By Coleen Ellis
It was somewhere over Alabama I’m guessing, while I traveled aboard SWA flight #2458 from Dallas to Tampa on June 19, 2018, that I began receiving texts from our pet nanny and my husband on an escalating critical health condition of our beautiful dog Harry. With only 45 minutes to go before landing in Tampa, it became clear that I needed to be on the very next flight back home to Dallas. Harry was near death, and I simply couldn’t bear the thought of him dying without me by his side. Harry is a grief therapy dog, and had been by the side of so many people in their time of need over the years, I was going to do all I could to make sure I was there to console him this time. But, I knew I needed help.
While still in flight, I checked the SWA flight schedule on-line and saw that there was an 11:05 am back to Dallas. I was landing in Tampa at 10:45 am, it was going to be close. I approached Ken Reinbach and flight attendant Sherri Gleason who were sitting at the front of the plane and tearfully explained my situation. They told me to book the flight, and they’d do all they could upon landing to make sure I caught that plane. However, by the time returned back to my seat, the one-hour advance booking time frame had passed, and that flight was now showing as no longer available. Another trip to the front of the plane ensued, with much more rapid tears now, and sheer desperation in my voice. Both Sherri and Ken calmed me down, got my name, and said “we’ve got this, go sit down and we’ll take it from here”. Sherri came back to be with me for a bit, asking about “Big Harry” and graciously looked at the photos of him I shared with her. She then confirmed that Ken had indeed assisted, and I was good to go on that 11:05 am flight.
I’m not sure if the pilots, William Purdue and Oliver Cordes, knew of my situation but it sure felt like we flew into that gate in Tampa with an extra special punch. As we landed, Sherri announced to the other passengers there was an emergency situation on the plane, and to let me de-plane quickly and first. They helped me with my luggage and Sherri and another flight attendant Kimberly Colmenares gave me a hug on the way to the jet bridge. After I got off, I ran as fast as I could to the now-boarding flight to Dallas. Along the way, I was approached by Brent Bean, who I’m quite sure could tell the distress on my face, and knew I was the passenger they were waiting on for that flight. He walked with me on the jet bridge, asked if I needed water, and in such a caring way, made sure that I was okay with a hug.
I made it to Dallas and to my veterinary clinic with only 15 minutes to spare. I know my precious Harry waited on me to be with him as he took his last breath. I can’t tell you how fortunate I was to be flying on Southwest Airlines that day, as I felt the love from all of the LUV crew that day more than ever.