Happy to answer a question posted by NCG, and I apologize for hijacking the RBC with service dog issues . . . I guess I’m not that sorry. I didn’t start it. NCG wanted to know if I need my balance-walker dog in the airplane cabin. It’s a familiar question. Children often ask to pet my dog when we’re in a restaurant, for example, and when I explain that they can’t pet him because he’s working, I get the kind of withering look that only a pre-schooler can give, and they point out that he is just lying there. No, I don’t need my dog once I’m seated in a restaurant or the airplane cabin, but I need him to get me there and back. If I can’t have my dog in the airplane cabin, here’s what my business trips would look like: I’d get the two of us to the cargo area of the terminal, and this would not be easy, since I would have to take a large, heavy, airline-approved Fiberglas crate that doesn’t fit in a cab. Oh, and cargo must be delivered 3-4 hours before a flight, so if you care about your dog, this won’t work for a flight longer than 2 hours. But back to my flight from Boston to– say, Cleveland and no farther: I’d pay $200-$500 for cargo shipping, assume the very real danger that my dog could die in the cargo hold, call for a wheelchair to get me to my gate, or limp there using my cane and risking a fall. And yeah, having taken those steps, no one on the plane would be inconvenienced by my dog. Once at my destination, I’d have to get myself to the cargo area, which, by the way, is often at a different terminal. My dog would not be in great shape. I’d have to figure out how to transport the crate to my hotel– or ditch it and buy a new one.
This is what my trips were like with Cormet (and soon, I hope, with Spenser). I take public transportation or a cab to the airport. In a cab, my dog stands on the floor of the back seat; he does not leave hair or dirt from his paws on the seat. We zip through the terminal with the dog alternately supporting me and pulling me forward, depending on my command. I hardly ever fall, but if I do, he braces so I can get up. We pre-board, I remove and stash his harness, he backs into the row, curls up at my feet, and we fly to my destination. I give him an occasional ice chip since he can’t eat or drink until we get there. Of course he doesn’t accompany me to the restroom on an airplane: I mean really! He’s a German Shepherd. Large purses don’t fit in airplane bathrooms. When I tell my dog to stay, he stays until I release him. Service dogs do accompany their people to restrooms in other locations, however. They are an enormous help, since not all public restrooms are equipped with grab bars. And just for the record, when we get to our destination, many of my fellow passengers express shock to see my dog emerge into the aisle. They had no idea there was a dog on board. I concede that he takes up more floor space than is allocated for my feet. On the few occasions that the flight crew has not been able to leave an empty seat next to me, I have been so grateful to the people who begged for the opportunity to sit “in the row with the beautiful dog.” If you’re reading this? Thanks again. Those drinks I bought you don’t come close to the value of your kindness.
Non-disabled people, particularly those who run businesses and public institutions, often want to decide which accommodations we should have. With the DOJ now controlled by you-know-who and a Republican Congress, I worry about the regulations under the ADA. Some bureaucrat may decide that I am not entitled to access with my dog, because a wheelchair is just as effective.
The question was not rude, NCG. You’re a valued member of the RBC. I’m glad you asked. I worry about other people, though, particularly those in power.