Bone voyage

Fly the pet-friendly skies | Dan Weisel, Zoe and Alysa Binder founded the first airline for pets.

Pet Airways, which plans to add Dallas as a destination this summer, treats pawsengers better than some airlines treat people

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Zoe, a Jack Russell terrier, came up with the idea for Pet Airways — at least according to company founder Alysa Binder.

This summer, Pet Airways is coming to Dallas, Austin and Houston. Exact dates and which airports will be announced later, airline officials said.

Rather than try to get people airlines to treat pets better, Binder, Dan Weisel and Zoe decided to start their own airline just for dogs and cats — and a hermit crab, some gerbils, mice and maybe rabbits soon.

On Pet Airways, all of the pawsengers fly first class. Pets even walk down a red carpet. And unlike most people airlines, meals are included in the price of a ticket, although some picky pawsengers prefer to pack their own.

Binder said drinks are also included. No need for your pet to carry a credit card to purchase those amenities.

And, of course, Pet Airways has a generous frequent flier program — fly five times and get one flight free.

The airline already flies to nine cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. This summer they will add Austin, Houston and Dallas.

The fares run from $99 to $249 each way on Pet Airways. On traditional carriers, pets fly as cargo or, when available, under the seat.

The least expensive carry-on is offered by Southwest Airlines for $75. The carrier must be small enough to fit under a seat.

In cargo, Delta Airlines is the most expensive at $275.

But on Pet Airways, an animal would never be treated as cargo. Binder said that a cargo hold is dark and the flight is loud and not always fully pressurized. The pet is normally alone and often scared.

Compare that to Pet Airways where, in some ways, Binder said, pets get better treatment than people do on those people airlines.

While security measures are tight, pets are not scanned or x-rayed and no one touches their junk.

No need for any of that, said Binder. Each animal is visually examined before boarding.

“We won’t take a sedated pet,” she said.

She said that no animal should be sedated before flying because it can affect their breathing.

And a recent health certificate is required from a vet for each animal.

On-board pet attendants understand the different needs of dogs and cats of different ages.

Puppies and kittens are fed on a frequent schedule. Medications for older dogs and cats are appropriately administered as well.

Pet attendants check the comfort of their pawsengers every 15 minutes and the flights take longer than people flights, partially to give every animal a potty break — the longest breaks are in Omaha and Baltimore/Washington airports where there’s a several-hour layover.

Attendants are well-trained specialists. Binder said her employees include vets and even a former lion trainer (although Pet Airways doesn’t transport lions).

The cabin is well lit, pressurized and temperature controlled. Pets do not sit out on the tarmac facing extreme heat and cold, where most airline mishaps with pets take place.
Cages are arranged side-by-side along the cabin walls. Although no pet gets a window seat, each one faces the aisle.

Check in is required two hours before flight time. Pawsengers are picked up at the Pet Lounge about 30 minutes after arrival because a potty break is given between the plane and the lounge.

Sometimes people are flying the same day as their pets and the people airline bumps or delays a flight. If that happens, just call Pet Airways and they’ll arrange for the dog or cat to spend the night at a Pet Airways Affiliated Pet Resort.

Safety, care and comfort are the company’s mission, Binder said.

And what does the airline do with their unsold seats? Space is used to transport rescued animals to their new, permanent homes.

Now that’s something special in the air.

Reservations can be made on line at PetAirways.com or call 888-PET-AIRWAYS.

—  John Wright

Rethinking tradition • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

From ‘broomsmaids’ to choice of wedding planner, newlyweds Hal Wallace and Johnathon DeJarnett made their nuptials their own

boys to men | DeJarnett and Wallace partake in the tradition of feeding each other cake, but they mixed up the ceremony in other ways to reflect their own gay sensibilities.

By Jef tingley

A straight friend of mine once said, “I am totally against gay weddings. I’ve seen the extravagant lengths the gays go to for theme parties and Halloween, and, quite frankly, I think you’re going to raise the bar too high.”

