The Ups and Downs of the Emotional Support Dog

Planespotting

Planespotting

Dogs sense change. I get anxious when I see the crate move from the hallway to the patio, back to the hallway and then to the living room. I have bouts of shaking when the humans start acting like a surprise party is being planned, but nobody is willing to talk about it. We sense surprise parties, we perceive uncertainty.

A big car pulled up, and Nico loaded it with bags and my crate. We jumped in and head towards the Bole Airport in Addis Ababa. I’ve been here a few times in the past, flying to Axum and to Mekele. I know all about this windowed monstrosity and the bumpy flights that it gives birth to. But human empathy meters couldn’t muster the darkness of an aircraft hull 6,000 meters off the ground or the sound of the atmosphere at 450 kilometers an hour, or the weight of motionless suitcases.

The first time I flew to Axum, I had diarrhea for days. For the record, I am against riding in a cage in the trunk of the airplane, but sometimes I am left with no choice.

I follow Nico and our friend Paul through the security line where I see this sullen golden retriever caged up in his crate. Dog was about to have a panic attack, as his owner ungracefully lifts the crate up on the x-ray machine. This rover looks over at me, and I’m walking all nonchalantly on my lovely leash. He throws me one of those what-are-you-doing-over-there-while-I’m-trapped-in-here looks, meanwhile I start to wonder why my crate is nowhere to be seen, then I get distracted by a multitude of black faced women wearing full body gowns. They stared at me as we walked to the next counter.In my eyes, airports appear as human obstacle courses. At every counter, humans briefly talk, exchange papers and little booklets, bags and suitcases, pleasantries and sometimes harsh words. There is no clarity within the process, but then again, I usually end up alone in a deafening, dark hole, so none of it makes sense to me.

Emotional Support Dog

We waited, and humans kept looking at me, pointing and laughing. An Irish gentleman with strong breath asked why I was there, where was my cage, how can a dog simply walk through the airport and get on an airplane? I wagged my tail and wondered if this guy thought he was special. He obviously was not.

“Sir, we understand your condition. We are working on it as quickly as possible,” a woman with a futuristic astronaut outfit says to Nico. “We’ve never had a therapy dog on one of our flights. Remember, absolutely no dogs in the lavatory.”

She smiled, patted me on the head and put a boarding pass in Nico’s hand. We moved to the next obstacle and then up a staircase into a giant room full of humans sitting around and standing in lines behind metal doors that open up to the outside of the building. I think they must be letting themselves out to pee.

We waited in yet another line and suddenly enter an airplane. What a relief, for the first time I am on the upper side of things. Humans don’t know how good they have it. We sat near the front but not in the big seats. I crawled up under Nico’s legs and tucked in my tail to avoid heavy foot traffic.

Humans do not spend much time on airplane floors. That much I gathered down here below the seats in the ‘economy class’. Every where I look are flotation devices and feet swinging back and forth, feet with shoes and feet with socks, painted toes, the movie theater carpet and a row of lights leading to an exit row. I’m the only four-legger among the bipeds.

Sitting next to us was a young Ethiopian woman who claimed to love my species. She tapped me on my head and secretly fed me pretzels. She was traveling to Amsterdam for the first time, just like me. I moved closer to her legs because I liked her.

Mile High Fan Club

Mile High Fan Club

At some point, a big buxom Dutch flight attendant of a woman came by to check on me. Clearly, she had confused me with a troubled dog from hell sent to spread panic on her flight. She had me in her sights the whole time, and frankly she scared the hell out of me. I fell asleep right away to the purr of the floor and the hum of the machine. It was so nice to not be trapped down in the suitcase world.

We said farewell to my Ethiopian fanclub and suddenly we were in Amsterdam, so I followed Nico outside to look for some grass. Relieved, Dutch immigration police didn’t so much look at me and I trotted back into the airport to catch my next flight to America, where the streets are paved with chicken necks and turkey legs. Some Russians took some photos of me when I checked my Facebook fanpage.
Inside the Amsterdam airport, I witness more strange human behavior. This time, they were walking in every direction and sometimes running for no apparent reason. There was a loud woman’s voice blaring from above directing these humans towards their daily aspirations. Many frantically rolled bags behind them, pulling innocent children by the arm, and in the periphery, tranquil humans sat on benches looking at these little black boxes, either simply looking at the box or talking to the box.
Using the Bathroom in Amsterdam

Using the Bathroom in Amsterdam

The next flight was an entirely new ball game. There were fewer feet to look at. I jumped on a seat, slept as we crossed an entire ocean and got to finally taste airplane food. A woman looked at me and asked if I wanted chicken or fish! I’ve never had the option. The same woman came back to my seat to pet me.

This cold, hellish place called Minneapolis was next. Here the humans started stacking up twenty deep at the counter and window obstacle course again, and this large black man bellows at us:

“What are you doing walking that dog on that leash?”

“Mino is an emotional support dog, sir” Nico replied. I put on my friendly face and wagged my tail once or twice.

“Oh yeah, I’ve heard about your kind,” he mustered and waved us through into the USA.

I boarded the third and final flight to Utah and noticed two more emotional support dogs in the cabin. When I walked by, this schnauzer winked at me. Emotinoal support dogs have it made!

'Safe' at home!

‘Safe’ at home!