Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When Hippos Fly

Link to original post:  Tuckered Out: A Hippo's Story

Tuckered Out: A Hippo's Story

by Mark Danielson

FedEx flies all kinds of cargo. Animals are among the most interesting. I have flown sea turtles, horses, a variety of birds, and ferrets, and can now add a hippopotamus to that list. This is Tucker’s story. If he could write a sign, it would say, “Eight year old male hippo in need of a new home”. FedEx donated our services to move him from the Topeka zoo to the San Francisco zoo. Delivered under perfect flying conditions, Tucker is busily exploring his new surroundings.

Tucker’s story is as interesting as his journey. Born in captivity at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, he was destined to be relocated to the San Francisco zoo over a year ago, but the timing wasn’t right in San Francisco. Instead, he was transported to the Topeka zoo where he met a lovely mate. They fell in love and had a baby together on August 21, 2010. But this miracle of birth also proved to be Tucker’s downfall, for the Topeka zoo is not large enough to accommodate three hippos. Handler David Jaffe told me that while Tucker is a very docile animal, they were concerned he would inadvertently kill his baby by playing with him. Sadly, Tucker had worn out his welcome.

He was supposed to have been transported on November 30th, 2010, but this transportation fell through. With winter in full swing, an appeal was made for FedEx to fly him to San Francisco. FedEx agreed to transport him gratis as a hippotarian gesture. On January 6th, Captain Rich Fazio and First Officer Michael Michaud flew Tucker from Kansas City to Memphis. There, he patiently waited for First Officer Brian Donar and me to fly him to Oakland. His crate was then loaded onto a flatbed and trucked to the San Francisco zoo.

Tucker’s oversized crate was approximately 1 ½ times the size of a normal MD-11 pallet. Loaded with hay and food, he was as comfortable as any hippo can be under the circumstances. Attended by handlers David Jaffe and Scott Gamerl, and veterinarian Shirley Llizo, he was in good hands. Thankfully, our airplane was equipped with a rigid cargo barrier that kept Tucker’s distinct aroma confined to the upper cargo compartment.

Thanks to good weather, Tucker probably never knew he moved. He was a perfect passenger throughout our flight. Had he been upset, we definitely would have known since annoyed oversized animals tend to bounce airplanes. But Tucker did none of that. His handlers checked assured me our four thousand pound puppy was quite content. Only they would know.

On our initial descent into Oakland, the Oakland Center controller assigned a step-down altitude. To make it easier on Tucker’s ears, I had Brian request a constant descent because of our special cargo. The controller then asked if we had horses on board. Pleased to hear it was a hippo, he replied, “Cool.” From then on, we received special handling that never required us to level-off. Tucker’s information was passed from controller to controller to assure our arrival went smoothly.

I elected to use the full runway length so our deceleration was gradual. The taxi in went as smoothly as our taxi out. The SF zoo was very appreciative of FedEx’s service, and I was happy to be among those playing a part in his relocation. Far more people were involved in this operation than I will ever know, but this was a success because it was a team effort.

Single again, Tucker is now free to find a new mate while enjoying California’s moderate climate. San Francisco may not be Disney World, but it’s far better than winter in Topeka. As for FedEx – we again proved that we deliver the world on time.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Whew!  We made it through another work week.

I'm going to try to leave the work stress behind at the office and spend some quality time with my mare.

Have a good weekend!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Will Someone Please Turn Up the Heat

Brrrrr...we've been in the icebox here with temperatures dropping to -12F/-24C at our house.  Misty and SaraJane have fared well with plenty of hay to keep their tummy furnaces stoked.  They usually eat their meals in the barn, but the last two mornings they have shown a strong preference for dining outside in the sun. Smart horses.

Patio Dining for Two
Last New Years I set some equine related goals.  I cringe a little as I look back at that post where I wrote:
  1. With Misty, I would like to attend a horsemanship clinic and a trail riding clinic. And of course, do more riding and get out on more trails. 
  2. With Marley, I would like to be able to drive him around the neighborhood by myself and attend some driving clinics and/or pleasure drives with other driving enthusiasts. 
Goal 1 Result:  I came very close to meeting my goals with Misty.  The trail riding clinic I had signed her up for was canceled (although I did ride Marley in a trail clinic).  But we did go on some nice trail rides and we attended a very productive horsemanship clinic. I feel good about the accomplishments I  made with Misty in 2010.  

Goal 2 Result:  Well, you know part of that story and Marley is in a new home.  I'm sad about that, but it was best for both of us.

While goals are great tools for helping us achieve our dreams, they needn't be set in stone.  Goals should be reasonable and they need to be periodically evaluated and adjusted. 

W.C. Fields said:
 If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. 
Then quit. 
There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.
I didn't meet my goals with Marley. I'm disappointed about that, but it actually helped me achieve my goals with Misty.  Marley made me re-evaluate my circumstances and see that I needed to simplify.   I decided not to purchase another horse. Instead I am focusing on Misty's saddle training while providing a foster home for a companion horse.

I don't have any specific equine goals for 2011 in mind right now.  I have more of a mission statement:

To enjoy my horse and keep improving my horsemanship skills by taking riding lessons and attending clinics and trail rides whenever I can.

I wish all of you and your horses a happy, productive, healthy, and safe New Year.