Last week I was in Ottawa for the Gatineau-Ottawa Agile Tour (check out my next blog post). I was sitting in my hotel room in downtown Ottawa at 7am when I received a call from my family. Hunter, our 7 year old Golden Retriever had just unexpectedly died. Our neighbour who is a veterinarian surgeon was beside Hunter within a couple minutes of his collapse. Unfortunately Hunter was already gone. It was totally unexpected as he was a healthy and active dog.
My flight home on a smaller airline would not have got me home until 4pm. I just knew for both myself and my family I needed to get home asap. So I quickly bought a ticket on WestJet’s 10am flight to Toronto, packed and headed to the airport.
I walked into the airport at 7:55am. I immediately looked at the departure board and found WestJet had a departure at 8:15am. If you do any travelling you know the flight will be closed out and it’s normally impossible to make a flight departing in 20 minutes. However, I had to at least ask. As I was walking towards the WestJet ticket counter I must have looked frazzled. This is where things started happening …
One of the WestJet check-in people must have spotted me. She immediately came from behind the counter and asked if I’m OK or needed help. I told her my dog had just died and I needed to just get home as soon as possible. I remember I had tears at this point. She then did the one thing for me I needed most at this point. She gave me a big hug of support. She then told me I will be on the 8:15 flight. She called the gate and told them to hold the flight as they had a family emergency coming, rebooked me onto the flight seating me in the front row, and escorted me to the front of the security line. With a final hug she wished me well and sent me towards the flight.
After passing security I got to the gate to find them waiting for me. They basically got me on board and left. During the flight I was trying to hold myself together as I had a bit of travel to do as yet. One of the flight attendants noticed my tears, offered me some kleenex and asked if it was allergies. Again I explained my dog had just died. Immediately he stopped what he was doing and spent the next 10 minutes with me (it was only a 40 minute flight so that’s a lot of time!)
The flight attendant and I shared stories and pictures. It was nice to be able to talk about Hunter with someone. He also just lost a family pet only a week prior so he was in pain as well. This time spent together helped to strengthen my heart to carry me home. I cannot express how much his time and compassion meant to me at a time I was in pain.
Thanks to the great people at WestJet I made it from downtown Ottawa to being on my door step in Kitchener in only 3 hours! (that’s amazingly fast for this trip) I’m always talking about customer value but the word has taken on a whole new meaning. Between the expedited trip, hugs, compassion, consoling and being able to share there were so many ways the value was incredible. To the people of WestJet thank you very much for being there for me and helping me get home so quick! Please keep doing what you’re doing!
This quick journey home meant I could be present with my family as we said goodbye to our friend and family member Hunter. He was a very special family member with such a kind soul. He led a very good life and enjoyed walks, car rides, camping, canoeing, lounging by campfires and more than anything … food!
We love you Hunter … you left us too soon … you are missed!
We will have you in our hearts for ever
That was a very moving blog. As an animal lover, I felt your pain. Sorry for your loss.
Your pain came through your words. So sorry for your loss. I’m sure Hunter had the best dog life with you!
Westjet is great with pets. I just finished a trip across the country and it could not have went better.
So sorry to read this. Words can never describe the pain and loss of a family member. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the family during this time.
Hey – Mike I’m sorry for your sudden loss and am blown away at how well WestJet responded.
Oh my. Reading your post brought tears to my eyes. So sorry for your loss, keep well
Bravo Westjet! Sorry to hear about Hunter, Mike. So tough to lose a beloved pet.
It’s so nice to hear that people in the service industry go the extra mile. It’s so sad to hear about your loss – kind of bitter sweet.
Your story moved me to tears this morning..thank you for sharing your experience…its always nice to hear about the goodness in people amidst all the the decay and tragedy in our daily lives…hugs from this side of the country…Yukon…and sorry for your loss
and for the record..I do also love to fly westjet
Your story has warmed my heart. So sorry for your loss.
I extend my deepest sympathy for the loss of your valued family member.
