The Harbinger Online

A Girls’ Best (Emotional Support) Friend

My family travels to Vail, CO a couple times a year, and with each visit we face the same decision. We can either fly to Denver without our dogs, or one of us (usually my step-mom) can drive to Vail separately with our dogs in the car.

But over winter break, we were in the Denver airport and saw a surprising amount of dogs walking through the airport, including one sitting in the front row of our flight. I live in a family of dog lovers, so of course we couldn’t resist petting the gentle giant. While absorbing the cuteness of the golden retriever, the owner explained to us that he had him registered as an emotional support animal who could travel on flights with him. This allows him to travel with his dog in the cabin, rather than in the luggage section

After a little more research, it was decided. My yellow lab, Sandy, and my golden retriever, Spencer, would be registered as emotional support animals so that they too could travel on the plane to Vail.

For $64.95 per animal plus shipping and the completion of three easy steps, my two dogs will be registered as emotional support animals and can therefore travel in the cabin with my family on flights.

I know what this looks like. It looks like I’m an emotionally unstable dog lover who’s just crazy enough to bring her dogs on the airplane with her. And to some extent, there’s truth in that.

Am I emotionally unstable? Technically no, but having my most loyal companion next to me definitely makes me feel a little better. Am I a dog lover? Yes. Am I crazy for bringing my dogs on an airplane? Maybe, but a lot of other people seem to have the same idea as me.

The steps were simple. First, prove that you have some type of emotional or psychological disability. By prove, the National Service Animal Registry just requires you to check a little box verifying that you have a disability listed on the suggested list – anything from dyslexia to anxiety qualifies a person. Next, qualify your animal as manageable in public. Again, to do this you check a box stating that your animal meets the criteria listed for “manageable in public”. Finally, fill in your information and pay $64.95 per animal, and you’re registered. The whole process can be done in five minutes.

Originally I was skeptical of it. I thought it was somehow cheating the system. But I’ve concluded that “emotional support” defines a wide array of feelings. Flying is a stressful time. The turbulence is scary and the people can be rude. But if your accompanying animal eases those dreaded feelings in any way, he or she is emotionally supporting you.
Next time I fly to the Denver airport, I’ll be traveling with two more companions. Hopefully Sandy and Spencer don’t mind the abundance of strangers petting them and the somewhat rocky take off.

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