Clearly she was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but there was also a kernel of truth in her statement: We gays do love to do it up for memorable occasions … or even simple Sunday brunches. Need proof? Look no further than the bearded bears wearing leather and lavish feather bonnets with LED lights at Easter in Lee Park. Or how about that couple who makes a custom Carmen Miranda outfit for their Jack Russell terrier? You know the type.

Yes, with great gayness comes great responsibility. And when Dallas couple Johnathon DeJarnett and Hal Wallace decided to get married, they made sure to keep up some time-honored traditions common to most straight unions … but added a touch of excess (and glitter) to mark it with a trace of fabulosity.

First was the proposal — an unlikely but successful stealth mission.

“Hal proposed to me on Dec. 19, 2009, at our friend’s holiday party,” says DeJarnett. “I was so surprised. He can’t do anything without me hearing about it, so for the entire party to know and me not to was absolutely phenomenal.”

The couple has been together five years, but has known each other much longer. They grew up in the same small town; Wallace was in the same grade as DeJarnett’s older sister.

They cleaved to tradition with a legal, official wedding ceremony in Boston on Aug. 13, but the real fête came on Nov. 20, when they hosted a Dallas wedding dinner and reception for 135 of their closest family and friends.

In keeping with the uniqueness of the event, DeJarnett’s first step was to establish a new member of the wedding party: the “broom.”

“The ‘broom’ started out as a joke,” he explains. “Since I am the obviously more, umm, colorful of the pair, people were playfully calling me the bride. That would be fine if I were a woman. Instead, I started calling myself a hybrid of the bride and groom. I was the ‘broom.’”

Finding a venue was easy — DeJarnett’s has worked for the InterContinental Hotel in Addison for four years. But finding time to plan the affair was another issue — even the best of “brooms” can get overloaded. DeJarnett’s boss, Tamara, served as interim wedding coordinator and assistant to the “broom,” tackling details ranging from cake toppers to toasting flutes.

“Hal works full-time and is a part-time student. I am the exact opposite, working only part-time and I’m a full-time student. Our wedding was right in the middle of my semester. I would receive phone calls with [wedding] questions, and I would just say, ‘ask Tamara,’” laughs DeJarnett.

When not employing the services of Tamara, the couple worked together on the details of their wedding, even designing their own invitations. As DeJarnett tells it, “Hal actually recovered from our duel bachelor party by arranging our flowers with our friends Don and Judy.”

In keeping with their theme of unique combinations, the duo also had a mixture of men and women in their bridal party. “Hal and I had our best friends Kit and Jeff, respectively, as our best men, and they accompanied each other down the aisle. Luckily, they are a couple so no one was uncomfortable,” says DeJarnett. “Then I had my best friends Holly, Vanessa, and Mytzi as my ‘broomsmaids.’ They where escorted through the ceremony by Hal’s groomsmen, Chris, Tim and Josh. And to round off the queen’s court, as it were, were our friends David and Don, who so graciously allowed their holiday party to be high-jacked for our engagement.”

With the wedding ceremony itself nearly five months passed, DeJarnett and Wallace still treasure the photos and memories of their friends and families at their side. But be it brides, grooms, or “brooms,” DeJarnett is quick to point out one common theme lifelong commitment:

“Marriage is not easy. We didn’t start out as Ward and June Cleaver. And we kinda, foolishly, thought that we would just ride off into the sunset,” he says. “Even though the horse left without us, we are still very much committed to our relationship and still very much in love.”

……………………………………..

When kids ParTAKE in SAME-SEX weddings

I love children’s books, especially those with an affirming message for alternative families, and Leslea Newman’s Heather Has Two Mommies is one of my favorites. Whenever friends have babies, I make sure it’s in their library. Heather and And Tango Makes Three — that’s the one about the gay penguins that made this year’s list of most complained-about book at libraries — are must-have literature for gay or lesbian parents.

Newman’s latest book, Donovan’s Big Day, is one more to add to the list. Not only does Donovan have two mommies, but they’re getting married.

