Lame Adventure 381: The Dog On the Plane

I have recently returned from visiting my family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Golden Gate Bridge photographed by the back seat photographer.

The Golden Gate Bridge photographed by The Back Seat Photographer.

Excluding the nine hours of my life I burned getting there and the twelve it took to return to New York, were it not for the hassle of traveling, it was a welcome getaway. Whatever anxiety I suffered on the plane immediately dissipated when I was reacquainted with one of my favorite relatives, Thurber, the family dog.

The Back Seat Photographer's assistant.

The Back Seat Photographer’s assistant.

Because I only see Thurber twice a year, it heartens me that he remembers me. My sister, Dovima, thinks this is due to his natural canine instinct i.e., he knows that I am a dog-lover, a friend who’ll play with him and someone he can reliably count on to scratch that itch behind his ears. Splashing myself liberally with steak sauce might also encourage these feelings of mutual affection.

Thurber catching a few pre-walk z's.

Thurber catching a few pre-walk z’s.

When I was sitting in the lounge at JFK airport waiting to board my JetBlue flight west, I noticed that there was a fluffy mop of a pooch lying peacefully in the seat to my right. Her name was Ginger. She was so tranquil. I was impressed. I smiled at Ginger’s owner. I wanted to say something complimentary, something flattering, something that would make this woman beam with pride about having such a well-behaved pup. But I was a bit crispy fried from working at The Grind before racing to the airport. The best that mush-minded me could offer was:

Me: Your dog’s so relaxed. Is she sedated?

In response her owner was silent. She smiled shyly at me. I felt like a jerk.

When it came time to board, Ginger obediently entered her pet carrier. Once inside the aircraft, I was stuck in the middle seat between two women. The rotund woman radiating heat sitting on the aisle seat next to me noticed that it was not a full flight. The row ahead of us was empty. She asked a flight attendant for permission to move. It was granted. I was so elated with her taking charge, I considered proposing, but I decided it might be best that I take a vow of silence across the country. I wish I could say the same for the three-year-old of indeterminate gender sitting two rows ahead of me. This moppet shouted in an outdoor voice for the entirety of the flight — with fatherly encouragement. How I would have loved to wield a burlap bag full of mashed stone at him.

From the vantage point of my aisle seat, I saw that Ginger’s owner was sitting across from me but one row ahead. When we were airborne, I noticed that Ginger was once again out of her carrier. Her owner was cuddling her.

Cuddle-time with Ginger.

Cuddle-time with Ginger.

The air conditioning was at Arctic-level so the cabin felt like a flying freezer. Snuggling a warm beast in a frozen tube at 35,000 feet must have felt comforting. I would have loved to stuff Ginger’s forepaws in my ears to silence that squealing kid.

A flight attendant with a figure reminiscent of a prison matron cross-bred with a brick wall motored down the aisle. Her peripheral vision saw something suspect. She instantly slammed her brakes, backed up, hovered over Ginger’s owner and read her the riot act.

JetBlue’s JetPaws rules and regulations insist that pets must remain in their carriers at all times. This includes during the flight as well as at the gate. This second rule I have seen violated on numerous occasions without incident. But seeing someone cuddling a pet on a plane was new to me.

Ginger’s owner did not object to the loud dictate. In fact, she didn’t speak. She obeyed. I wanted to break my vow of silence and pipe up at Turbulence In Orthopedic Shoes:

Me (piping): Hey! What about telling Dad to make his brat shut the hell up?

Apparently JetBlue’s rules for demanding silence from a three-year-old shouting six hours straight in confined quarters requires that the kid simultaneously bust out a window, ignite a fire and demand more Terra Blue chips. Therefore, Turbulence In Orthopedic Shoes was steering clear of that infinitely more combustible situation.

For the remainder of the flight, every so often Ginger’s owner would pick up the pet carrier and embrace it. Sometimes she’d zip it open and slip her hand inside to pet her furry friend. All the while, that kid loudly bleated and Dad gushed praise at his progeny. Outside of three soft yaps emitted upon landing, Ginger was silent as the dead. I swallowed a fistful of Excedrin and wished that JetBlue had a toddler-sized carrier that could be stuffed under the seat.

"Okay, let's take a walk!"

“Okay, let’s take a walk!”

50 responses to “Lame Adventure 381: The Dog On the Plane

  1. Damn all youg’uns knee high to a grasshopper!



  2. Poor little Ginger. Not to mention, poor you. Someone needs to turn Dad onto the idea of slipping his kid a Tylenol PM pre-flight.


  3. Agreed! These kids can get away with anything. If you had a taxidermied animal — they would ask you to put it in a carrier for the safety of others (well, maybe that’s not a good example, but you get the picture). A child could just as easily get loose and bite someone!


    • Fortunately, the kid was a non-violent happy screamer shouting for attention from anyone willing to give it. I didn’t spend all my time watching Ginger. The in-flight entertainment system helped drown out the shouting, bu I would have much preferred to read my book than watch TV.


