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You’d be hardpressed to find a better place to people watch than an airport. You’ve got 55-year-old businessmen drinking double-vodkas straight at 10:30 a.m. while they wait for their cross-country flight. You have 24-year-olds checking in on Facebook from Chicago O’Hare letting everyone know that they’ve arrived at their airport for their yoga journey while everyone else sits at their desk cringing. And you’ve got those slobs that walk around with pajama pants on and neck pillows draped around their necks. It’s the perfect storm for questioning everything about our society as a whole.
But if you’ve traveled in the last year, you’ve noticed something. Something that, on the surface, should bring joy to most of us. It’s no mystery at this point that people would rather follow dogs on Instagram than see another set of overly-edited engagement photos. Outside of the confines of the airport, people stop on a dime in the middle of the street to pet designer hypoallergenic labra-spaniel-doodles. I’m pretty sure my girlfriend has cried while hungover as she watches dogs reunite with their military owners after their extended duty overseas. I get it.
Unfortunately, times have changed. No longer are dogs widely accepted no matter the locale. I’m talking, of course, about “emotional support” dogs. We’ve gone from airports exclusively catering to the “do not pet” seeing-eye dogs to literally having airports turn into doggy daycares where you never know if one will shit or puke at Gate B34.
These dogs have become victims of the general public. “Nuisances,” they’re called. “Completely unnecessary,” others will say. “An abuse of the system,” publications far and wide claim.
And they’re not wrong. As someone who has abused the system and has gotten their dog the label of “emotional support dog,” I’m as guilty as every other yuppie piece of scum out there who can’t stand the thought of going on vacation without their fucking dog. Do I need to put an Amazon-bought vest on my dog in the car before checking in at Southwest? No, absolutely not. Would my vacation be more stress-free if I left my dog at home? Undoubtedly. Is that stopping me from abusing the system that’s currently in place? Absolutely not.
That’s the issue — the system allows for people like me to do whatever the hell they want. An email to some doctor in California will yield me a .PDF letter that I can print out and present just before getting on my flight. All of a sudden, the dog I got exclusively to hang out with while I’m hungover is now considered to be a “necessity” for me while traveling. Loading her up in one of those third-world crates and putting her under the plane? Excuse me, that’s not happening. She’s an angel.
What am I supposed to do, though? Just not game the system and exploit it for my benefit? Yeah, right. I’d rather sit on the plane with my dog at my feet in bulkhead (you get priority boarding with these things, by the way) than sit fifteen rows back with those people who clap the second the plane lands. Having a dog essentially makes me a VIP. TSA Agents stop me in security not because I’m smuggling in a 32-ounce bottle of Fiji, but because they want to pet my springer spaniel. I’m the cock of the walk; the toast of the town.
That is, until recently. Assholes far and wide are trying to traffic their “emotional support” peacocks and “emotional support” kangaroos. American Airlines Flight 4213 from Newark to St. Louis suddenly looks like Noah’s fucking Arc. We’ve gotten to the point where Delta has actually heightened their restrictions to stop every Tom and Betty from bringing their “emotional support” bunny to grandmother’s house.
And I understand the issue at hand. Flights already smell like shit even without dogs and cats running rampant when the seatbelt sign is off. Body odor and farts linger in those sealed cabins, so if Maggie’s new Australian Shepherd can’t hold it for four hours then we’re staring straight into a flight that reeks of doggy daycare and straight-up piss. No one wants that.
Who’s to blame here? I’m all about fingerpointing. I love assessing blame. Am I the bad guy because I used the system currently in place to my benefit? Are the airlines at fault because they have laxer policies on dogs than they do on people with Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check? What about these quacks who are just tossing out generic letters to everyone that emails them? Is the blood on their hands? Well, not actual blood because thinking about dog blood is just downright sad.
Sure, Delta is taking precautions to make sure things are under control. Unfortunately, these precautions are less about the dogs than they are the owners. If you can’t prove your dog has all of its vaccinations, you probably shouldn’t own a dog in the first place, Jenny McCarthy. When it gets down to brass tacks, Delta’s new “restrictions” aren’t really restrictions at all. They’re just idiot-proofing the already-in-place system and scaring off those too lazy to call their vet for a little proof that their dog doesn’t have rabies.
While I do agree that you shouldn’t be able to bring a fucking peacock on a transcontinental flight, I simply don’t think it’s right to skewer those who take the appropriate actions to make sure their dog can board a flight without hassle. At the end of the day, they’re still better than those assholes who clap for a safe landing. .