Donovan is taking his role as ring bearer very seriously. He can’t oversleep. He has to remember to wash and dress in his new clothes. And he can’t forget that white satin box. At the church, he must walk down the aisle very seriously. And he can’t fidget while that poem is being read or the piano is played.

His grandfather wakes him. His aunt meets him at the church. His cousin will be there. Of course the entire family is attending. It’s a wedding — why wouldn’t the whole family be proudly involved?

These are subtle touches, to be sure, but Newman is a master of telling children a simple story and making them feel included. We don’t know that it’s two moms who are getting married until the last few pages when Donovan kisses the brides. The story could have ended with a husband and wife. After all, illustrator Mike Dutton is married — to a woman.

That’s Newman’s point. It’s all about families and it’s all the same.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Trying to understand the inconceivable

A friend’s suicide leaves a reporter with questions that can’t be answered and a pain that won’t diminish

If there is any criminal act that leaves the victim’s survivors more bewildered, frustrated and tormented than suicide, I can’t imagine what it could possibly be.

David-Webb
David Webb The Rare Reporter

Four months ago, I discovered one of my former college classmates and best friends of more than 40 years dead in his home, apparently by his own hand. The official ruling was suicide by a shot to the head with a handgun that I didn’t even know he owned.

I now understand that he bought the gun for protection several decades ago. The idea that my friend would even own a gun for protection seemed ludicrous to me because I couldn’t imagine anyone who was so loving, peaceful and gentle being capable of shooting anyone, let alone himself.

I’ve been told that some people buy guns for protection because they believe that the exhibition of one will scare an intruder away. That must have been what he was thinking.

I’ve finally decided to write about this because The Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow recently wrote a column noting that older white men are more likely to commit suicide than other groups of people. My friend fit in that category.

It is inconceivable to me that my friend — who as a young man had been beautiful, talented, athletic, affluent and charismatic — could ever succumb to such a fate. But if it could happen to him, I guess it could happen to anyone when they grow older.

My friend was a 61-year-old straight guy who had never been married, and his best friend was his elderly Jack Russell Terrier who was dying of old age. He became so depressed one time that he went to bed and was found later, nearly dead of starvation and dehydration.

As a young man, my friend was adored by both women and men. But when he grew older, the attention from everyone died away. He had trouble making dates and trying to form a relationship in his older years.

He also was experiencing devastating financial problems of which few people were aware.

My friend had suffered a similar depressive experience five years ago when his mother died of natural causes. But he seemingly had recovered enough to function for a few years before his death. But he apparently quit taking the medication that had brought him back to sanity in years past. He suffered a terrible relapse as a result.

My friend was admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit and later transferred to a mental hospital. Although his family and many friends rallied around him with loving care, he just never made it back to where he had been. His beloved dog was put to sleep while he was hospitalized.

He was released from the hospital, but it was clear he was not well. He was registered for outpatient care but apparently could not face it.

Within two days, he was dead.

Many things come to my mind about this on a near-daily basis now. It is so unbelievable to me that he could shoot himself or anyone else that I sometimes have trouble believing it was really a suicide.

I think that’s what they call denial.

Logically, I know it was suicide, and I’m glad that he is free of the severe mental illness that he had apparently endured for a number of years.

Emotionally, I search for answers and often think, “What if?” I would never have left him alone for those two days had I known he was in such danger from himself.

The two lessons I believe that can be learned from this are that if someone has suffered a mental illness, they should never be left alone until it is ascertained they are again stable.

The other message is for the mentally ill who are considering suicide if they are able at that point of making logical decisions: The pain and suffering that will be wrought upon the surviving friends and family will result in a lifetime of utter agony for them.

A friend of mine whose mother went into her garage many years ago, started her car and died, said to me, “Your mind is going to be raw for a very long time.” And it is.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for more than two decades. He is a former Dallas Voice staff writer and editor. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  Kevin Thomas