The first time I flew with a service dog, my dog, Dexter, an 84 pound hunk the ASPCA had told me would be a 14 – 16 pound dog (which he was on the way to 84 pounds), took up the foot room of three people.  Dexter didn’t fold.  But the other two people were so delighted to have him there that one folded her coat into a pillow for him and the other kept her feet on the bulkhead wall from New York to California.


Walking from security to where I had to wait to board my plane was another story. I was yelled at several times.  Someone took my dog’s credentials and disappeared for a long time.  When he returned, he just shoved them at me, unhappy that he couldn’t “get that dog out of here,” as he had suggested.  So one thing has remained the same.  People love to see a well-trained service dog on a plane.  The other, getting screamed at in the airport, is now history.

Along with more understanding of how dogs can help humans with disabilities, something else has cropped up.  You can now buy “credentials” on line.  You can pay a doctor you have never seen to write a letter saying your dog is a service dog.  And some people, more and more people, are giving in to the temptation to cheat, to take their pets, often untrained pets, onto planes by claiming they are service dogs.

But buyer beware.  To my delight and surprise, leaving Italy a few days ago, all ten pages of my dog’s paperwork were carefully checked.  Airlines are becoming more scrupulous about the animals they allow on board, as they should be.  No one’s yelling nowadays, but they are checking.  And this is a good thing, because otherwise the cheaters will bring back the bad old days where overwhelmed with untrained fakes, screaming “Get that dog out of here” will once again be the status quo at airports.