Ignorant Airline Travelers
My mom has always been high-strung. Her doctor suggested she get an emotional support animal (ESA) to help her feel calmer and more secure.
She chose me to be her support dog because of my gentle and easy-going disposition. Firecrackers, thunder, cats, you name it, have never bothered me. When my mom and I first started traveling about ten years ago, the passengers at the airport carried on about how cute and well-behaved I was. Even the TSA agents were impressed that I could walk through the metal detector on my own and sit and wait on the other side until my mom joined me.
However, in the last three years, the reaction of some passengers towards us has been downright hostile. One person glared at us on our previous trip to show his disapproval, and another shook her head in disgust. One guy had the nerve to ask my mom why she needed an emotional support animal? Do you think he asks wheelchair-assisted travelers why they need a wheelchair? I doubt it.
I can’t tell you how upsetting this has been for my mom. I am afraid if these kinds of encounters continue, the stress will be too much for her to travel by air.
Travel Wearied, Pal
I am genuinely sorry that you and your mom had to be the object of such insensitive and ignorant behavior. I can’t imagine the audacity of anyone asking a person with a disability why they required assistance.
The airlines are not even allowed to ask a traveler to disclose their diagnosis. People in airports who are rude to emotional support dogs and their owners have no idea what it takes these days to get permission from the airlines to travel.
Airlines today require these passengers to submit an up-to-date letter from their physician, usually a psychiatrist, stating they have prescribed an emotional support animal for their patient. Additionally, they need a current letter from the dog’s veterinarian, saying the dog’s shots are up-to-date, the dog is healthy, and well behaved.
The airlines had to tighten their requirements for passengers traveling with an ESA because too many people tried to pass off their dog as an ESA. Finally, the airlines got wise to them and put a stop to their dishonest shenanigans. So, the days of fake ESA certificates and peacocks, potbelly pigs, and snakes traveling as an ESA are over. I think the airlines’ new restrictions will eventually become public knowledge, and travelers in airports will become more respectful.
In the meantime, I suggest when you travel with your mom, you sit close by her side and do whatever you can to keep her attention focused on you — yawn, offer her your paw, indicate you want to sit on her lap, lick her face. You want to distract her as much as possible from seeing or listening to the other travelers.
I know If you can get through the TSA security check on your own, figuring out how to keep your mom occupied before you board the plane will be a walk in the park.
© 2021 Geneva Woodruff
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