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Can a comfort animal calm my fear of flying?

Can a comfort animal calm my fear of flying?

December 3rd, 2018 by Gina Barreca / Tribune News Servic in Opinion Columns

When I was growing up, people used to have guardian angels. Now they have comfort animals. I want one or the other to accompany me on my travels.

Coming home from Charleston recently, a young, hip and cheerful couple unapologetically boarded ahead of me accompanied by two comfort animals. One was a sophisticated standard poodle and the other was an equally dapper Jack Russell terrier.

Both dogs seemed to have better manners and a higher IQ than I possess—even on a good day. Without a doubt they were more seasoned travelers. These dogs, for example, didn't feel a need to tell all the flight attendants about their fear of flying. They didn't make a fuss over their desperate need to sit next to a window. Nor did they need to keep using the restroom or make constant yipping noises when the plane hit turbulence. Unlike some of us.

Instead, like pieces of origami, they folded themselves neatly under the seats of their human companions and slept through the flight.

I wanted to be them. If I couldn't be them, then at the very least I wanted to be accompanied by them.

You would think that my beloved spouse could've fulfilled that function, wouldn't you? Usually, Michael can be depended upon to offer me sincere, bountiful and effective solace. He'll calm me down when I'm outraged and cheer me up when I'm lugubrious.

Yes, Michael was also on the flight from Charleston.

But all bets are off as soon as we enter an airport. I lose my mind in airports and check sanity, dignity and competence along with my suitcases. Is it a surprise, then, that when we're on Southwest, Michael will sit in the waiting section designated for passengers flying Delta?

Once aboard, we sit in separate aisles. This is because as the flight attendants start their safety routine, I turn into Blanche DuBois from "A Streetcar Named Desire," except I'm more needy. I depend heavily on the kindness of strangers, explaining that I might suddenly grab them if the ride gets bumpy.

After we land, Michael and I once again smile and hold hands. It's fine.

So I need a different kind of airline-specific comfort provider, especially now that airlines charge for alcohol.

Friends, of course, have suggestions. Odd suggestions.

In what seemed like a spontaneous outpouring of sudden Xenarthranian love, literally dozens of them suggest traveling with comfort sloths. Doretta Andonucci offered the most convincing reason for choosing a sloth by pointing out that they sleep 18 hours a day. Also, they are vegetarians and therefore would not lunge for your reheated chicken-and-rice entree, not that anybody would.

Next came the friends who are passionate about traveling with various goats. Margaret Mitchell made the choice because it would be "smart and friendly, although in need of constant small snacks to discourage it from eating everything in sight." When I told her that sounded like me, she didn't disagree fast enough in my opinion. Heidi Rockefeller would choose a fainting goat. If the plane so much as goes near a dark cloud, I'd pass for one of those in a heart bleat.

Everybody else, pretty much, wants to fly with a miniature horse. That's because airlines recognize miniature horses as emotional support animals and because everybody just wants to hang around with an adorable and house-trained miniature horse under any circumstance.

Yet, it's Barbara Mertens Primosch who found what sounds like the perfect answer: "I didn't understand just how much comfort I could find on a flight until I sat next to a Navy Seal."

My real companion animals are my pet peeves. Although you don't want to get too close when they're scared, mad or delayed at Newark, at least they're familiar. Just give them an aisle seat, speak soothingly and let Michael comfort them once the plane lands.

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