Many of us have "dog friends" - people we see at events, know their dogs' names, may or may not know their spouses names or their home towns, but still we feel a sense of camaraderie. For Belgian fanciers, most of us approach anyone with a Belgian at an event we are attending and introduce ourselves. There aren't usually that many of us. We form a community of our own.
Sandy Blazier is one of my "dog friends". We met at a trial or two in Canada, many years ago now. Laughed our way through some fun obedience trials with our two related Belgian Tervuren boys, Whisky and Beep. Not close friends, but dog friends. Sandy lives in eastern Canada, I live in upstate NY.
The Tuesday morning of September 11, 2011 was a gorgeous early fall morning here. I came up from doing barn chores and working dogs thinking about how much I love the fall season. Then I got a panicked phone call from my middle sister. Chris is generally pretty cool but she was highly upset. She was at work, someone put on a TV and people were hijacking planes and blowing up buildings! Plus our brother in law, Lee, husband of my youngest sister, Verne, was flying out of Boston and that is where the planes were from.
I put on the TV and was shocked. Verne was probably still driving home from the airport in Boston. Chris didn't know Lee's flight number, but she knew his airline. Calls to Boston were not going through. I called the Syracuse airport where apparently the order to shut down all calls had not come through yet. A kind woman said she would check to see if Lee was on one of the planes in trouble. She let me know that Lee had changed his flight that morning from a nonstop to the West Coast to one with a stop since it was less expensive. "He is safe and heading for Toronto where he should be landing any minute", she reassured me. Thank heavens for frugality!
Our nation owes a huge debt to the Canadians. Lee later said planes were lined up at the Toronto airport wing tip to wing tip to accommodate the no fly orders. Passengers were eventually informed why they were detoured and bused to the terminals. From there, people made their way to any hotel room they could find. Lee ended up in a less than sparkling area of Toronto but very grateful he was on land and safe.
A friend told me that a small airport in Nova Scotia was likewise filled with planes but also had no extensive hotel/restaurant areas nearby. So the local people made a shelter, fixed meals and kept all the travelers comfortable until arrangements could be made for them. More unsung Canadian heroes.
Now, how to get Lee back to Massachusetts? The borders were closed - no cars, no buses, no trains. After a day, the pedestrian bridge at the Peace Bridge site in Niagara was open to walkers. This bridge goes from the Canadian Niagara to the American Niagara. I could drive to the American side. But how to get Lee to the Canadian side of the bridge?
I thought of Sandy - a fellow member of ABTC (American Belgian Tervuren Club). I knew she lived in eastern Canada so she must be close, right? I know any Canadians who read this are laughing. Sure, eastern Canada, sort of like east of the Mississippi in the US! Luckily Mississauga, Ontario where Sandy lives is not too far from Toronto.
One phone call, an immediate, unqualified yes and Sandy and her husband Peter were off to get Lee. They rescued Lee from his "hotel", fed him a gourmet lunch, and then set off for Niagara. That was not a close drive - figure 1 1/2 hours at least each way.
In classic, rescue dog transport fashion, I arranged the pickups. I would drive to Niagara and get Lee, then drive back to my house near Utica, NY - about a 4 hour drive each way. My sister would head out from her house north of Boston and drive to my house. That was about a 6 hour drive. My kids who had been upset by all the tragedy were thrilled to get pulled out of school to go "rescue Uncle Lee" - a positive action.
The whole affair went like clockwork. Lee was home on Friday - days before fellow travelers found a way back to the States. My family was amazed that "dog people" simply stepped up to help where needed.
The "Belgian Connection" came through. So as I think of the 9/11 anniversary, along with all the tragedy, I am filled with thanks for the Canadians who helped so much and special thanks to Sandy and Peter Blazier of Oneida Belgians for helping my family.