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The Power of Pets to Heal Us

By January 18, 2016August 18th, 2019Balance, Healthy Living, Living

Airport_Passengers in a Hurry_Pets as comfortAt first I thought it was a child. The wincing and crying in a steady ear-piercing whine permeated the plane and certainly sounded like one. Anyone who has flown, (is there anyone left who hasn’t?), has experienced it before. A young child or baby who just can’t settle and begins crying or screeching, often to their parent’s embarrassment.

I turned and looked back at the row opposite but behind me where the mother and child were sitting. The little girl was perfectly calm and seemed content to have her own big airplane seat. At least for the moment.

Pets Aboard

Then the young man sitting in the aisle seat opposite me asked the flight attendant if he could be moved somewhere else on the plane. Seems the wincing and crying was coming from the couple sitting beside him. Not literally from the couple, but from under the seat in front of them.

Inside their carry-on-bag was their adorable, but noisy terrier, who only wanted to be let out to join them aboveground. Once they snuck him into their lap, he seemed much happier and stopped wincing. Until they had to return him to his carrier, at the flight attendant’s request. Rules of the airline.

A Free Ride for Pets

Girl petting two dogs_petsObserving all this, I recalled a report about an issue flyers are all too frequently facing. A growing trend that allows people to bring their pets on the plane with them.

How? These pets are considered emotional support animals and can fly with their owner for free. And it’s not just dogs and cats. On the CBS report I saw, they did an experiment and brought a pig on the airplane. Apparently almost any pet you can imagine is now allowed to accompany their owners on board. Seems pigs as pets are very popular. Perhaps actor George Clooney made it fashionable to have a pig as a pet back in the early 2000s.

As long as the animal fits under the seat and meets the airline’s requirements, the pet can come onboard. The owner must have a certified doctor’s letter that the animal is an emotional support pet stating they can’t fly without them.

What About the Other Passengers?

The people around me were either irritated, sympathetic or indifferent to the incessant whining of this noisy little guy. My curiosity was piqued, as although I adore animals, I questioned what about people who have allergies or a fear of animals. How do the airlines accommodate these passengers? Seems there’s little regulation so far, other than possibly moving the allergic person to another seat.

As it turned out there were two dogs accompanying this couple, and the one who started crying, continued crying the entire flight. Although the couple reported they travel by air with both dogs regularly, seems the sedative didn’t work for this flight, making the little crying man just the opposite. Agitated and hyper. All he wanted was to be out of his carrier, which was technically prohibited. Regulations, at least on this airline, require that pets be in carriers. Under the seat. And, to make it more complex, each airline has different rules.

Children and Flying

Airport_Child and MotherI thought back to another conversation about kids on planes and how there was a push for airlines to implement separate flights for parents with children. Although I can understand the annoyance a crying or uncontrollable child presents on a flight, what about noisy adults, or those whose perfume is too strong, or the guy beside you who has had too much to drink. There’s always something in life that offends someone. Where do we draw the line? Seems as a species, we humans often have to go to the extreme to find the middle ground.

Dogs and Unconditional Love

As an animal lover and activist, I know that animals have an almost magical healing power on humans. Their love is unconditional, and at least our dog and two cats, offer constant entertainment. I’d just re-watched the video for the brilliant initiative, “Dogs on the Inside”, which pairs abused stray dogs with inmates who are working towards a second chance in life.

Animals have an almost magical healing power on humans and offer unconditional love. #animals #loveClick To Tweet

The program fosters unconditional love and healing to both the dogs and the prisoners. It’s beautiful and heartwarming to see these prisoners and the bonds they form with these previously unloved dogs.Dogs on the Inside_Pets and Prisoners

Pets as Pacifiers

Back to pets and flying. Another interesting program that captured my attention offers hope for calming the anxieties associated with flying. Comfort dogs have been used in courtrooms and cities after tragedies and now they work in airport terminals, where stress-filled flyers are welcome to hug and pet them.

Studies have shown that animal-assisted therapy is an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety. Frazzled passengers experiencing delays, missed flights, and gate changes are offered the opportunity to do just that through the PUP patrol. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was one of the first airports to launch a comfort dogs program. PUP (Pets Unstressing Passengers) began there on April 15, 2013.

“When you walk in with the dogs, you feel the stress level drop immediately,” Heidi Huebner, director of volunteers at LAX, told USA TODAY at the time. “People start smiling, people start talking to each other, they’re taking pictures, they’re hugging the dogs.” The PUP dogs aren’t just random mutts who get paraded through the terminal. Each dog, easily identifiable by his or her bright red vest that says, “Pet Me!” undergoes a thorough training regimen supervised by the airport.PUP comfort pets at LAX

Comfort Dogs to the Rescue

Although I haven’t seen them yet in my travels, 30 airports across the U.S. and Canada currently have comfort dogs available. One individual airline has begun to provide these dogs as well. For the holidays last year, United Airlines expanded its annual United Paws program from two airports to seven in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark and Washington, D.C. More than 200 comfort dogs soothed thousands of travellers.

