United 900

On Wednesday afternoon, we arrived here in Rome at the Christian Brothers headquarters on the Via Aurelia with 19 Saint Mary’s undergraduates, Prof. David Genty-Akin, Father Sal Ragusa, and Joanne Angermane.

We’re on this prayer pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and Subiaco. Your intention and the intentions of many others are with us on our journey to the holy sites. Before the sites, however, we had a long, long — ten-hour flight from SFO.

Most people really don’t like long airplane trips. Funny, my biggest phobias are cats and dogs – frankly, I’m not overly fond of animal companions because of my allergies and asthma.  So, as luck would dictate — on United 900, I sat directly behind a group of military guys — going back to their base in Germany.

The primary occupant in the seat in front of me — was an eighty- pound German Shepard, named “Ascot;” to the dog’s right paw, in the next seat, was his Army handler. They called themselves “Team Ascot.” The canine looked so much like the movie star Rin Tin Tin. Bow Wow!

This dog was better behaved than most of the human passengers. You didn’t hear a bark from the dog – (unlike the loud extended conversations of certain passengers, another phobia of mine). For safety reasons occasionally “Ascot” wore a leather muzzle around his snout. The flight attendants paid him extra attention – about the biggest dog they had ever seen on a flight.You would never know Ascot was there — never got up once – not even to the bathroom. His mate told me that he drank only an occasional water pellet in the ten hour flight. Amazing.

Of course, on this prayer pilgrimage, I was praying that I did not have an allergy attack. But all went well.

Father Mike Russo

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About Mike Russo

Mike Russo teaches political communication and the news of religion at Saint Mary's College of California. He is the writer and editor of the blog "The Francis Factor," which forwards his media ministry; and currently prepares for the Pope's 2015 Visit to the United States

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