There have been a lot of opinions about the pat downs at the airports, but I haven’t seen any about this: a full body pat down for a service dog. Sky, my service dog, loves the opportunity to “cheat.” While she clearly understands that she should not be socializing while wearing her service dog cape, she’s also a dog and loves attention, pats and sometimes even the full Disney treatment – excitement usually reserved for running into Mickey Mouse.
Monk, my husband’s service dog, is a whole other story. We adopted Monk from Sweet Border Collie Rescue who had rescued him from his first home. There he had been neglected, left on his own all day, day after day, starting when he was three months old. He never got to play with other dogs. He was never trained or exercised. It’s fair to assume that he was yelled at a lot for tearing up the house which he did mostly because he had nothing else to do. We’ve had Monk twenty months now and during that time, he’s been given lots of the enrichment he should have gotten as a puppy. On the positive side, he walked into the house and immediately started helping my husband who had been fried during radiation for prostate cancer. With Monk at his side, suddenly everything started getting better. This was a miracle we hadn’t planned for and for which we are immensely thankful. On the other side, Monk takes a while to trust strangers.
It’s not uncommon for dogs who have been poorly socialized when they were young to be more brittle than dogs, like Sky, who were taken everywhere in a loving, supportive way. So while we wish Monk would have a more flexible attitude, we also understand that he is a product of his early upbringing, nineteen months of not much of anything he needed. We continue to work patiently with him and he continues to improve, like many rehomed dogs – at the speed of grass growing.
Back to the airport. Sky goes through the metal detector. It responds to the buckle on her collar and the clips on her leash. Someone comes to pat her down (!!!!). She wags her tail. This, she seems to be thinking, is the way to travel.
Monk goes through the metal detector. Ding dong. A large man wearing rubber gloves walks up to him and leans over him to pat him down. Another agent holds the leash. Monk barks, the dog version of “Don’t touch my junk.” The dog version of “Do I know you? Did I invite you to put your paws on me?”
I had been asked to step aside, as had my husband, Steve. I then stepped up, held Monk’s head gently in my hands and nodded for the agent to pat him down.
Without discussing whether or not security agents should be touching our junk, wouldn’t you think someone might have mentioned to them that it’s a better idea to have the dog’s person hold the leash rather than to surround a dog with strangers who will then manhandle him? Isn’t it just real world common sense to ask the person before you touch the dog. Ah, silly me, thinking there’s common sense at the airport!