Dr. Walter Woolf, a veterinary consultant confirms, “Research shows that just petting a dog releases oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding and affection, and also decreases levels of stress, helps us breathe easier and lowers our blood pressure.” My own experience shows this to be so very true.

Research shows that just petting a dog releases oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding and affection, and also decreases levels of stress, helps us breathe easier and lowers our blood pressure. #dogs #healingClick To Tweet

Over on the east coast, the FLL AmbassaDogs program at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was also launched in 2013. Twelve teams of volunteer handlers and their dogs “approach passengers and ask if they would like to visit with the dog,” Tawana Guthrie, FLL customer relations’ manager, told USA TODAY. “And each of our AmbassaDogs has their own business card, which provides information about the dog and contact information for the program.” A dog with a business card…now this idea I love!

Travelling Made Easier

Airport_Terminal Delays_Pets as comfortThere’s little denying that travelling has grown increasingly stressful. Even when passengers aren’t worried about catastrophic events, they’re dealing with a travelling experience that has deteriorated in many ways. Security lines and checked-bag fees are among the well-publicized headaches of air travel, but passengers’ number one concern is flight delays and cancellations, according to a survey conducted by ResearchNow for the U.S. Travel Association. Comfort dogs are one way to help ease this stress and bring a little peace to the traveller. Makes sense then that people would want to bring their pets on the plane with them whenever possible.

The jury is still out for me as far as pets on planes goes. Personally I don’t mind, but as someone who cares about others, I wonder how this will ultimately play out in the long run. What are your thoughts about pets travelling on the plane with their owners? Have you had your own personal experience with them?

Beverley Golden

Beverley Golden is a writer, storyteller, peacenik and health & vitality consultant, who loves testing unconventional ways to shift paradigms in the playing fields of health and wellness, storytelling and creativity as a path to world peace. Her passion is turning the “impossible” into the possible, using her own experiences with a lifetime of health issues, to inspire and support others to live their life to the fullest. You're invited to a Complimentary Health Consultation, starting with the True Health Assessment that offers a customized personalized snapshot of how healthy you are in the areas of lifestyle, heredity and nutrition. Contact me to get started!


  • Keep in mind that not all small dogs are less active and not all large dogs need a great deal of exercise. You’ll want to learn more about the traits of the dog you’re thinking about getting, even if he or she is a mixed breed, to see if you are compatible.

    • Thanks for reading and for your comment. You make a great point that you can’t always categorize dogs by size alone, as there are many factors that go into their temperament and needs.

  • souvik ghosh says:

    Pets are truly special. Gifts from God. I love taking care of my sweeties and they take care of me in return. I always say the three of us are a pack and we work well together. Sometimes one of us pulls the alpha card but soon realize it upsets the pack’s balance. Don’t worry, they know I’m the food source and that makes me the main one. lol
    souvik ghosh recently posted…Catahoula Bulldog- Intelligent Friendly Children Tolerant Family BreedMy Profile

  • Aca Baranton says:

    It is a great idea to have comfort dogs at airport to destress passengers. I think in future to enable dogs to travel comfortably via airlines, some unique innovations will have to be deployed like seperate area for the pets where they can move around a bit freely with goodies like food and toys for them.

    • Thanks for stopping by to read and comment on this post, Aca. Yes, therapy dogs can offer an amazing service to travellers at airport. And, I agree that there certainly needs to be a way for dogs to travel with their owners, not stuck in the cargo area where it might prove to be dangerous for them. Unique innovations from airlines sounds like a great idea, although my sense is airlines aren’t necessarily on board with this idea yet.

  • I am an avid lover of animals. Have been my whole life but I grew up with a mom who brought home and cared for any stray animal she came across. We had cows, horses, dogs, cats, two geese (who were really mean LOL). My two boys are taking after me and love animals too. xo

    • It sounds like you’ve had animals in your life since you were a young girl, April. How wonderful that your mother was so compassionate and gave love to stray animals. I love that you are passing on your love of animals to your boys too, as I think that is the foundation for healthy people-animals relationships.

  • Animals… my favorite thing! I have been on flights with dogs. They were in carriers and put under the seat in front of the owner. I’ve also seen people fly with cats in carriers, too. I remember thinking, wow, this cat is calm to be going through security and such outside of their carrier. There is NO way my cat would have been that calm. – lol. That told me the animal travels a lot.

    I’ve seen some people take their dogs out and put them on their lap mid flight but didn’t hear or see any complaints. The dogs were all well behaved.

    I feel for people that are allergic and can’t come in contact with a dog or cat. Seems to me that as much as I LOVE dogs and cats, I think a human’s needs when flying outweigh things… what if someone is highly allergic and moving them on the plane isn’t enough? Then what?

