The pack that flies together (almost): a photo essay

I was curious to see if it would be as much fun to take Beverly on the CCI airport excursion (held yesterday) as it was when I took Kyndall last year. That’s the first time I had been through the experience of going with a group of other pups in training, to expose them to a TSA screening (as well as some of the other sights and sounds of Lindbergh Field). It was! About two dozen dogs participated this year (twice as many as the last time), and they must have been accompanied by about 30 puppy-raisers. We presented quite a spectacle, and many travelers seemed to enjoy the sight of us all.

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We assembled on the second floor of Terminal 2, which presented a great opportunity to be brave in the face of a daunting climb up the stairs.

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Then we waited quite a while for everyone to arrive. Here Beverly (closest) had just spotted her boyfriend, Keegan. She looooooves him and wanted to spring up and play, so it was a great opportunity to practice being good and staying Down.

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Finally we moved to the screening area, where one by one, the humans shed their purses, shoes, cell phones and other gear, then guided their canine companions through the old-fashioned metal detectors.

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No one set off any alarms, but they still made us get our hands swiped for traces of explosives. None of that was detected either (thank goodness!)

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Then: more waiting for everyone to go through the drill. (So many temptations for ones so young.)

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Finally, we moved along to the terminal’s very cool “pet relief” station…

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…where, as so often is the case, the line was very long.

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While some of the pups seemed enraptured by the plastic grass and phony fire hydrant, Beverly seemed to be creeped out by it and certainly had no interest in relieving herself in the small space.

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We moved on to some photo ops (Bev’s the one snuggled up to one of the burly security guards.)

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Some participants struck arresting individual poses. But Beverly again seemed too nervous to try this one.

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Still, it clearly was a mind-expanding experience. Which was the point.

Better than flying

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

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The pups all were wearing their capes; they didn’t need any additional IDs.

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.

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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.)

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We did that too. Neither the TSA agent nor the pups sniffed anything amiss.

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.)

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All the dogs thought this was the most incredibly interesting place imaginable — better than the best Duty Free Shop on earth!

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The phony grass and phony fire hydrant were so enthralling, Kyndall couldn’t begin to think about relieving herself.

When we could tear the dogs away from that symphony of smells, we headed for a small quiet lounge and practiced Unders…

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And Sides…

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Our guards seemed delighted to pose with some of the furry participants.

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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.