Very sorry for your loss and glad that our team in Ottawa and on-board was able to get you home quickly in a difficult time. Thank you for sharing your experience and choosing to fly us.
Director, Guest Experience
Very sorry for the sudden loss of your special family member. Know how devastating it is. How fortunate for you that you were flying Westjet. They are a company who really have a heart for animals, dogs in particular.
WestJet have a program called Air Angels where they assist in flying rescue dogs from one place to another. They helped me bring two puppies back from Mexico. I know we have so many dogs here in need two but I couldn’t leave these babies behind and WestJet was just amazing. Sorry for you loss. I have a 12yr old black lab and volunteer with many rescues. A special hug to your family.
So sorry for your loss. I think I heard about your sweet Hunter from Trevor at Pet Planet as I live in Kitchener as well. A big thanks to WestJet for being so kind to you,! I love them, best airline ever! Rest sweet Hunter, rest.
Sorry to hear of your loss. Loosing ones dog is not easy but it was great to see how things came together for you to get you to your family. Well done all at WestJet.
Hunter reminds me of my grand dog Lucy, will have to give her an extra hug today when I pick her up and she is about the same age.
Mike, thank you for sharing your story. Our heart goes out to you and your family for the loss of Hunter. We too suddenly lost our oldest dog, Shadow, to a brain tumor last fall, and know how much it hurts. Kudos to Westjet for their kind and compassionate employees – treating you with respect and such courtesy. We also have had nothing but good experiences with Westjet, and fly with them regularly to Mexico. They are an amazing airline when you are travelling with pets as well, and have been so helpful to us when we fly dogs for rescue organizations.
What great compassion shown by Westjet employees! As a dog owner, I understand. So sorry of your family’s loss.
I don’t know if you are aware of a program run by WestJet volunteers who help us working in Animal Rescue by transferring dogs throughout the country. We know how wonderful these “Air Angels” are to us in the world of rescue.
I’m so sorry for your loss. The unexpected ones are the worst. Did a vet ever figure out why he just suddenly died like that?
May Saint Francis guide Hunter on his journey to the Rainbow Bridge. I am sending you and your family peaceful light, may you find comfort in your memories of Hunter. Although I am in the United States if I ever have the chence to fly on WestJet, I will because they have shown that they honor the relationships time takes to build.
This is a wonderful story – I have been a fan of WestJet ever since travelling with them. On a couple of t hose flights I had a dog with me and got great service and care from the cargo and cabin staff, particularly after I pestered them to let me know that my dog was safely on board. I fly WestJet out of choice whenever I can, which is not often enough. I live in Vancouver and have a son in Halifax so when I fly, I fly!!!!!!!!!
What an awesome story about people’s compassion. I’m very sorry about Hunter.
So very sorry for your loss Mike. I too lost one of my dogs just a week ago, so I have an idea of the pain and sadness you and your family were experiencing. What wonderful gestures of kindness and exceptional customer service WestJet displayed to you. Kudos to this great airline and their staff/owners. And thank you for sharing your story and photos.
Hi Mike: Thank you so much for sharing your story about Hunter. He was obviously a very handsome furry guy and very loved. And that’s a good place for any creature to be, furry or otherwise.
So happy that in your time of sincere upset the airline not only chose to help, but insisted on making it happen. It’s because of real life accounts like this, that I fly West Jet whenever possible.
Thoughts are with you during this difficult time.
Way to go Westjet! So sorry for your loss Mike. It’s never easy to lose such a valued friend.
I’m so sorry for the loss of your dog, but very glad to hear about the compassionate folks who looked after you on WestJet.
This was a really touching story.
My boy is also named hunter (we call him neer for short) he is by far my best fur friend and the best running partner a girl could ask for.
Thank you for sharing your experience with west jet ajd of your beloved Hunter
My heart hurts so much for you and your family. Very glad that there were people that came to our aid when you needed it most. That’s why I always fly WestJet.
May you all find comfort in the love you shared with Hunter.