    I’m not sure how the airline industry will evolve around this topic. It’ll be interesting to follow.

    • One of the things to remember is that animals are heavily sedated to travel on flights with their owners, Tandy. Maybe that is why the cats seemed so calm and so well behaved. 🙂 I also feel that people who are fearful or allergic are a big concern for people on planes too. I appreciate you sharing your experiences, as so many people haven’t even heard of animals travelling on planes, so I guess we will all see how this plays out as it evolves.

  • Joyce Hansen says:

    What a wild world we live in. Traveling is so stressful these days. We certainly do need some stress reliever like being able to interact with a therapy animal. At, the same time traveling animals in the cabin can be a stressor when they don’t mean to. I guess it’s part of not knowing what to expect when you travel and having to adapt accordingly.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…How to plan for brain productivityMy Profile

    • I completely agree with you Joyce, as there are two very viable sides to this issue. As an animal lover, I know how healing they can be to people, but when it comes to them being on planes or other places people might be fearful or allergic to them, that is another story. Travelling certainly has changed and like you said, often we have no idea what to expect these days when we do!

  • I love the points you made Beverley. I love animals, but sadly I am allergic to them especially dogs. I like to look and smile at them from a distance, but I would not want it close to me. But I do accept the fact that people can travel with them for therapeutic reasons. My concern is that everyone should try to train and keep their pets in order just like we do with kids.

    As for flying with pets, I do not know how I will feel if someone is sitting close to me with one…
    Apolline Adiju recently posted…By: ChanelleMy Profile

    • Thanks for your thoughts on this topic, Apolline! It’s amazing how many people have severe enough allergies that they can’t even be close to animals. Especially dogs or cats. Most of the animals allowed on planes are small and are supposed to be in carriers, so that helps when it comes to them being calm and collected. However, when you have an allergy like you do, that presents new issues to people who are on the plane with them. I imagine it might create an unpleasant environment for you if you got on a plane and someone with a dog was close by! Interesting conversation this topic has started.

  • I am a huge animal lover and would love to be able to travel with my St. Bernard and my Belgian Malinois. HA! Road trips…. But I’m deathly allergic to cats. Re-seating me isn’t enough. I require a minimum 7 day course of prednisone that starts the day prior to seeing a cat. That’s even if I’m only around a cat for about 15 minutes. So flying with a cat, particularly on a long haul flight could result in a medical emergency with me that might require landing the plane. It’s a huge dilemma. I’m truly sympathetic to those with anxiety who need emotional support to fly, but it seems to me we might be able to find something that soothes them without putting someone else at risk.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Jennifer! I am curious if you can even find out before a flight it there will be a cat allowed on board? I am not sure how people who have allergies or fears can actually avoid a plane with an animal that might compromise their health. It is such an interesting topic as there truly are pros and cons…it just depends on which side of the issue you are on. I also hope that there is some solution or some way to ultimately accommodate everyone.

  • I have never heard of pets being allowed to fly, but i do hear they have great healing powers. Animals know when something is not right and they come and comfort you.

    • Although I had heard about pets on planes, Sonya, this experience was my first time actually experiencing it. And they were really close to me, so I couldn’t avoid it. And yes, pets have enormous healing powers and that is probably one of the key reasons so many people want them on the plane with them.

  • Beverley, I have a dog, but I don’t think I will be taking her on a plane anytime soon. I do know that people can buy a ticket for their dog as well. On one flight I was on, a lady next to me had her dog, under the seat (she had purchased a ticket) and had made her pooch homemade treats. She fed the dog and kept getting the dog out and onto her lap during the flight numerous times after the flight attendants asked her not to. It was a nuisance to many of the surrounding passengers and to the crew. On another flight, there were two military dogs. If I had not seen them I would have never even known they were on the flight and they sat just a row ahead of me on the other side of the plane. My rights end where someone else’s being and we need to remember compassion towards others in all situations. I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision on this issue, but this was a great read.
    Christy Soukhamneut recently posted…Pearly’s New Pad – Getting The Loan DoneMy Profile

    • You are one of the few people who has had experiences with dogs on planes, Christy. The example I give in this post was my first time and frankly, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. I saw both sides of the conversation. Like you, I want to be compassionate, but I also see that some people who have fears, or who are allergic also have rights and need our compassion. Glad you enjoyed the read and it does seem that there are quite a wide range of responses and reactions to this topic. I am watching to see how it all plays out ultimately!

  • Lorii Abela says:

    I think this is a new niche. With too many pet owners nowadays, there can be flights specifically for those who are traveling with their animal friends It can be helpful for those who really want to take them and who are just into it. If more and more dog day cares are opening up, there is definitely a need for flights for pet owners.

    • Thanks for making some great points in relation to pets and flying, Lorii! I see both sides of the conversation and maybe we will get to the point where there are separate fights for people with animals. And yes, we are seeing more and more daycares for pets opening and being filled with people who need their services.

