler, and so she was a bit hesitant to go into her kennel. We were like, ‘It’s okay Trina, we’re gonna see you really soon, it’s a short flight,’” Pitt said.
Unfortunately, their promised reunion wouldn’t happen until almost a full day later.
After waiting for about an hour at the Inuvik airport for Trina to arrive, Pitt was surprised to learn that Trina never left Yellowknife.
“The one thing that just breaks my heart is I remember closing the kennel and being like, ‘it’s okay, Trina. We’re going to see you soon.’ Now it’s like, I broke my promise to my poor dog.”
Instead, Trina was taken to Qimmiq Dog Day Camp & Boarding Kennel in Yellowknife, where she stayed overnight until she was picked up by Canadian North the next morning to catch another flight to Inuvik.
Until now, Pitt said she had never had an issue flying with Trina. Having taken pains to plan in advance, and paid a premium, Pitt was disappointed to see the service was not provided the way she expected.
“I don’t know what happened. How do you forget a dog? In a big city, maybe, but it’s Yellowknife, you know? There’s only a certain number of flights going out a day,” Pitt said.
Pitt said she wishes at the very least someone could have told her sooner that her dog didn’t make it on the flight.
“I’m sure she’s fine but you know, you paid $150 for your dog to go on the flight, and they didn’t even come and tell us that she wasn’t on it. They do have my phone number. I was on the plane, they could have paged us overhead.”
Dogs dropped off at Qimmiq by airline “three or four times” in the last few months
“It’s definitely happened three or four times in the last couple of months, for sure,” Kelly said, who takes in dogs at Qimmiq who miss their flights.
While Kelly said her team does everything they can to help out in instances like this one (she can’t recall a time they didn’t take in a dog left behind), she said it can and should be avoided.
“I totally get how that can happen, but it shouldn’t happen,” Kelly said.
“It comes down to just not being on the ball. I’m sure that, like everyone else across the country, everybody’s short staffed and flights are late and chaos ensues, but live animals definitely should have priority.”
Kelly said while there’s been an uptick in these incidents in recent weeks, she’s had positive experiences transporting dogs with Canadian North both personally and professionally over the years.
“I do believe that they’re capable of doing the job, and historically, they have moved literally hundreds of dogs for us. So, it’s just that there’s a glitch there and they just need to give it some attention.”
While Trina has since made it back to her family, Pitt’s partner Jonah said he has called the airline multiple times but has not been offered an explanation behind the incident.
“If you offer a service, have integrity,” he said.
When asked about Trina’s case, Canadian North said in an email that they are aware of the incident and covered the expense associated with keeping Trina in the kennel overnight.
“We understand the importance of transporting customer’s pets and are sorry for the failure that has occurred in this case. We acknowledge the failure, we are investigating what caused it, and will develop corrective actions to mitigate future occurrences,” said Canadian North representative Annie Thomlinson.