Winchell gets busted!

January 25, 2006
January 24, 2006
Frequent Flier | Sammy Hagar

Busted! Please Put the Dog Down, Sir, and Step Away

OUR rat terrier, Winchell, used to travel with us everywhere we went - on family vacations, business trips, even on tour with Van Halen. When we moved to Maui, we didn't think twice about taking him along. The problem was the six-month quarantine for animals entering Hawaii. We couldn't imagine being separated from him for that long, so we devised a plan to smuggle him into the islands.

My wife, Kari, consulted with several veterinarians to determine how to tranquilize Winchell. We needed to give him just enough doggie-downers to sedate him for the five-hour flight without killing him. After feeding Winchell the pills, we slipped him into a little carrier and he fell fast asleep. Then we boarded our flight.

Halfway through the flight, we also took a nap. I woke up to the sound of Bill Cosby saying, "What a cute little dog."

It wasn't the inflight entertainment system. Bill Cosby was on the plane - and Winchell wasn't in his carrier. The dog had woken up, clawed his way out of the carrier, staggered down the aisle, and made Mr. Cosby's acquaintance.

I looked around to see if anyone else had met Winchell. The flight attendants were nowhere to be seen, so I scooped him up and returned him to his carrier. For the next few hours, Winchell didn't make a sound - he was still dazed - and we hoped no one would say anything about our illegal dog. I was stressed out. I imagined being met by authorities at the airport and paying a huge fine or even being sent to jail for breaking quarantine laws.

Just after landing, we learned our fate. A flight attendant made an announcement: "Whoever let the dog on board, please ring your call button." We knew Winchell had been busted.

Fortunately, Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead happened to be on the plane with his wife, Carol, who is a lawyer. The couple stayed with us and offered to help. Eventually, a flight attendant took pity on us and made arrangements to ship Winchell back to the mainland, where friends picked him up at the airport.

Mr. Cosby, for his part, couldn't resist turning our doggie-dilemma into a joke. As he exited the plane, he slapped his carry-on bag, repeatedly ordering an imaginary dog hiding inside: "Down, Fido, down!"

As told to Christopher Elliott.