I just learned something new. As I shared with all of you earlier, in November I got a new puppy, a white long haired teacup Chihuahua, named Minnie Mouse. When I got her, she was ten weeks old and weighed a pound. Now, at 4 months, she has made it to 2 pounds. She is totally adorable, and a really sweet puppy. And she is REALLY tiny. My goal in getting her was to have a dog who could travel with me, when I go back and forth to France. My dogs at home, whom I love, are just over the weight limit (or so I thought) for international travel (12 pounds), so too big to have them with me in the cabin. And Minnie is tiny enough that I can take her in a travel bag, and keep her with me on the plane. (However—–I discovered that a 2 pound dog is like a baby. The stuff I take with me, sweaters in many colors, leashes, collars, dog bowls, blankets, a dog bed, her favorite toys, wee-wee pads, food, and you name it for a very spoiled and pampered dog weighs a LOT more than 2 pounds. Her stuff took up half a suitcase on her first trip with me!!! And one of my daughters gave me a ridiculous pink hat (with holes for her ears); in case it was cold in Paris. So far, Minnie has refused to wear the hat, but I brought that too). You get the picture—tiny dog, silly owner, mountain of stuff to take along in suitcase).
The preparations for international travel to France with a dog were more complicated than I expected. I needed official/stamped health certificates and vaccination papers, both for the airline, and entry into France. In addition, she needed an ‘international chip’ under her skin that can be scanned by European scanners in case she got lost in France, a US dog license, and a whole lot of paperwork to take along. I got it all lined up, and then for the actual trip, you need a regulation size carrying case (she must be in the case at all times, and can’t be removed from it while on the plane). You need a reservation for her travel (no more than 7 pets can be in the cabin on the plane, so they keep track of how many will be travelling on every flight), and you have to pay a small fee. Whew!!! Complicated. But important to comply with the rules. You don’t want them quarantining your dog if you don’t have the paperwork you need!!!
It took a couple of months to get all the shots, and all the paperwork and certificates in order. She missed one of my trips to France while I was doing that, and finally she was ready. The big day came, and armed with all her documents, I got to the airport for the trip with Minnie. (And no, she wasn’t wearing the pink hat. She was wearing a tiny black sweater which she hated and kept getting out of!!)
And when we got to the airport, the first question the airline asked me was “Is she an emotional support dog?”…..uh….what was that question?? I wasn’t sure if they were asking me about the purpose of having a dog, in a tiny black sweater, whose equipment took up half of a suitcase. (Maybe someone told them about the hat??). In response to my blank look at the question, they repeated it with a serious expression. “Is she an emotional support dog?” hmm….well, I certainly love her, she is 2 pounds of adorable puppy, so yes, I guess she provides some kind of emotional support. Ah…they said, that’s different. And they asked for a certificate for that as well. Now there’s a certificate I did not have. Great wardrobe yes, a gazillion toys, yes, the kind of food she’s been eating….proof of her chip and shots, yes…..but no certificate certifying her as an emotional support dog. And then began one of those great conversations of total confusion where two people have no idea (or one person for sure: me) what the other one is talking about. I know about service dogs: like guide dogs for the visually handicapped, and I’ve even heard of service dogs for people with epilepsy, who are able to detect a seizure before the person can, and can warn the person of the impending seizure. Service dogs of any size can accompany a person on the plane. I haven’t seen them often, but I’ve seen them, very well behaved, and lying at their owner’s feet in the cabin. Well, guess what? Emotional Support Dogs are now in the same category, and are ‘official’. The airline representative explained to me that if you tell the airline that you are afraid to fly, and have a certificate testifying to that, you can bring your dog on the plane, in the cabin with you, without a carrier bag, without a reservation, with no size restriction (I guess you could bring a Great Dane or a Saint Bernard), and they can travel with you, free of charge. The size and weight restrictions do not apply (otherwise, for non-support dogs, 12 pounds is the limit for international travel, and I think it’s 20 pounds in the States). I was bowled over by that information. For one thing, so many people are nervous about flying, particularly since 9/11, that if they all brought an emotional support dog, the plane would look like Noah’s Ark. I doubt that most people know about that new feature for travelling pets. I’d never heard of it. And I’m sure you still need all the vaccinations and papers even for an emotional support dog. But the airlines really give people a break if they are afraid to fly and feel they need to bring their dog with them. I was really impressed that they don’t need to be in a bag (like Minnie—fierce 2 pound attack dog that she is!!), emotional support dogs can be as large a dog as you want, and there is no fee for an emotional support dog (Minnie had to pay $125.00 for the trip). It was a whole new aspect of pet travel I’d never heard of. Poor Minnie must have felt a little left out, in spite of her sweater, pink collar, many toys, and the pink hat in her suitcase. Actually, on a more serious note, I think it’s wonderful that the airlines are so sensitive to nervous flyers (there are several in my family), and recognize that travel with their dogs will bring them comfort. I was really touched and impressed. You have to have paperwork to back it up, and I’m not sure what that is (maybe a letter from a doctor about being afraid to fly?? I didn’t ask), but that was a whole new discovery for me!!! And I found it fascinating. So if you see a big dog, lying at the feet of a fellow traveler on a plane, now you’ll know why, and what the dog is there for….to lend emotional support. And if you see a ridiculously tiny white dog in a sweater and pink hat……you’ll know who that is!!! Miss Minnie!!!