  4. Ugh! There is nothing worse than a little snot nosed kid misbehaving while their parent doesn’t do a damn thing. And that poor sweet QUIET dog had to stay in his carrier. They really should have traded places.
    Oh…and I finally finished your book. Loved it. 🙂


    • I feel the same way about the dog and that rambunctious small-fry. I am actually fond of children. I’m always pleased when I see parents that love their kids dearly, but I really wanted to smack that dad who willfully ignored that his fellow passengers were akin to hostages for the duration of that flight. What a jerk!

      Thanks so much for reading my little tome, Wendy. I appreciate that you took the time to review it on Amazon. That was very generous of you.


  5. I am an obnoxious kid magnet on flights. I love it when they kick my seat repeatedly or listen to a video at full blast on their ipad while the parent in a cringingly cutesy voice praises them repeatedly for being oblivious to other passengers. I like the toddler under-seat carrier idea.. a lot.


    • I feel your pain. I once took a flight with a 6-year-old and an 9-year-old that were unescorted. They were seated next to me. The flight attendant asked me to oversee them. I was appalled. I had no interest in babysitting. But they turned out to be two great kids and we bonded big-time. It was the best flight of my life. Saying good-bye to those two wonderful pistols was tough. I’ll never forget them. If you want to read that post click here. It’s as sentimental as I get.


  6. Snoring Dog Studio

    Yeah, the joy of flying with children. Yes, I know – not all parents encourage their kid’s noisy discovery of the new experience of flying. But, really – maybe you can’t stop the crying and screaming that comes from real pain and fatigue, but the loud talking and using the plane as a playground just takes a firm parental hand. And stay the hell off my damn lawn!

    I took my Stella on one plane trip with me. I doped her up but it seemed to have no effect. She almost clawed her way through the carrier, but we arrived in Texas just before she got her head out.

    Hope you had a marvelous time away. Ease into work slowly.


    • I love Stella, SDS!

      I see kids as essentially innocent, but the parents, they’re the ones that are either geniuses (like my blogger bud, Emily) or lamebrains like that dad.

      Thanks for the advice. I am so looking forward to my upcoming four day weekend.


  7. Thurber has to be one of the cutest dogs on the planet, V. And I remember a flight to Europe several years ago, where a kid screamed all night. So much for sleeping on the plane, and too bad that flight attendant was so grumpy. Ginger definitely deserved better – what a sweetie!


  8. i’ll bet that when that dad was a single guy, he would have been the first one to complain to the flight attendant about a noisy kid! 😉 xoxo


  9. Oh … the injustice of it all …. and the father-son duo would have driven me bonkers! Meanwhile, welcome back! .. and I hope Thurber remembers me on your next trip.


    • I think the tyke could have been a girl, Frank. I could not tell the gender of that little loud person, but they were quite an annoying duo. Thurber remembers people he likes. He knows his letter carrier, not because he hates her. She used to bring him cookies, but then she stopped. It’s possible that some dog owner complained. Thurber sees her and goes nuts. He lets her pet him.


  10. Haha. Indeed, I’d agree that no one seems to have the right to utter even one word towards a kid’s parents nowadays, or God forbid dare to say something to the kid directly.
    I understand the rule about pets, though I’m sure they’d feel safer in the hands of the owner!


    • Unless I had something kind to say directly to a kid, Pixie, I steer clear of the small fry. You’re right about taking on a parent, too. When kids are involved people can go from calm to ninja in a heartbeat, but when you gush that their child is so well behaved or gorgeous, everyone is in their bliss.


  11. I love that your family’s fluffy white dog is named Thurber. For me, a Thurber evokes images of a slobbering basset hound. 🙂 But this Thurber is incredibly cute.

    One reason I always drive to visit my mom is because I can’t bring Reggie inside the plane. (He’s too big to fit under the seat.) I’d be a nervous wreck for the entire flight if he was in the cargo hold.


    • I’d be nervous wreck for both of you if Reggie had to fly cargo, Jackie!

      Even though Thurber is quite a handsome little beast, and for the most part a well-mannered non-slobberer, his toothpaste is chicken flavor. His breath smells like stale KFC. For Xmas I’m going to look into getting him a mint-scented chew toy.


  12. Holy moly. I have kids. “Seen and not heard” people, “seen and not heard!!”


  13. It’s all in the parenting 🙂

    Once again, Thurber is one of the best dog names EVER.


  14. My friend was on her way to pick up Wallie, the Bichon poo I’ve been Wallie-sitting for or nearly 2 wks when I opened your blog post, and, lo, there was Wallie; well, Wallie with a fluffy tail. Such smart, sweet dogs these Bichons are. Wallie is the only dog I know who can bark with a tennis ball in his mouth and not drop the ball. I figured that if he could bark and not drop the ball that he could also tell me what he was barking at, but he couldn’t get the words out.

    I worked for an airline at LAX and pets used to get loose on the runway all the time. Scary — they’d escape from their carriers in the luggage compartment.

    An under-the-seat kid carrier — and a muzzle? — is an excellent idea. Why is it kids today emit these screeching squeals? I don’t remember our doing that when we were kids, nor when my daughter and friends were kids. So many kids today seem so stressed.

    As for your prison matron crossbreed flight attendant, I’m surprised she didn’t exceed the airplane weights and balances limit.


