In all the years Steve and I have been raising CCI puppies (about 9), we’ve never flown with one. We know plenty of other puppy-raisers who’ve done it, and now that Southwest allows CCI trainees aboard its planes, it’s more likely we some day will take a pup aloft too. On the other hand, it strikes both of us as likely to add stress to an experience that all too often is trying.
Today, however, Kyndall and I had an aviation-related outing that
was both stress-free and entertaining. We joined a group of more than a dozen other CCI puppy-raisers at Lindbergh Field for a lesson from the TSA in “how to travel with a service dog.” Veteran puppy-raiser Marilyn Fullen, who organized a similar event once before, had us gather near the security checkpoint in Terminal 2. She passed out badges that would enable us to move through security even though we weren’t flying anywhere. Then we moved to a special TSA security line temporarily reserved for the practicing canines.
Dogs aren’t allowed to go through the airport’s complicated radiation scanners, so instead we all passed through an old-style metal-detector. We submitted to the tiresome preliminaries: shedding our shoes and jackets and purses and wallets and sending them on a conveyor belt past a TSA screener. Then each handler made his or her dog sit and stay. The handler (still holding the leash) walked through the portal, turned around, and called the dog to follow.
There was lots of discussion about whether the TSA can make one relinquish one’s leash. Although several puppy-raisers reported being ordered to do so, the team at Lindbergh insisted this was was wrong. You should always be able to retain control of your dog, and can request the option of going through the metal detector (though that does require that you have your hands inspected for explosives.)
Once through the screening station, we got a short tour of the terminal (escorted by no less than FIVE TSA employees — charged, apparently, with keeping our ticket-less pack under control.) Most fascinating to all of us was the introduction to the elegant “pet relief” room within the terminal (“We’re a dog-friendly airport,” the supervisor informed us.)
All the dogs thought this was the most incredibly interesting place imaginable — better than the best Duty Free Shop on earth!
When we could tear the dogs away from that symphony of smells, we headed for a small quiet lounge and practiced Unders…
Our guards seemed delighted to pose with some of the furry participants.
Then they led us to the door, collected our badges, and saw us out.
Marilyn says the supervisor claims to be working to make it possible for us to take the dogs on a visit inside an actual airplane. They’d get a chance to practice lying down in the oh-so-limited foot space. I’d love to do that, if the opportunity ever arises, though I’m sad to say I won’t be doing it with Kyndall. We’ll be taking her up to Oceanside to begin her Advanced Training in less than four weeks. I’m certain that outing will be a lot less fun than today’s.