On my recent flight to my daughter’s in Syracuse, make that flights, since it takes 2 flights to get there and 2 to get back, I discovered a new problem with traveling with a guide dog. It’s not that dogs are not allowed in airports or on planes. It’s not that there are no relief areas for service dogs, although most are placed outside the secure area, making it highly inconvenient to have to take a dog out and make your connection, and it’s not that they aren’t allowed in the various restaurants and food courts. It’s simply that there isn’t room for them at your feet. Oh sure, you can try to tuck their back ends under the seat in front of you, or you can sit in the bulkhead row, but there is room only for the dog, not your feet. I used to joke that I had to take my legs off and stow them in the overhead, but it’s not such a joke anymore.
On my 2 flights over there, I had the bulkhead row to myself, so all I had to worry about was Dora’s scooting up toward the aisle and getting her big paws out where they could be tramped on. But on the way back, both flights were full. During the first one, the lady seated next to me was concerned that my dog’s head was touching her foot. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t make my dog smaller, and the lady was lucky that she had claimed her foot room first, or Dora would have laid her head on top of the lady’s feet. The flight attendant and I convinced her that Dora was a very sweet dog and that she would try very hard not to bother her. By the end of that flight, the lady was cooing to Dora and seemed quite happy to be her seatmate. On the last flight,, however, as I was seated in the window seat and Dora was stretched out across the other seat’s foot space, a man came to claim his seat next to me and declared to the flight attendant that this was his seat, but he couldn’t sit there. There was no room for his feet, and he was right. The flight attendant asked me if I would be willing to move to another seat, so I could tuck Dora under the seat in front of me. Great plan if she didn’t have these long legs and long body. I said I would try, but it was obvious to everyone in thee vicinity that that was not the solution. At last, a kind woman sitting in the row behind me volunteered to sit next to me and just drape her legs over the top of Dora. My legs weren’t long enough to drape over her, so I either had to put my feet on top of her or prop them on the bulkhead itself, which I did. I don’t know. Maybe the other lady did that too.
If there are any large dog-handlers who read this blog, I would love to know how you solve this problem. You hear about men who have been scrunched up so their knees are under their chins, because the seats have been moved closer together, and you hear about people getting upset because the inconsiderate person in front of them can’t stand to sit upright for an hour, but what do you do about traveling with a service dog that absolutely cannot be squeezed under the seat in front of you? Am I going to have to buy a separate ticket for her? Am I going to have to buy a first class seat? I can make her sit up for the entire trip, another suggestion from a different flight attendant with a previous guide. And I’m certainly not going to put her in a crate in the belly of the plane. Maybe I should just hire someone to drive us.