    • Well you’re in fine form once again Samantha! So Wallie’s a bichon poo? Thurber’s a poovanese (poodle/havanese) — and a rescue dog! He was found as a puppy abandoned in the streets of Tiburon, a very swanky town in Marin County. Dovima and Herb (with a silent h) adopted him in a nanosecond. Thurber does not have Wallie’s bark-while-ball-holding talent, but he’s good at doing both separately.

      Loose pets on the runway at LAX. How tragic!


      • Somehow when I checked the box to receive follow-up comments, it didn’t register, so here I am now. Better late than rushed.

        Such a sweet story about Thurber. Wallie is a rescue dog, too. It seems the man who owned him could no longer take care of him, so he went to the SPCA and then a pet store.


  15. Perhaps you could start the conversation like this;
    “Wow, what a set of lungs! Did you train your child to scream like that, or did they just pick it up on their own? I predict that child will be an opera star.”


  16. Seeing an adorable little pup like that being cuddled on a plane would be good therapy for white-knuckle fliers like myself. As for Frau Blucher, the JetBlue attendant, she probably knew she wouldn’t get anywhere reprimanding the father of the screeching toddler. I’ll take a planeful of pooches any day.


  17. I feel your pain! With over 2M miles in the air I have suffered more than my share of toddlers. My rule? I have learned to speak up, children should not be allowed to disrupt others and parents should hear about. I have told more than one parent to shut their child down, asked more than one parent if they were certain of the DNA of their child.

    Frau Trundler should have been required to do her job. Part of that job is to insure the satisfaction of all passengers.


    • I agree with what you’re saying but personally, I’m pretty spineless when it comes to speaking up about wanting a child to pipe down. Parents are (understandably) very protective of their small fry, something that I think is commendable, but there are some parents out there like that dad that advocates intrusive behavior. He was a big, blockhead type, No one I would mess with. As for insulting the parent about their progeny I would never do so voluntarily. That said, a few weeks ago I was in the Post Office. Behind me was a kid in a stroller; the kind of kid my mother would have referred to as “dynamite”. The mom was distracted filling out a form, the kid was bored, so I started getting kicked in the back of the shins by a pair of little feet in purple Crocs.

      Me (to the child in a calm nice person voice): Please stop doing that. It’s not nice.

      The kid thought my irritation was hilarious. This grabbed the mother’s attention.

      Me (to Mom): Your daughter’s kicking me.

      Mom (indignant tone): He’s my son!

      I look at the purple Crocs and for the first time I notice that it’s a little boy clutching a pirate doll.

      Me: Hey, I was only looking at the feet.

      Her son tries to kick me again, but I stepped back, so it was a swing and a miss. Mom backed up the stroller, told the kid to “quit it!” and apologized to me. She was okay by me. Kids are kids. Some kids are a pain with conscientious parents and other kids are jerks that are the spawn of jerks.


  18. A little dog would brighten anyone’s travels, wouldn’t it? Pets should be allowed to sit on your lap. There! Especially if they aren’t bothering anyone. Sorry about the little brat on the plane. Yeah, it doesn’t seem right that the poor doggy’s owner was scolded. Thurber is a sweet dog!


    • If all the commenting love Thurber’s getting on this site were cookies, Amy, my sister would have one obese little pooch on her hands. But, yeah, he’s a cool little dude. He’d surely be a maniac on a plane, though. Ginger’s in a league of her own, but she’s probably on doggy valium.


  19. Clearly a dog is the very best hand luggage possible. I didn’t know you could do that, bring them along with you! I’m glad I know the story of the dog on the place now. My mind was boggling somwehat with all the possibilities. And what a cute dog!


  20. Okay, I’m really late–like a week–getting here. Sorry.

    But, who knew you had such a soft spot for dogs. I remember you mentioning Milton did, but you said nothing about yourself!

    Fortunately my Lucy is quiet when flying, as well. I’ve only tried holding her once, and that was on her first trip to Vietnam. I hid her under a blanket on my lap.

    Know what you mean about the screaming kids. GOD!



    • Welcome to my world, Kathy. Great to hear from you! Hey, I’m so behind in my blog reading, there’s no way I’ll ever catch up.

      I do have a soft spot for dogs. It’s cats that drive me over the edge — only because I’m deathly allergic to the kitties.

      I’m not surprised that Lucy is the model dog-flyer. Too bad that Ralph’s stuck riding cargo.


  21. Did that flight attendant even stop to think that perhaps Ginger was a service dog whose owner needed her to remain calm? Especially when faced with screaming brat and irresponsibly rude parent for hours on end. If she’d admonished the dad perhaps the entire plane would have applauded. (Ever see a plane clap its wings…might not fly well that way.)


    • I love that image of a plane clapping its wings! It occurred to me, too, that Ginger was offering her owner comfort, but the owner obeyed by the rules when told to do so. Both she and Ginger were two class acts. Too bad that boisterous kid wasn’t a member of their group. The palne would then have a whole other reason to clap its wings.


  22. Good one-this time!-I would have taken her out again as soon as the attendant left-then stuff the kid in the cage!


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