  • Robin says:

    I love my cat, but this concerns me as I am allergic to dogs. I can’t even stay at the vet with my cat. I can accept service dogs, but we do need to draw the line. No peanut butter in schools; no dogs on planes:)
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    • I think you have a valid point about allergies to animals, Robin! I know a lot of people are highly allergic to both cats and dogs so I don’t know what will ultimately play out with this ‘animals on planes’ issues. It’s sad to think that peanut butter, and many other highly allergic foods, are no longer allowed in schools too. So I guess it makes sense that animals on planes could be very problematic for many people. 🙂

      • Sharon ODay says:

        This becomes even more of an issue considering the air is circulated in an airplane. I don’t know how much filtering is done … but look at how many people find themselves coming down with colds after a flight. So we know the filtering system isn’t perfect …

        • That is a very valid point about the air on planes, Sharon. There is little filtering done as far as I know, so when you bring a complicating factor into play, like animals who can be highly allergic, we have a very interesting issue with lots of conversation on both sides of the ‘argument’. I am curious to see how it ultimately plays out and if the concerns of fearful or allergic people win out over those who want to protect their animals from the unpleasant cargo hold. Or those who legitimately need them for comfort and support.

  • As you know, Beverley, this struck a big cord with me! I have therapy dogs, and it’s one of the most rewarding things in the world. I do nursing-home visits, as most folks doing this would rather see kids. But oh, how the people in the homes love my dogs! It’s incredibly rewarding as well. So often one of the staff will say, “Mrs. so and so hasn’t spoken a word since you were here last week, and now she’s talking away!” I always laugh too–nobody remembers my name, but they always remember which dog’s name I have with me. “It’s Harper Lee’s mom!” they’ll say.
    As per the flying, I won’t ship them cargo. Had a bad experience once with a pup, which will never happen again. I have sent a pup with a good friend, in first class. And I have to say, everybody absolutely loved him! Of course, even as babies, mine have such wonderful temperaments. And he comforted a child across the aisle who was scared as well!
    Susan Mary Malone recently posted…7 Tips on How to Focus in the Midst of ChaosMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for sharing your love of dogs, but also your experiences with them too. Yes, the idea of therapy dogs is really taking hold now and I love hearing how much of a positive impact yours are making for people in nursing homes. How wonderful for you and for them! I know that must be very enriching indeed.

      I’ve never travelled with a pet on a plane, but have heard horror stories about sending dogs in the cargo area! It is a dilemma for pet owners and it sounds like sending yours first-class ended up being a benefit for the people who had the pleasure of his company. It’s such an interesting topic, as there are those who are for it and then those who reject it. I appreciate your thoughts and experiences, Susan!

  • Lori English says:

    I am a big fan of pets and if it helps someone on a plane or in the hospital I am for it. This is my opinion. If others are not on board there are disability laws that allow people to have their pets for medical reasons such as someone with seizures. I am for this and am a pet lover, but there are others that may not like having animals or are allergic.

    • You raised both sides of the conversation or issue in your comment, Lori. Thanks. Yes, some people may ‘need’ their pet with them and yet there are those who have allergies or even fears of animals, so how do we find that middle ground? I know that sending your pet through in the storage area must be traumatizing, so I guess like you, I am sitting int he middle not sure which way this pets on planes issue will ultimately play out!

  • Yes! Animals are unconditionally loving and truly appreciate good care and attention. If someone does not have a pet they can volunteer some time at the local animal shelter or rescue. Spending time with those furry friends will take your mind of things and enable you to get a new perspective.

    But I don’t want them on airplaines with me (or any mode of public transportation).
    Rachel Lavern recently posted…Shake it Off and Step UpMy Profile

    • It is always interesting to me when I hear people are afraid of animals, Rachel. Pets offer such incredible love and entertainment too. Yes, volunteering at an animal shelter or helping at a rescue is a wonderful way to bring animals into your life and to offer them some love too. I think the jury is out as far as how many people are comfortable with animals on planes, but it does seem to be a growing trend.

  • K. Lee Banks says:

    I’m not sure about pets on planes, but I fully agree with the healing power of pets! After we lost our oldest cat, Mack, very unexpectedly in November, we adopted three little 4-m.o. kittens. We only planned to adopt ONE…but these were from a rescued mama cat who had been a pregnant cat on “death row” at a high kill facility.

    One of our vet assistants participates in rescuing and fostering such animals, and when she heard we wanted to adopt a new kitty, she brought over the whole crate of kittens. We first chose the two male black, white, gray tabbies because we decided it would be good to have siblings. A week later, the vet assistant sent me a message to say someone had backed out of adopting the only female, an orange tabby. We couldn’t resist, so we adopted all 3 – and they quickly helped begin the healing process after losing Mack.
    K. Lee Banks recently posted…Let Go of the Past – Look to the Future – January 26 DevotionsMy Profile

    • I absolutely LOVE your story of adopting three kittens, Karen and know how comforting it is, especially after you lose a beloved pet like your dear Mack. Cats are such interesting and healing pets, although much different than dogs. When my daughter moved home with her dog and two cats, I wasn’t sure if I would “like” cats, and as it turns out…I love them. They amuse me and are fascinating for me to watch. Enjoy your three precious sibling cats, as I know it is wonderful for them and for you!

