Since the crew couldn't get access to the hold during flight, the captain announced they would make an unscheduled landing at the nearest airport—in Denver, still an hour away. "The wait was agonizing," says Bell. "I was thinking the worst. Then I thought about how strong-willed and stubborn Dakota is." When they landed, Bell and the captain went to the tarmac, where Dakota was shivering but okay. With the pilot's blessing, Bell carried Dakota back onboard in his arms. "As soon as I passed the first-class cabin, everyone in coach started to clap and cheer," he says. And after they landed in San Jose, just 30 minutes behind schedule, "one woman was almost in tears," says Bell's pal Dawn Myers, who met the pair at the airport. "She said, 'I'm so glad the dog is okay' " Although Bell wasn't offered compensation, he isn't angry about United's error, which was discovered by an employee after the plane had taken off. "I'm just happy about what the pilot did," he says. "It cost United a lot of money to divert the plane." But the next time he and Dakota travel, he says, "I'll drive or take Amtrak."