She’s a Service Dog

Breaking the law at Christmas and other hijinks.

Lane Cummingsby Lane Cummings

She's a Service Dog

Having a dog is like having a child. Except when you have a child, you don’t feel compelled to engage in illegal activity to get them on an airplane to save a hundred bucks. I have a little dog, Clover. She’s eight pounds and looks like a golden bunny rabbit.

This last Christmas I was going to be in NY for nine days. The cost of flying her is $100 each way. The cost of a doggie babysitter is around the same. Kennels are dens of trauma, sheer concentration camps breeding bitterness, and were out of the question.

Out of a sense of desperation coupled with disregard for the laws of civilized society, I called the airlines and told them I would be traveling with a service dog. I was informed my dog would fly free. I covered my ass by finding a site online that will send you a service dog tag for your pup, as long as you paypal them $33 and email a photo of your dog. You have to sign some agreement saying that if you’re lying you are aware that you’re breaking the law, blah blah blah. I read more about this. Apparently posing my pup as a trained and certified service dog was punishable by a fine and jail time. This scared me, but I wanted to save the $100 each way.

My helpful boyfriend washed his hands of these endeavors. As a highstrung Canadian, he lived in constant fear of being arrested or deported at all times. “You’re on your own with this,” he said.

We departed from LAX early one morning.  My boyfriend and I got into separate check-in lines, so that if  I was arrested he would not be seen as an accessory. Yes, that sounded fair. My line didn’t move as there was a moody version of Rupert Everett manning the check-in desk. My nerves at illegally posing as a handicapped person with a service dog abated as I saw that I was going to miss my flight.  I was also hung over from a night of alcoholic indulgences, and my speech was slurred and my sense of entitlement greatened.

My boyfriend waved as he sailed through his line and went pass the security check point. I heard the woman ahead of me, who also was forced to miss her flight due to Rupert’s deliberate slowness, call him an asshole. “I don’t have to check you in at all” he called out in his high-pitched nasal voice.

Clover and I exchanged a worried look. The couple ahead of me missed their flight and were sent on standby to the next one. Clover and I were up.

“It’s too late to check you in for the flight to NY” he nasaled.

“But that flight hasn’t even started boarding. I’m not checking any baggage! I’ve got 45 minutes!” I cried.

“You’re too late.”

I turned on my internal bitch-switch to maximum. “I’m done with you,” I bellowed. “Get your supervisor over here.” His supervisor turned out to be this 14 year old kid who avoided eye contact and echoed in a monotone voice that I was indeed too late to fly to New York. “I want both your names!” I yelled. “I’m going to blog about this, I’m going to post this to Facebook, I’m Yelping about this and I am writing to both your supervisors! Letters! Give me your names!”

The supervisor whispered that his name was Matt Stein-something. I typed it into my phone. The crabby version of Rupert Everett chirped, “You don’t need to know my name.” But the fool forgot he was wearing a name tag. I leaned in across the counter. “Miguel Hernandez!” I yelled. I recorded the info in my phone.

“I see you’re traveling with a service dog,” the supervisor mumbled. I stiffened. I fingered Clover’s bogus tags. I squeezed her file of shots and immunizations. The supervisor walked away.  

Miguel slowly tapped some keys. “I can get you a seat on the next flight for another $50. Or you can fly standby.”

“I’m not giving you another cent! This airline is a joke! And you are a clown!” My voice was so shrill it began to irritate even me.

Miguel handed me my stand-by boarding pass. “Your service dog just shat on my floor,” he said without emotion.
I didn’t think I had heard him right. Or perhaps I was just to afraid to look beside me. “What?!” I said.

“Your service dog just shat on my floor,” he repeated.

I slowly looked down at my feet. Apparently during the excitement of my brough-ha-ha, Clover had been overwhelmed and also wanted to express her frustrations and disappointments with this airline.

“That was already there when I got here,” I huffed, and off Clover and I marched to the security line.

We were shocked yet delighted to find that no one at security asked to see her “service dog” tags, no one asked for her paperwork and essentially no one said more than boo to us. Although while Clover and I were waiting in line for the bathroom, one woman asked if she could pet my dog. I said that I was terribly sorry, but that the dog was “working”.  She asked, “Working how?” I explained that Clover was assisting me with a medical condition. I committed to the lie like George Costanza.

We danced onto the standby flight and Clover slept on my coat all the way to the big Apple.