This moved me to tears, and I am so sorry for your loss. How wonderful to see there are still compassionate people in this world. In the hustle and bustle of the world and big business, the fact that our fur-kids are family too is to many times forgotten. It is nice to be reassured that there are people out there that care! Kudos to WestJet and their staff for being wonderful human beings and restoring our faith in humanity.
Hi Mike: I rarely respond to FB stories, but I saw this tonight through a friend and had to read the story about getting back to Hunter. These canines become incredible friends and family members both, and we are sorry for the loss of your Hunter. We proudly own and live our lives with Siberian Huskies and still ache for the loss of our Arctic Hero… you might want to read his story as well http://www.silanorth.com/Arluk_the_Hero.html … when ready… but I think Arluk will be there now showing Hunter the ropes! I often tell this to people that too just lost a special canine friend. We found a wonderful stone to mark his spot on our property… you might consider as well for Hunter and your family. The link in on that page is from a company outside Ottawa and it is sent only as a courtesy.
And… good on WJ, an airline we also think does make a difference! All the best – Jim and Robbin, Gabriola Is. BC
I can relate to your west jet story, and separately to the loss of your pet.
Last year my husband and I were in Florida on vacation when a coworker/good friend lost his fight with cancer. I knew when I left for vacation there was a high probability it could happen, but I wasn’t really prepared how it would affect me when I got the call. I knew I had to cut my vacation short and go home. When I contacted West Jet and explained the circumstances they were so compassionate; the next day we were on a flight back home, with just a small fee (taxes) and no questions asked. I can’t imagine trying to do this with Air Canada. I emphasized it was not a family member, but a close friend and coworker and they simply said were so sorry for my loss, and would get us home as soon as possible. I will never forget their kindness and compassion and tell my story at every opportunity. I will always fly West Jet when it’s an option.
We also lost a family pet a few years ago, and it was my first experience as I never had a pet growing up. I couldn’t believe the effect it had on our family and The grieving process. It was overwhelming,
That was an awesome story.As been a dog lover myself.I know the pain and many tears you and your family is going through. There is a lot of good people out there.
Sorry for your loss.
How wonderful that you were connected with so many caring and compassionate people. Hunter is running free at the Bridge and waiting for you.
I am so very sorry to read of Hunter’s passing. As a dog lover I understand how close we are to our pets and how deeply we feel the pain of losing them. I’m astounded (but delighted) at the kindness shown by West Jet.
That is how corporations should act. The procedures they followed probably wasn’t in any operations manual but I would bet that because of your reporting about how humanely and passionately you were treated by WestJet, that more people will look to book with them, thereby increasing their business ( as it should). Let’s hope they will always remember to treat people like this and be willing to help someone else in the type of pain you were in, in the future.
I’m so sorry to hear about Hunter.
Thank you for sharing this good customer service story. We often just hear the bad ones, but good customer service can truly make someone’s day/week/month. Yay Westjet, for treating you like a human being, not just a body in a seat.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I had a tear in my eye :'(
I hope you stay strong.
I’m very impressed with the service you received. I know what airline I’ll be using.
Great post, I feel your pain. More hugs to you and your family.
I can only imagine your pain.. my girl is 14 and every day I look into her beautiful eyes and wonder how much longer.. I love her more than life and cannot imagine a day without her so I give you my condolences and know that I keep both of you in my heart and my prayers!!!
I’m dan, your flight attendant that morning. This article was passed around on Facebook before it got to me. I was really saddened to hear about your loss and also grateful that I got share mine with you.
Wishing and your family a wonderful holiday season,
Sorry for your loss. I’m always amazed at the difference when I’m forced due to flight schedule to fly Air Canada.
WestJet = Cheerful, happy staff, always joking and having fun.
Air Canada = Miserable, grumpy staff who are determined to make sure you’re the same way by the end of the flight.
Sorry for your loss . And yes westjet’s customer service rocks. They have helped get us home quickly as well
That’s an awesome story about Westjet’s compassion. I’ve lost too many and the loss of my dear dog, two years ago, is still fresh. My deepest condolences.
