Sunday, January 19, 2014

When You've Got to Go, You've Got to Go!

More and more people are choosing to take their dogs along when they travel. Partly, this is because boarding a dog is becoming prohibitively expensive, especially if you have more than one. But there are a lot of people who simply prefer to have their dog (or dogs) with them during holidays, which isn't surprising. Dogs can be wonderful traveling companions, especially if you're traveling alone.  
Many airports have responded to the trend by creating special, outdoor doggy relief areas.  That works really well for people who are flying non-stop, who can potty their dog before taking off and after landing. However, it doesn't work so well for those of us who can't find  (or can't afford) a non-stop flight to our destination.  And that's most of us.
Doggy relief areas are invariably located outside the airport.  This means that if you're in transit -- with an hour or so wait for your next flight -- you've got to take your dog out of the airport in order to let him do what dogs do.  And in a big airport like O'Hare, this can involve a walk of nearly a mile, just to get there and back again.
But it's getting back that's the problem. Specifically, getting back into the airport. You've got to go through security and -- in a big airport -- this can take so long that you may end up missing your connecting flight.
First, you have to wait in line.  Let's say there are 75 people ahead of you. Suppose they're passing  through security at the (unlikely) rate of one per minute. That's an hour and fifteen minutes, right there.   Then -- of course -- you and your dog must get through security.  Sometimes this just takes a couple of minutes, but not always.
There doesn't seem to be any standard procedure for taking a dog through airport security. (Or if there is, they're continually changing it)  Certainly, Xingxing and I have never had the same experience twice. Sometimes I'm told to carry Xingxing through the metal detector.  Sometimes he has to go ahead of me.  Sometimes I must remove his leash, vest and harness. Sometimes I only have to remove the leash. Or the harness. Or the vest. Sometimes Xingxing is patted down. Sometimes, I'm patted down. Sometimes, we're both patted down.  Twice, we've been sent off into a corner to wait for a supervisor.  You just never know what they're going to ask you to do.
One thing they always do is wipe down the palms of my hands with strips of cloth, which are then examined by some sort  of machine.  When I asked why, I was told that everyone traveling with a dog has to be checked for explosives. Gosh! You'd have to be a pretty twisted, warped individual to hide an explosive device inside a dog.  Alas, apparently such people exist.  We live in troubled times.  And airport security is -- I suspect -- here to stay.
Perhaps they could make separate arrangements for people traveling with dogs. For example, a transit passenger with a dog who needs to go might be allowed to somehow check in or register with Security ahead of time. You'd still have to go through Security. But not having to wait in line would make a big difference.
Alternatively, airports could set aside small, indoor spaces for transit doggy relief in each terminal.  It wouldn't have to be anything elaborate.  A 4x4 wooden box filled with mulch (like they had for us on the Azamara Quest) would do just fine.
But it's a problem.  And from now on, Xingxing and I fly non-stop or we don't fly at all.

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