Updated: Oct 23, 2021
Schpilker gives me a kiss while I am training her to be a Service Animal.
Almost anyone who knows our dog well would not believe that she became a Service Animal. She is a wire fox terrier and full of it!
Wire fox terriers are a 5 out 5 on the scale of suggested exercise. She is willful and loving, a combination that most wire fox terrier owners know well. I have had a condition for over 30 years that permits me to have a Service Animal. To get Schpilker ready to be a Service Animal, I needed to give her a lot of training. This was not always easy as she wants her own way and is intelligent. Sometimes, she didn’t want to listen to me unless I had a treat. She is really something!
The flight we took to Portugal including layovers took about 20 hours. We really needed Schpilker to behave like the service animal she was trained to be.
From my experience, I offer here a couple of tips:
American Airlines is Very Pet-Friendly
If you are looking to choose an airline, American Airlines was great with us. The flight attendants allowed her to sit in my lap, and she was quite contented there, even during takeoff and landing.
American Airlines did routine preapproval then final approval with the review of documents needed to be completed and submitted. But even with this, it was still the smoothest aspect of getting Schpilker on their plane.
Ask to Sit in the Bulkhead Where There is More Room
“Deke” was very astute in choosing our bulkhead seats on our flight to the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport. There is simply more room there if your dog wants to sleep on the floor in front of you.
Watch Your Dog Closely Going Through Security Checkpoints
Going through security checkpoints was the hardest thing for Schpilker to do. All the banging of trays, people walking in different directions, going through body scans, etc. is overstimulating for most pets. However, the security people in London noted how well-behaved she was even when she wanted to take off. There was no barking, and security was happy about that.
British Airways Requires that Your Service Animal Sit on the Floor in Front of You, No Matter How Small the Space!
When I went onto the British Airways website, I could see nothing that stated that service animals must be on the floor; however, when we boarded the flight from Dallas to London, a flight attendant informed us that Schpilker had to be on the floor in front of me for an eight-hour flight! This is difficult for the best-behaved of Service Animals.
Book Business Class or First Class If You Can Afford It
We flew business class, which on British Airways, includes a fold-out bed and a panel that closes off from the aisle. However, the panel must be open during takeoff and landing.
It was difficult at first getting Schpilker to comply, but I succeeded! To give her enough room, I did not fold out my bed. There was quite a nice space at my feet, and I provided her with a small bed from home and used one of the airline pillows. I also turned off my computer monitor in front of me almost the entire flight.
I brought a potty pad and let her know she could use it if she needed to. She never went the entire flight! Per our veterinarian’s instructions, we only let her eat the night before and gave her just sips of water. In some airports, there are indoor pet relief centers which help.
If the Space in Front of Your Seat is Small, You Must Provide a Lot of Comfort to Your Pet Throughout the Flight
When we flew from London to Lisbon, we booked first class, but it was a sort of half-assed first class wherein the airlines had simply used coach seats and blocked of the middle seats. There was hardly any room for our little baby who barely fit.
She looked at me or Deke almost the entire two-hour flight with sad, imploring eyes. She would rest, but inevitably look back up at us for reassurance that we still loved her though she had to stay down there the entire flight.
Flight Attendants Love and Appreciate Well-Behaved Service Animals
On every flight, we had flight attendants state how well-behaved our Schpilker was! This was due in part to my hard work and vigilance, but it made everyone’s flight better including theirs.
It is Very Complicated Flying into the United Kingdom and European Union Countries with a Service Animal
Deke worked for weeks on getting Schpilker’s papers in order. We found out that after September 30, 2021, the U.K. was no longer accepting European Union health certificates..
The U.K. (as well as the E.U.) required a particular type of tapeworm vaccination done within strict timeframes prior to arrival.
You cannot fly abroad easily with an animal. It is more complicated that either Deke or I ever imagined.
Even if your dog already has a microchip, she must get another that includes GPS..
The Health Certificate required in Europe dictates that there is an endorsement stamp and signature from the USDA.
Schpilker was inspected in both London and Portugal upon arrival. Not only did they look at her paperwork, but they also inspected her.
This is Beside the Point, but Deke and I were Pulled Aside by Homeland Security
Brown and Black people of the world, I feel for you. After our tickets were scanned in Dallas, and we were walking on the concourse toward the plane, an officer from I believe, Homeland Security stopped us and stated that they were looking to see how much money people were taking out of the United States. They did not ask everyone boarding the plane. The officer wanted to know how much cash Deke and I were taking out of the U.S. We then went to a separate room where we each had to literally put all our cash on the table while the officer counted it.
It feels bad when you have acted within the law but are chosen for such a procedure. Deke says that we were profiled. It didn’t help that we were dressed nicely with expensive watches. We concluded that white people are more profiled than people of color for this possible crime. Brown and Black peoples of the earth take some comfort in knowing that there may be one crime that white people are more profiled for than people of color. You’re probably saying, “Finally,” and I don’t blame you.
Schpilker when she was only a puppy. I fell in love with her then.
It Was All Worth It
All the training, time and lack of sleep was worth it! It was clear from looking at Schpilker’s eyes that she was glad to be with us, wherever we go.
Also, several prayers from me and others I’m sure didn’t hurt!