Hunter was much loved by you and your family. I too am an animal lover and this just reaffirms my opinion of West Jet in that they truly value family, ALL members of the family.
Mike, I just read your post and cried, I’m so sorry for your loss and so impressed with how accomodating and comforting the Westjet people have been to you. I have two dogs, one of which is a red golden retriever just like the one you lost, who’s turning 9 this month. I recently lost one of my two cats, who was 15, and it was hard to let her go – our pets are members of our family. I’m glad you had someone on the plane who took the time to comfort you. My sincere condolences.
I had tears reading your post. I am huge animal lover so I feel your pain. So sorry for your loss.
I’m sorry for your loss. Fur family members are hard to lose. Hope all is well with you.
And WTG, Westjet employees.
Your story moved me as well, so much so Im sitting at my desk and work and blubbering. I know how you feel and it was great you were able to get home so fast. WestJet sound amazing!! So sorry for you loss…take care
I am so very sorry for your loss and i too thank the airline for understanding these fur babies are not just animals they are our lives our heart and sometimes the only friend we have God speed loved one to the rainbow bridge where you will wait for your loved ones to cross over to the other side
Because of your story I will fly WestJet if ever I have the opportunity.
What a great story. I’m very sorry for your loss. I know the pain. I lost my big guy, Jack, July 21st this year and I can still barely talk about it. I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face. There’s a great expression “If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, I’d walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.” Rest in peace our beautiful pets. Jan
Beautiful story. I too, am sorry for your loss. Sometimes the human element steps up.
Knowing that I had little to no money in my checking account, I had to rush my dog to the vet. She was bleeding and very close to death. Fortunately she was saved. Even before I received the notice that my account was overdrawn I contacted my bank to explain. I was told to call back once I received notice, which I did. I again explained that my dog was dying and I had no choice but to save her. The rep told me told hold a minute. When he came back on, he said “I’m sorry you had a family illness. We are removing all fees. I hope that your daughter is better now.” I could not thank him enough. I also know that they could see from my records that this is something that I never do. But I was still very thankful.
What a sad but heartwarming story! What a lovely staff and crew of compassionate people! So glad that you were able to experience this during such a hard time. It’s the good, compassionate people of this world we need to hear more about. Thanks for sharing your story! We have lost 5 of our beloved dogs over the years and know how much this would have meant to me had I been in your situation. My condolences….
What a beautiful and heart warming story. I am sorry for your loss but it must be comforting to know you had people there to support you. Westjet is amazing to go above and beyond to ensure you got home on time. As any pet parent knows, these are not just our pets but our children and to lose one is just as heartbreaking. My thoughts are with you and your family for the loss of your precious dog and I would also like to thank WestJet for their compassion
So sorry about the loss of Hunter..unfortunately the same thing happened to my mom’s dog–same breed; one moment healthy and running around, and then collapsed and gone! So glad Westjet made the journey home more easy! I have always had good service with them too! I sure that Hunter had a great life with you! Barbara
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing Hunter with us all in this post. I can feel your heavy heart in your words and it reminded me of the feelings I had when I lost my rabbit last year. Sending you and your family a virtual hug. And WestJet staff, I applaud you!
I am so sorry for your loss- your story brought tears to my eyes so thank you very much for taking time to share this story with us and reminding me of the GOOD people still in the world. I hope that everyone reads this and WestJet and their employees are rewarded.
Thanks for that lovely post. I was definitely not expecting this story, and I love that for once the faceless corporations had a human touch. So sorry for your loss and glad you could be home with your family.
I’m so sorry you’ve lost your boy, Mike. Obviously, he was an amazing fella. I too have loved and lost many ‘pets’ and I’m so glad to hear your moving story of how Westjet acknowledged that your loss was indeed a huge one and they took great care of you. Kudos to Westjet 🙂
I am moved to tears. We also said good-bye to our 12.5 yr old furry child this past February and the road ahead is made a little less painful with the compassion of others in our time of intense grief. I’m so glad you were comforted by those who carried you home to be with your loved ones. Peace & light to all of you.
