Dogs of a Feather
On a commercial flight, the benefit of sitting next to a peacock outweighs the drawbacks. During a midair emergency I plan to grab anything with wings that might provide extra lift.
PILOT: “Passengers, assume brace position for crisis landing!”
WOMAN WITH PEACOCK: “Oh, my baby! Comfort me!”
ME: “Lady, here’s a hundred bucks and my pretzels. Now gimme that bird!”
But the proliferation of “emotional-support” animals aboard flights has airlines questioning their credentials and tightening restrictions. The issue has received major news coverage after a New York photographer/performance artist was barred from boarding a United Airlines flight with her peacock, Dexter, who had a ticket but no carry-on. The airline reportedly denied Dexter a seat because the bird didn’t meet several guidelines, including weight, size and being a peacock.
Airlines are reconsidering what defines a comfort animal because of fraud and their potential danger to other passengers. Acceptable are professionally certified support animals, such as trained, harnessed service dogs. Doubtful are the more unusual companions, like a hive of honey bees or my nephew, Avery.
This leaves as questionable a wide array of animals, which is raising concerned discussions at the dog park.
BRITISH BULLDOG: “–and they crammed him in a tiny crate, then stuffed it in the overhead compartment. And later when they open the crate, the dog was gone and there was a hook in the door!”
GATHERED DOGS: (In unison) “Ooooo!”
BORDER COLLIE: “Is that true?”
BRITISH BULLDOG: “I heard it from a blind service dog who was there. He saw it!”
BORDER COLLIE: “But he’s blind.”
COCKAPOO: “I wondered about that, too.”
BRITISH BULLDOG: “Well, he could see when he told me the story.”
COCKAPOO: “Oh! That makes sense.”
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “I’d never travel in a crate. I’d sit right next to my Giant and put my head in her lap and sigh like I do when she watches the news. That makes her happy. Sometimes she calls me her big, fluffy Xanax.”
MIXED BREED: “What’s that?”
GOLDEN RETRIEVER: “It’s like those chewy bites Giants give us for ticks. Only it helps them watch the news.”
BURNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: “Would I have to go in a crate? I’d need a big crate. A really, really big crate! Ask me how big!”
YORKSHIRE TERRIER: “My Giants carry me on board in a bag. It’s really snuggly. But I have to keep quiet and there’s no cable.”
BURNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: “ –a big, huge crate!”
BEAGLE: “Have you ever talked with one of those service dogs? What a bunch’a stiffs! No sense of humor.”
BURNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: “C’mon! Somebody ask me ‘How big?’”
While the airlines, federal regulators, and disability rights advocates argue over what defines an acceptable emotional-support animal, all agree on one point: No one wants Budleigh on their airplane.
How these disparate groups heard about Budleigh, our terrier thing, is unclear. Probably complaints about his behavior were filed by the powerful Amalgamated Union of Dog Toe Nail Trimmers and Industrial Pipe Fitters. While Budleigh is energetic and intelligent, some would describe him as strong-willed, others as Stage Two Rabid. That’s just how it is with terriers. Ask any rabbit carcass.
Although it pains me to agree with regulators, I’ve driven with Budleigh and learned that he must never travel on anything but his own legs and no faster than 45 miles-per-hour.
Safely securing a dog while driving is best done using a crash-tested crate, anchored harness and bubble wrap. Budleigh doesn’t agree and protests by gnawing on restraints, dramatically contorting his body, and shrieking, “I am not an animal! I am a human being!”
However, an unrestrained Budleigh in the car is no more emotionally supportive than, say, driving with an open pot of scalding hot soup.
GIANT 1: “Hon, if it’s not too inconvenient would you drag your dog off the dashboard before he ejects someone?”
BUDLEIGH: “What does this thing do? How about this thing?”
GIANT 2: “C’mere, Budleigh! Cookie! CookieCookieCookie!”
BUDLEIGH: “Are you serious? Look what’s on the floor back here! We all should eat this! Mostly me!”
GIANT 2: “He’s under your seat, Dave. Oh, gross! What is he eating?”
GIANT 1: “Car?”
GIANT 2: “I’ve got his leash! No, Budleigh! Drop! Drop!”
BUDLEIGH: “I am not an animal!”
GIANT 1: “Why do I see him in every mirror? How many are there?”
BUDLEIGH: “Look! There’s a rabbit! Let me out here!”
GIANT 2: “Dave, he’s lowering the window! No, Budleigh! C’mere! COOKIE!”
BUDLEIGH: “I am not an anim— OK, I’m a bit of an animal. Gimme that!
GIANT 1: “Look, just keep him in your lap until we reach the end of our driveway.”
BUDLEIGH: “What’s this do?”
VOICE: “Connecting to OnStar!”
GIANT 2: “Damn it, Budleigh!”
ONSTAR: “This is OnStar. How can I help you?”
GIANT 1: “Do you own a dog?”
ONSTAR: “No, I don’t.”
GIANT 1: “Would you like one?”