  • I have not yet experienced a flight with a pet for emotional support. I have clients who have pets accompany them to appointments for emotional support. I am torn because I think of the people who have allergies and fear of pets and the people who need the pets in order to function. Great post
    Sharise Hemby-Nance recently posted…Test postMy Profile

    • There are definitely two clear sides to this issue, Sharise. I love animals and am not usually upset when they are around, yet so many people don’t have the same love and compatibility with them. It’s interesting to hear that you do have clients who bring their emotional support pets with them to appointments. I see how therapeutic pets are in so many situations and I am all for it!

  • Beverley, this is a great post – though I don’t consider myself an animal lover. I have had pets and loved them lots, though never thought of travelling with either my dog or my cat. I have seen people bring dogs on planes and I thought it was a little weird seeing a dog pop up out of a tote bag, the dog was well behaved and quiet; so I didn’t mind. I don’t get offended easily by anything or anyone. I think we do, as a species, all have to respect each other; whether or not we like or agree with what someone is doing. Life is too short – however, allergies are very serious; so not sure what the airlines will do, if they can do anything. Thank you for sharing!
    Tamara MacDuff recently posted…Emotional Intelligence & Social MediaMy Profile

    • Thanks for your perspective on this “pets on planes” topic, Tamara. It’s interesting as I was not even aware of it and yet so many people, like you, have had owners bring their dogs on the planes when they were flying. Maybe I just was never aware of it, because like you experienced, the pets were well behaved. I am not sure how the airlines are forming guidelines around this either, as allergies, can be really serious. So many people can’t be around cats for very long before their symptoms are stirred. I love your attitude about taking things in stride and not stressing to much about too many things. It is very inspiring and I appreciate hearing it is actually possible. Thanks, as always, for your support.

  • Very interesting and to not labor on with my experiences with children and pets… and while I like animals and no longer have any, I don’t have the connection that some do with theirs – as they are an extension of their family… however, I think dogs, like children can be trained accordingly. My children didn’t fuss for long on a plane, in a movie theater, at a restaurant because I raised them properly. Many parents don’t. Dogs are a little different but from knowing that people raise pets to be killers and the same breed dog to be a great pet with infants just goes to show, it’s the parents…. so in my opinion… bad parents should be shot! lol j/k

    On the other part, agree on the dog therapy, my daughters and I have participated recently in pet therapy where we go to senior homes just to say hi, with dogs. The same organization goes to colleges to help people chill out during finals week too. Great program.
    Kristen Wilson recently posted…The 3 Reasons Why You Need to BlogMy Profile

    • That’s an interesting admission from you Kristen. Most people love their animals maybe more than they love people it seems. I do agree with you and realize that even the most well-trained or well-behaved pet, might be rattled being on a plane. I know even I am, so imagine animals who are much more sensitive. I also love hearing about the dog therapy program you and your daughters are participating in. What a wonderful initiative and I know that the dogs bring joy to the seniors and seeing this, must be really rewarding. Makes sense to take the dogs to colleges too. Amazing how dogs can be so healing in such a wide variety of situations. Thanks for sharing about it.

  • Hi Beverley,

    As a pet lover (I have 2 cats) and advocate for animals, I think that people who have animals and travel with them, especially if they are needed for comfort, should be allowed to have them, sitting with them 🙂

    As long as the owners keep their pets quiet, I really do not mind seeing them on airplanes. I would prefer that then to know that the animals are in the cargo hold and are lonely , to me that is not right.

    I love the service that you shared about the dogs that are there “just to pet”, that is such an awesome idea and so beneficial to so many who need it 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this awesome post on how powerful having pets really is.
    Joan Harrington recently posted…Double Your Sales Using These Powerful Psychological PrinciplesMy Profile

    • I appreciate your position on this topic, Joan, as I think only those who have pets will really get the why behind having them on the plane with the owner. I guess at times though, if the dog or cat is crying and disruptive, it can be upsetting to the people on the plane with them.

