RENO, Nev. – Airport baggage handler Lynn Jones saw the sad look on the listless, emaciated pointer sitting in a pet carrier and knew something was wrong. Then she saw that its body was covered with sores and its paws were worn raw.
"It was so thin, it made me cry," she said.
If that dog gets on that plane, she remembered thinking, it would certainly die. And when she refused a supervisor's orders to load it onto the Texas-bound flight, she was fired.
Now, a month after the incident at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, the dog has recovered. And Jones, while her former employer and airport officials have praised her for her actions, remains without her old job.
Peggy Hohl, vice president of employee services for Jones' former employer, Airport Terminal Services Inc., based in St. Louis, said in an email that the company is taking the matter "very seriously."
A statement posted on the company's web site said officials were investigating, and that the company "commends this employee's situational awareness and her desire to raise the concern on behalf of the canine."
"ATS is reviewing the actions of all employees involved to determine if the appropriate action was taken," it said.
Jones, 56, is no stranger to animals. She once owned a dog grooming shop and lives about 10 miles east of Reno with three dogs, three cats and a bird -- all rescued from shelters over the years.
"I wanted to adopt this dog," she said.
When she was working in the cargo area several weeks ago, she saw the pet carrier and the pointer.
When she told her supervisor about it, she said, he insisted she load the dog bound for Corpus Christi, Texas, because its paperwork was in order and its condition was none of her concern.
"I kept telling my supervisor, `That dog is going to die if it gets on that plane,"' Jones said.
"He didn't even really look at the dog," she said. "He just kept saying: `The dog is going, the dog is going.' And I kept saying, `It is not.' And we went back and forth, `Yes it is, no it isn't, yes it is."'
"I was hysterical and crying and yelling because the plane was going to leave and I was afraid the dog was going to be on it. I kept saying, `Please, please, the dog is going to die,"' she said.
Airport police phoned the animal welfare agency, which took custody of the dog.
The dog, apparently owned by a hunter who has it shipped to places he hunts, was shipped back to Texas after being nursed back to health, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal, which first reported the incident on Monday.
"It just breaks my heart to think that dog has been sent back to that owner. It's disgusting. It makes me ill," she told The Associated Press. "I can't fathom why they would send it back to someone who obviously was abusing the dog."
Jones said that Monday was the first day her ex-employer had contacted her.
"They wanted to hear my side, finally," she said. "They said, `I abandoned my job,' but I didn't. He told me to go home. I was a very good employee. I was there early every day. I would not have abandoned my job.'
Jones said she doesn't know if she would accept an offer to return to her job.
"I would have to really think about it," she said.