I am so sorry to of Hunter’s passing… What a handsome boy.
What wonderful people at West Jet. Thankfully they understood your loss and were able to offer comfort at such a sad time. Sending you cyber hugs.
I was brought to tears by your story Mike. Especially as I sit here reading it with my own furry family member sitting at my feet. My dog, Bailey, will be 11 years old this February and I would be crushed to lose her. It is never easy but with the compassion of others, as you have experienced, it certainly goes a long way. Kudos to WestJet for acknowledging your loss, being a friend when you needed one and getting you home swiftly to be with your family so you could be there to see Hunter off on his next Journey. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.
This is why I always fly West Jet, So sorry for your loss, I am a dog lover, have lost many in my time. My heart goes out to you. Better days ahead.
Firstly, I’m so sorry for your loss. It is so very difficult to say good-bye to our pets. They are family. Thank you for sharing your story. It is truly wonderful to know you were treated so well especially at a very sad time.
Dear Mommy and Daddy,
I stood by your bed last night, I came to have a peep.
I could see that you were crying, You found it hard to sleep.
I whined to you softly as you brushed away a tear,
“It’s me, I haven’t left you, I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”
I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea,
You were thinking of the many times, your hands reached down to me.
I was with you at the shops today, Your arms were getting sore.
I longed to take your parcels, I wish I could do more.
I was with you at my grave today, You tend it with such care.
I want to re-assure you, that I’m not lying there.
I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key.
I gently put my paw on you, I smiled and said ” it’s me.”
You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair.
I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.
It’s possible for me, to be so near you everyday.
To say to you with certainty, “I never went away.”
You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew…
In the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.
The day is over… I smile and watch you yawning
and say “good-night, God bless, I’ll see you in the morning.”
And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide,
I’ll rush across to greet you and we’ll stand, side by side.
I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see.
Be patient, live your journey out…then come home to be with me… You Furever Beloved Fur Baby
So sad to hear of your loss. My kitty died last weak. We loved her for almost thirteen years. I too am sad.
Thank you for your post.
My heartfelt condolences on the loss of your family member. RIP
Amazing service from WESTJET, compassion is needed when we lose a loved one. Your post moved me to tears, no one loves you more then your family dog.
Your story is so personal, so touching! Thank you for sharing your e perience. It’s heart warming to see that people and companies still have compassion for people.
From our family to yours, our condolences on the passing of Hunter, not only a family member, but your family’s best friend!
I am so sorry for your loss ~It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.”
I also have seen West Jet step up to the plate every single time. I run a dog rescue, dogs from the Dominican fly to Canada to find great homes, we only use West Jet. West Jet has treated these dogs with only love, respect and compassion. I have to agree with Rochelle, no one loves you more then your Family dog.
I know how hard it is to lose a pet they are family and it is so nice to see the compassion the staff of westjet had in this terrible time for you and your family. I have always heard good things about them and would gladly fly with them over majority of other airlines. Sorry for your loss of a treasured member of your family, sending hugs to you all!
WTG Westjet!!. Very sorry for your loss Mike and family. I do not normally reply to FB stories either, however this past summer our 12 yr old Shih Tzu died and two weeks later I had to put down my 17 yr old Border Collie (my best friend). The hardest thing I have ever had to do – my heart goes out to you..
I just want to say how happy I am for you that WestJet got you home quickly so you could do what you had to. I am not surprised. WestJet is my go-to airline if it goes where I need to. I hope you are healing from your loss
Your story is a sad one. Any of us that have lost a four legged family member knows and understands.
West Jet has proven they are all true “Air Angels”.
No wonder those of us in rescue reach out to them.
Sorry to hear the news of your loss Mike. Terrible news to get no matter what the circumstance is. I know what you are going through. Our familiy is having to wrestle with soon putting down our 16 yr old Shih Tzu. Sounds like you found a lot of compassion and great service at West Jet.
