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Dogs take the long way home via air to Bridgewater

| Monday, March 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

What was supposed to be a five-hour nonstop flight for a Bridgewater resident's two dogs ended up taking three flights and 30 hours before a reunion at Pittsburgh International Airport on Sunday evening.

“I haven't slept for two days. This has literally made me sick,” said Michael Branigan, 52, whose wife put his two purebred 3-year-old boxers on a cargo flight from Los Angeles late Saturday morning before a canceled flight, a missed connection and tarmac delays sent them on a journey to four cities.

Branigan moved from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh in January for work with the Bruster's chain of ice cream shops and hoped that United Airlines' PetSafe service could ship Sarge, a brown and black male, and Scout, a brindle female, on a direct flight from LAX to Pittsburgh departing early Saturday afternoon and arriving Saturday night.

Per United's rules, the dogs had to be put in kennels and shipped in the climate-controlled areas of passenger planes' cargo holds.

But the flight from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh was canceled, so Branigan said he gave permission for the dogs to go to San Francisco for another direct flight to Pittsburgh on Saturday. Once they got there, however, Branigan said he was told the kennels were mishandled and the dogs missed the last flight from San Francisco to Pittsburgh until 10 p.m. Sunday.

Airline spokeswoman Mary Clark said the dogs were then transferred to Houston, where there was an earlier flight to Pittsburgh and a PetSafe facility where the dogs could be let out of their kennels and fed. That flight was delayed two hours before departing.

“While there were a lot of things that happened here, the PetSafe people are working and looking for the best alternatives,” Clark said. She said PetSafe representatives would work with Branigan to settle his complaint.

Sarge and Scout were reunited with Branigan outside United's passenger terminal at 7:10 p.m. Sunday, appearing slightly disoriented and thirsty but otherwise all right, Branigan said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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