      I also feel so bad for animals who are placed in the luggage compartment where it is dark and lonely. There are now many programs like PUP and Dogs on the Inside, that bring dogs into people’s lives to bring comfort and healing. I’ve now read about hospital programs as well and I love the idea of letting the unconditional love that dogs offer, help people to heal. We also have two cats and a dog and I cannot imagine my life without these guys in it. Animals bring so much joy and love and enrich our lives in many ways that only animals can. Appreciate your support and enjoy your cats! 🙂

  • This is a great piece, Beverley. Just a tad off topic, I have been seeing so many articles/posts anbout the magical impact dogs have on humans. I have experienced it for myself as well.
    Over the years, I have often encountered dogs on a flight. I can honestly say it never created a problem that I was aware of. But I think that the dog owners were experienced and purposely took care to minimize the possibility of disturbing others. Somehow consideration of others has to be part of the picture.
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    • My sense is that we humans are just now fully understanding that animals have more depth and more of an emotional life then was previously thought, Jane. I’m so happy there is more being shared about the healing power of animals and pets. We certainly live in a world that treats animals as being less than we humans are. I’d like to believe we are raising our vibration around the overall contribution of animals.

      I agree that consideration of others is a big one in this issue. This was my first time experiencing animals on the plane and it just happened to be an issue because of his incessant crying. Like you, I’ve also experienced the joy and almost magical effect that both my daughter’s dog and two cats, (who now all live with me), have on me. Glad you enjoyed this post and appreciate hearing it too!

  • Deb Nelson says:

    You’ve summed up the human experience in one sentence, Beverley! “Seems as a species, we humans often have to go to the extreme to find the middle ground.” How many times have we seen the pendulum swing from one extreme to the other, only to stop (perhaps years later) right in the middle=>

    Animals on the plane – I’ve sat next to people with animals on the plane. They animals always remained in the carriers, were quiet, and luckily no allergic reactions to the cats from me. I always feel sad for the animals, wondering what type / level of drugs they’ve received to remain calm on the flight, how often they’re drugged up. Can’t help myself with that one – and hope it’s at least for more than a quick weekend jaunt to keep their owners’ company. And, yes, I love the thought of therapy dogs traveling with people to calm them and allow them to get to their destination – haven’t experienced that, though. All the animals I’ve seen have been on holiday with their owners.

    Cranky kids on the plane don’t trouble me. I feel bad for the parents who are always at a loss for how to comfort their child, and how sad is that? Love the flight attendants who step in and try to lend a hand.
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    • Thanks for “getting” that line in this post, Deb. It is exactly why I included it. We as a species seem to love going to extremes to come back to some comfortable and accepted middle ground. It has been this way throughout history.

      On this flight, the owners told me they had given this little dog three doses of the sedative, and that one normally works. I was quite aghast hearing this and wondered what the effects are of these drugs on these little guys. No one can tell me “nothing”. Like you, I really care about animal and human wellbeing and somehow doping up dogs to fly, feels uncomfortable to me.

      And yes, most animals travelling as “emotional support” pets now, are just going on vacation with their owners, aren’t necessarily there as support or therapy. Apparently it is really easy to get a doctor’s letter so the pet can travel on the plane, as opposed to in the luggage hold. Kids on the plane can be really unsettling, as much for the parent as for the other passengers…but the push to have airlines implement flights for families with kids only, hasn’t gone anywhere. It seems unlikely that flights for owners with pets will either. Time will tell. We haven’t gone to the extreme just yet. Thanks for sharing your experiences, as most people didn’t even know pets could fly on the plane, although it sounds like with the airlines you fly, it is happening frequently.

  • Lisa Swanson says:

    I need to think about this one… as you know Beverley, I am vegan and a huge supporter of the care and wellbeing of all animals. With that being said, I too am torn between “wouldn’t it be great to stay with my dog rather than have him in a crate down below & scared” and “that’s really not fair to other travelers. Like you mentioned some people are allergic and others have real fears when it comes to dogs. I have a cousin who is deathly afraid of dogs and so I crate my doberman when ever he comes over. We really must be respectful of other peoples space; especially if we need to share that space. I mean it’s not as though they can choose to take the next flight!
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    • Like you, Lisa, I see all the dynamics at play with this issue. Although I had to sit through four plus hours of this dog crying, I also know how being in a crate in the luggage hold, is also quite traumatizing for the animal. Then there are the people who have allergies or fears of animals. It is an interesting conundrum for both pet owners and for the airlines. The healing power of animals is undisputed though and all the amazing stories people are sharing about the positive side of this issue, leaves me torn and open to seeing which way it plays out. I often wonder how we can help people get over their fear of animals and feel sorry they don’t get to experience the amazing joy and love that an animal can offer them. Thanks for sharing about your cousin and his fear of dogs too. It is so fascinating how many people have these deep fears.

  • My late father used to travel with 5 dachshunds during his diplomatic career days and all 5 used to travel in the airplane with him and my mom – 4 in the luggage hold and 1 in First Class (the fringe benefit of being an Ambassador’s pet. 🙂 ) . In those days the rules were strict and even with the right KLM cage, travel documents and sedatives, one still needed the pilot’s permission to carry the pets.

    It used to cost us 1% of the First Class Fare per kg of dog weight and Dad used to shell out the money without hesitation because these furry babies were part of our family.