These words were very well written. It’s never easy loosing a “pet” family member no matter what their age is. Hunter was an exceptional DOG even when he was trying to smooch food from everyone at the Sauble camp site. GOD made a decision to place Hunter with you, Rosie, Scott and Ryan…Hunter had a FAMILY who LOVED him unconditionally and that family was YOU. May Hunter RIP. Allan, the kids and I are going to THOROUGHLY miss him.
I am so sorry for y0ur loss of Hunter. It is not easy to say good bye to a Family Pet as they are Part of the Family. I have lost Dogs.
Take care and God Bless.
That was a beautiful story for such a sad and difficult time. It’s refreshing to know that people can appreciate the love we have for our dogs and the devastation we feel when we lose them. Well done westjet. Thanks for sharing. And I’m so sorry for the loss of your beloved Hunter.
Sorry for your loss. WestJet was incredible. Glad you were able to make it home.
What a lovely way that WestJet helped and eased your pain in anyway that they could. Such a lovely tribute to a wonderful pet. I’m sure the pain from his death will be felt for a long, long time.
As I read this story the tears started pouring down my face, and by the end my face was awash, and my nose was running as well. I headed into the bathroom to clean up only to be confronted by my (native Chinese) wife who was brushing her teeth while looking in the mirror. She took one look at me and said, “Oh, no, someone died!” I said, “A dog. In Canada.”
I briefly told her the story, and it hit me: what Mike experienced, his West Jet experience and all of the people who work for West Jet who demonstrated such a marvelous level of compassion; that would never, ever happen where I live now – China.
Absolutely impossible, and for so many reasons.
I could write an essay on this topic -” it could never happen here” – but I’ll choose not to at this time.
Mike’s story is a first world story, sad to say. But I am so proud of those folks at West Jet, my fellow Canadians who cared, and were not afraid to show their humanity for their fellow man. They took the West Jet rule book and tossed it on their own initiative. And that is called critical thinking.
It was a collective initiative as well; everyone involved at West Jet “got it,” what Mike was experiencing at that time, and they chose to help ease his pain.
In Asia, critical thinking are words one finds only in the dictionary, trust me.
I am writing this missive from Qingyang, Gansu Province, P.R. China
“Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.”
God, how I miss the Hitch!
Take care, Mike, I too feel your pain, but I am grateful you chose to write about this on your blog, publicly.
It was good for my soul, and helped me connect in a very real way with my own humanity, early on a cold Monday morning, in the middle of nowhere, China, before heading off to work myself.
Mike and Family,
I am so sorry for your unexpected loss of your family pet. No one is ever prepared for any sudden loss. The time spent with Hunter and all those great memories will be cherished forever. Rest in peace Hunter.
Thanks for sharing the stories of West Jet. They now have a new customer from Whitby!!!
I too just lost my best friend. His name is Benelli, a british lab. He was the greatest hunting dog I have ever seen. He got me started duck hunting and training dogs for other people. I trained him myself and had spent aprox 4000 hrs training him. He was my son, my everything. I will never forget the hunting trips and all the great things he taught me. He just passed march 9th,2014 at the age of 3 1/2 from a massive tumor we did not know he had. We got it removed but 24 hrs later he was gone. I know your pain. In the 3 1/2 years I have had him I saw many people loose their pets and always hoped it would be a long time before I had to suffer. Its not fair to have to deal with these loses. He sired a litter of pups that will be born in a few weeks. I hope his son will be half as good as he was! I also hope time will ease the pain because sometimes its almost unbearable.
I’m very sorry for the loss of your family member Benelli. I know you’re in a lot of pain right now. Although it’s been almost four months since Hunter left us I still have moments where I miss him terribly. I would recommend you look for a reply to my post from “Julie Taylor”. She shared something beautiful that helped to warm my heart when I was grieving as you are now.
Stay strong. Hold Benelli in your heart and know that he will always be with you. He was obviously very special to you.
When the time comes you will welcome a new pup as a family member. Benelli will be happy that you will share that deep love you had for him with one of his pups. With time Benelli’s son will fill your heart. He will never replace Benelli, but can provide you the companionship you’re missing!
Take care. With time the pain will become bearable.