Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Please, hold your ap-paws

Three lucky winners take home prizes in Pet Travel Stories Contest

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Wake up the kids and call the neighbours, animal lovers, because it's time to unveil the big winners in Doug's Totally Awesome Pet Travel Stories Contest.

This is the contest I launched earlier this month wherein you, the kind-hearted readers, were invited to send in your favourite stories about taking a trip with your pet(s) in exchange for a shot at our grand prize -- a two-night stay for you and your pet(s) at the fabulous Delta Winnipeg.

Before we hand out prizes, let me take a moment here to personally thank you readers for doing such an awesome job responding to the Pet Page's first official contest. As I write these words, the floor in my office cubicle is covered with mounds and mounds of printed copies of your emailed stories.

Each entry was read by our crackerjack judging panel, consisting of myself and Helen Halliday, the generous general manager of the Delta Winnipeg. Some of the heart-tugging entries left us judges misty-eyed, whereas others made us laugh to the point where small puddles of drool collected on the keyboards of our personal computers.

But you don't have to take my word for it. "It was fantastic," Helen gushes. "It was tough to choose a winner. There were a lot of great stories. We had to re-read a bunch before we could make up our minds.

"I feel like I know a whole bunch more pet lovers and it reaffirms the number of people who are travelling with their pets."

There were so many great entries, in fact, that Helen and I bravely decided to offer two more swell prizes, beginning with...

In third place, winning copies of Back in the Bigs and The First Season by my Jets-loving colleague Randy Turner, along with my book, Bite-sized Doug, is Bellatrix the 32-kilogram American bulldog who, along with owners Desirée Pappel and her husband, Raynald, had to travel to Saskatoon for cancer treatments.

During the night at a pet-friendly hotel, Pappel writes, "Bella began to growl and bark, a behaviour that's out of character for our quiet pet. After we woke and tried to calm her, we realized that someone was trying to break into our room and our ever-vigilant dog had alerted us to the trespasser. Even though this trip was meant for us to take care of her, she never quit taking care of us."

In second place, winning a $100 certificate for the Delta's Blaze Bistro, we have Skeeter and Spike, a pair of well-behaved miniature pinschers who joined owner Lorraine Enns-Goulet and her husband on a fun-filled trip to the United States in the middle of a blinding snowstorm.

After eventually checking into a hotel in Fargo, Enns-Goulet and the dogs were winding down while her hubby heeded the urgent call of nature. "All of a sudden, the fire alarms start going off," she recalls. "First reaction is that it's kids or a false alarm.

"Then I opened the door and saw the smoke. Now remember the poor man sitting in the powder room. I start telling him to hurry up, people are running in the hallways, banging on doors, yelling: 'Fire!'"

The good news is everyone got out safely and now, whenever Enns-Goulet burns the toast and sets off her kitchen alarms, the dogs come running. We can't say the same about her husband.

Which somehow brings us to our Grand Prize Winner, Mowgli the high-strung tabby cat, who made life more than a little exciting for beleaguered owner Renée el-Gabalawy during an action-packed flight to New York.

We pick up the action as Mowgli and el-Gabalawy, a PhD candidate in psychology who was heading off to spend seven months studying at prestigious Yale University, began their dramatic descent into the Big Apple.

"Mowgli had been moving around in her small pink carry bag under the seat and patiently plotting her escape," Renee writes. "She used her incredible intelligence combined with rage to successfully unzip herself from the small pink prison she had been held captive in.

"Upon tasting freedom, she heroically made a break for it. However, she was spotted by the passenger next to me. Luckily, I was able to catch her."

Now most cats would have given up at this point. But Mowgli is not "most cats." With the top of the carry bag now firmly secured, "Mowgli somehow loosened the zipper on the front exit, pawing her way out of the bag and under the seat." The elusive tabby's second hijacking attempt was underway.

"All of a sudden, I heard a German gentleman behind me yell: 'DAS CAT!'" Renee recalls of that painful moment. "I frantically felt the bag and realized there was no Mowgli in it. I rushed out of my seat, ran down the centre lane of the plane while the flight attendants were yelling at me to take my seat.

"I attempted to grab her and she growled, scratched and completely lost her kitty mind. I desperately tried to calm her, she growled, the flight attendants became more and more angry that I was out of my seat during the descent and the other passengers watched all the fun occur."

The dramatic conclusion? "I got her back into her carry case eventually, only to have another 45-minute delay on the ground because of Hurricane Sandy. It took a few weeks for Mowgli to shake off this traumatizing experience but she is now happy and healthy.

"Next step, our trip home in August..."

We can only pray that on the return trip, el-Gabalawy will remember to fly first-class, where we understand the overhead luggage compartments are exceptionally roomy.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 26, 2013 C5

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