    The sedative part can be tricky. I recall my parents telling me that the sedative didn’t work on their flight from Tunis to Rome and for the entire duration of the 2 hour flight, the entire flight passengers could hear Bruno barking in the luggage hold. Some passengers did get angry but were nice once they realized what had happened.

    A new vet examined the dogs in Rome and gave a better sedative to the 5 dogs before the next flight from Rome to New Delhi which was a long haul one. I shudder to think what would have happened otherwise.
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    • Thanks for sharing your own memories of your family dachshunds travel adventures, Vatsala. I think most people did have their dogs accompany them as long as they were in the luggage compartment below. This is where many animals have reportedly been traumatized and has the airlines looking at new ways for pets to travel with their owners. The sedative issue is a sensitive one. On this flight, the owners told me they had ended up given this little guy a triple dose of sedatives and yet it still didn’t work. I know our mini pin, who is very highly sensitive, would never be able to fly on a plane, unless he was drugged to sleep. I wonder about the dangers of these sedatives to the dog’s health. It certainly seems to be risky and iffy, based on both my experience and the one you are sharing. It’s an interesting issue and only time will tell how it plays out with the airlines. There are a lot of components to it, and I can see all sides of the conversation.

  • Lisa says:

    Beverley what a great post! Once again you enlighten me. I was unaware of the Pup program, how cool is that?
    As far as dogs on flights, I love it, we had a very long and stressful flight home from a trip…due to missing our first flight early in the morning…luckily we all got to fly home together but it was a stressful day to say the least…out last leg of our trip we were on standby…and waiting at the gate with us was an adorable Lab pup..he made our wait so much more relaxed and happy. We did get on the flight and so did he…we never heard a peep from him…
    On the other hand..I had to crack up..pigs on airplanes…I have a pig, love him to pieces but really? I can’t say he would have the same effect as my dog…his squealing can be a little nerve racking..on a good day…

    Dogs are awesome! I think they should be in restaurants, hospitals etc…My friends brought my dog to the hospital to see me after a traumatic accident, he not only helped my stress but eased my pain…The hospital supervisor walked in and saw him…she winked and said..I’m sure we have a policy for that some where and left me with my dog…That same hospital now has therapy dogs that visit…it was good to see that implemented…Thanks for the great article
    Lisa recently posted…Unexpected Gifts Can Be The BestMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for sharing your own experiences with pets on planes and also in the hospital, Lisa. It is amazing to see how animals, especially dogs, are being recognized for their incredible healing and therapeutic effect on humans. Regardless of the situation. It must feel amazing to know that the hospital now has a therapy dog program in place. I think that is a wonderful initiative! So many new programs are including dogs as therapy and of course the results speak for themselves. Whether that is in the prisons as I wrote about, or in hospitals, animals heal. Period. So happy you enjoyed this post as well and I always appreciate your enthusiasm and support of my topics and my writing.

  • Before owning a dog, I would have said: No, of course I don’t want to see any pet on a plane, are you kidding me?

    Now I have a totally different opinion 🙂 We’d take our dog anywhere with us, if possible, plane included, haha. Of course, he’s a big one so it probably won’t qualify.

    Nice to see that things are changing in this direction, Bev. I always enjoy the subjects you decide to write about.
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    • It’s amazing to hear how actually owning an animal (either dog or cat), totally changes our perspective, Delia. Having had the experience of the crying/whining dog for a four hour flight, I am not sure what the best solution is. Apparently many dogs who were in the luggage hold were coming out traumatized, which is equally as bad as having them confined to a small cage under the seat. And thank you so much for being a supporter of the topics I chose to write about, It means a lot to me, as you know, I don’t have one specific niche. Just topics that I believe interest all of us. 🙂

  • Joyce Hansen says:

    I’ve not been flying recently and was not aware of the new pet policies. I know several people who have therapy animals and I think that’s wonderful. I would feel bad for an animal on the floor and away from its owner. It would certaintly cause distress and let its displeasure be known. I would prefer if there was a designated owner-pet area for their comfort and for the comfort of those who are allergic.
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    • Thanks for weighing in on this “pets on planes” topic, Joyce. I think most people feel the same as you, that it would be good to have a designated pet area on the plane. There are people who have been advocating for this for children as well. And yet, it still doesn’t seem to be happening. It’s an interesting topic and I see both sides of the conversation. I guess time will tell how it all ultimately unfolds.

  • Beverley, your work is always so inspiring and educational. I thoroughly enjoy reading and going on these little spiritual trips with you. I just heard a news story about pets being taken on planes as emotional support. At first I laughed it off (primarily because the reporters were talking about people bringing miniature horses onto the planes) but then I really started thinking about it. The primary reason I got cats at home was for my bipolar daughter. She is more grounded when she has her animals to stroke. Now that she no longer lives with me, she immediately got a cat. I can see the importance for some people to have this type of support.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Niquenya! I appreciate hearing that my writing is both inspiring and educational, as that is always my intention. I hadn’t heard about miniature horses on the plane, although based on my research, I think almost any animal is possible now if it meets the airlines regulations. I know how amazing animals can be and having two cats and a dog here living with me, I do understand how comforting they can be. Happy to hear that your daughter has her own cat to love now and yes, they are such wonderful companions and so calming to stroke. There are definitely two sides to this topic and I can see that it will take time to sort out the pros and cons so that everyone is considered in the decisions about pets on planes.

