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The North Bend Eagle


 

Walter helps dog home from Iraq

by Mary Le Arneal
Published 1/19/11

Cheryl Walter likes to do things with her kids and grandkids. But sometimes their request brings an unexpected adventure into her life.

On Wednesday, Jan. 12, she made a day trip to Chicago to escort home a dog her son Chris was bringing back from Iraq. It is a detailed story that this mother of two, stepmother of two and grandmother of nine won’t forget.

Her son, Chris Kielman, works for a private contractor in Bagdad, Iraq. Part of his work involves service dogs. A dog he had been working with, Mondo, needed to retire because of health issues and was facing being put to sleep unless someone adopted him.

The six-year-old German shepherd was friendly, and Kielman had grown attached to him and decided to rescue it, ship him home to Spirit Lake, Iowa. His wife Jen, son Keeston, 11, and daughter Keely, 9, agreed to welcome Mondo as a family pet.

Mondo could only travel to Iowa if escorted. Kielman had a friend returning home in January and he would escort the dog to Chicago. In December, Kielman called his mom and asked if she would go to Chicago to meet Mondo and fly with him the last leg of the trip to Omaha.

“As a mom,” Walter said, “this was something I could do.”

But what an adventure it turned out to be.

The flight to Chicago was uneventful, taking about 70 minutes. She arrived at 3:15 p.m., an hour before Mondo and his escort arrived. But Mondo’s flight was delayed.

The escort got the dog through customs, gave the 75-pound animal along with his kennel and a large stack of papers to Walter and apologized. He had 20 minutes to make his connecting flight to his home.

The international terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is in Terminal 5. Walter needed to get back to Terminal 1 to get her flight back to Omaha. Before leaving, the initial escort told her, “I think you need a security person.”

When Walter tried to get out of Terminal 5, she realized the truth of this statement.

Walter had to go through a security area to get out of Terminal 5, the first attendant she met immediately tore off the baggage check on Mondo’s kennel. Walter was shocked. “That’s his only identification,” she said, to no avail.

A security man standing near by realized her distress and listened to her story. She had three hours to catch her flight. He told her, “I’m going to be your helper for the next hour and a half.” And he was.

The man, Tony, got water for Mondo, took him out of his kennel, leashed him and together with Walter, walked him through the crowd at the terminal while shouting “Dog coming through.” After crossing eight lanes of traffic, the dog led to a grassy area where he could relieve himself. Tony even ran around a little with Mondo to exercise him. He admitted to Walter that he had a 100-pound dog at home. They returned to Terminal 5 the same way.

Walter got in line to get another baggage tag for the kennel but was told they couldn’t issue a new tag without the old one. Finally, the first clerk had to search through her garbage to find the original kennel tag so a new one could be issued.
Meanwhile, Tony was still taking care of Mondo. He complimented Walter on the dog’s intelligence.

After Walter got the paperwork done, Tony told Walter to go to her gate to wait for her fight and he would take care of Mondo.

Walter thanked him and asked for his supervisor’s name to commend his efforts.
“Ma’m,” Tony said, “I am the supervisor of this area.”

Walter did find someone higher up in United Airlines to call to compliment their customer service for going above and beyond their duties for Mondo and her.

Walter did not see Mondo again until she arrived in Omaha where he was waiting for her in the baggage area.

After an overnight stay in North Bend, Mondo has been delivered to his new family in Iowa where he is adjusting well.

“Interesting trip,” Walter said. “Would I do it again, I don’t know. But you do what you do as moms.”

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