By Natalie B. Compton
For the first time in history, travellers had a reason to applaud checked baggage fees.
Late last month, Kristi and Jared Owens were checking their luggage at the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport in Texas for a trip to Las Vegas when Southwest gate agent Cathy Cook said the bag was overweight. They could check it as is for a fee, or move some stuff into their carry-ons.
Like most people, the Owens wanted to avoid the fee, so they opened up their suitcase to rearrange their belongings. That’s when they discovered Icky, their five-pound rescue chihuahua, hiding inside one of Jared’s cowboy boots.
“Just coming out of the boot is Icky’s little bitty head bobbing up and down with her tongue out,” Jared said. “I wish there would have been a picture of our faces when we opened that up and saw that.”
The couple, naturally, was stunned.
“It was just surreal,” Kristi said. “Are we really seeing our dog in our suitcase right now? Is this happening?”
The Owens were mortified, and they were worried that airline staff would think they hid their dog on purpose.
“We were just looking for a little romantic getaway, a little escape,” Kristi said. “We’ve got a really busy house. We’ve got two children, three dogs, a rabbit, a lot of fish.”
So how did it happen?
Kristi packed the night before the trip, and Jared added his belongings to the suitcase the morning of the flight.
“And the last things I packed were those boots,” Jared said.
Somewhere between Jared packing the boots and zipping up the suitcase, Icky sneaked inside, they believe. The couple says Icky likes to burrow; she has a habit of sneaking under blankets and inside their laundry. Their “little old lady” wasn’t known for coming out of hiding when they call her name, either, so it was no surprise that the chihuahua stayed silent the entire drive to the airport.
“She didn’t make a peep,” Kristi said.
Instead of being suspicious, Cook couldn’t have been nicer about the situation, the Owens said. A 24 ½-year-veteran with Southwest, Cook even offered to watch the dog while they continued on their journey. Instead, the couple arranged to have Jared’s uncle race to the airport and take Icky home to Kristi’s mother, who was watching the kids and other pets.
“(Southwest employees) were great about it. They helped us do everything we could to get our bags checked,” Jared said. “We went outside to make phone calls, and Cathy even came back outside a couple of times to check on us.”
When Jared’s uncle arrived at the airport, the Owens handed off Icky through the window and scrambled to make their flight. They ultimately made it to Vegas and saw the Icky incident as a good omen.
“We won money, so …” Jared said.
Icky was lucky to be found. Pulling off the stowaway attempt could have been fatal for the chihuahua.
If she does want to travel with her owners on a future flight, Icky can do so legitimately. For a $95 fee each way on Southwest, the Owens could let Icky burrow in a pet carrier underneath an airplane seat.
“Southwest allows small dogs and cats to travel in-cabin,” said Southwest spokesperson Alyssa Foster, who added that she has never heard of a situation like Icky’s happen in her decade working at the airline.
Kristi originally found the dog on the side of a road in Texas five years ago. Because she was “all skin and bones” and dirty, her kids called the dog “icky” and the name stuck. Now that they’re back at home, the Owens say they’re doting on the twice-rescued Icky.
“We’re super grateful,” Kristi said. “She’s super spoiled now – not that she wasn’t before, but it’s a little extra now.”