  • Oh please! Don’t talk to me about flying! I’ve done more flying in the last 3 months than in the last 3 years and I sincerely hope I don’t have to do it for another 3 years. That being said, I have not had any experiences with pets on planes. Screaming kids and those who batter the back of my seat with their feet, yes. I counter those annoyances as best I can by sleeping.

    • Love that you can sleep through the “annoyances” on flights, Jackie. I have not mastered that one yet. I agree that children can have their moments and now with pets, I wonder what we will be facing next as we fly the friendly skies.

  • Tamuria says:

    Great article Beverley. I had no idea they allowed pets on the flight with you – would never happen here. I think you had an excellent point re people with allergies and I’m not even sure it’s very kind to the dog being forced to forego the lap for a little cage. My little dog would find that so stressful.
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    • Yes, Tami, there are so many questions without answers about this issue. I thought that airlines worldwide would be embracing this, so it was interesting to hear that Australian airlines aren’t…yet. The big one that came to mind was the allergy issue for me too. So many people are deathly allergic to cats and even dogs, so what do they do. Glad you enjoyed this piece, as it arrived out of a real life incident and I always love seeing where those pieces go.

  • Teresa Salhi says:

    I love the article and insights. I guess I am with you about not being sure of pets on planes and although feel ok with it myself too – there may be many other factors to consider..length of flight, safety, cleanliness, etc.
    Teresa Salhi recently posted…Ready For Change?My Profile

    • Lots of unanswered issues to do with this topic for sure, Teresa. It seems it is a wide open playing field now and time will tell how the airline industry as a whole chooses to regulate it. Or not. I love animals as well, yet after this experience on the flight I was on, I know it still needs a lot of consideration before it works for for everyone. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Beth Niebuhr says:

    I understand how comforting pets can be. However, I am allergic to dogs and cats and having to sit by one would impact my flight experience. Very negatively. If there were particular seats where they could be assigned to protect us allergic folks, I would be happy, as long as I don’t have to be within several rows of them.
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    • What you expressed was exactly my question to the flight attendant on our flight. Seems that it is the passenger’s responsibility to make sure they are protected if they have allergies, and not the other way around. It will be a very interesting issue to watch and see how it plays out. It seems that many animals put in the luggage carrier part of the plane, were experiencing dramatic negative effects. I believe a new way will emerge, just not sure what it will be.

  • While I love the idea of pets being able to help the elder, sick children, and anyone who needs to release some stress, I too am concerned with the people with allergies on planes with animals they are allergic to. I wonder what would happen then. Thanks for sharing.
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    • You posed one of the big questions that came to mind for me as well, Sabrina. What about the people who are allergic to the animals? I love animals and know they have miraculous healing powers, but as with everything in life, they have their place. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wonderful post Beverley! Of all the flying I’ve done over the years, I’ve never experienced any flight where there were pets on the plane.

    Personally, if a cat was brought on the plane and was within 3-4 seats, I would suffer and that’s what allergy pills are for. But to fly for hours listening to whining… even as a animal lover, it would get on my nerves.

    Maybe putting people with pets at the back of the plane would work, or have a backup plan in case a pet has trouble during the flight.

    I won’t have to worry about this though, I don’t fly anymore…anywhere.
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    • You expressed my thoughts exactly, Gisele. Even those of us who love animals, might not want to have them on the plane with us. I’m not sure what the airlines will do about this, as it seems that it’s like the wild west right now as far as what is permitted and what isn’t. And like you, so many people are deathly allergic to cats, but why should you and they, have to take an allergy pill to travel? Lots of unanswered questions, and a topic I will enjoy following. Seems driving is your preferred way of travel now, so enjoy the ride!

  • Over the years we experienced annoying children on planes, be it crying or consistent back of the chair kicks. We haven’t flown much in the past few years so have not experienced pets in the airport or on a plane.
    We are a pet loving family with a son who is a vet & every one of our grown children have from 1-5 pets.

    You raise some interesting questions regarding regulations and concern for passengers comfort. More will need to be evaluated as the airlines continue to focus on monetary issues more than comfort.

    • You do have an animal loving family, Roslyn, as I do I. The key point that intrigued me about this conversation, is that not all people are and does it make sense to bring them on the plane with you for support. I see both sides of the issue and am quite curious how it will play out. Who will win? The people, or the pets? And yes, flying is generally much less “fun” than it used to be: what with overcrowded seats and security checks and now pets on the plane with us. It will be an issue to watch for sure!