Category: Grinds My Gears

A dog took a shit on a plane, and I’m back to writing.

After my March stint in hospital jail, I tumbled into weeks of new-meds-feel-like-shit-more-new-meds-more-shit-repeat. We’ll call it a rough patch and stop crying about it now. Mmkay? Mmkay. I wrote quite a lot in that time, but didn’t publish a lick of it. There’s some good stuff in there, and I’m going to start publishing again, but after a review of the full body of writing, much of it is just a bunch of crap.

Speaking of crap, several days ago, a US Airways flight traveling from Los Angeles to Philadelphia made an emergency stop in Kansas because an alleged service dog took a crap in the aisle, not just a regular crap either, full on diarrhea … several times. Unable to keep up with the clean up, running out of supplies, and with passengers dry heaving in each other’s laps, the captain made an emergency landing to have the cabin properly scrubbed.

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Owner and dog. Via Chris Law’s Twitter feed.

My immediate thought should have been, “Oh no, what happened? What went so wrong that the dog was uncontrollably sick? What a nightmare for the handler!” (Insert other sympathetic, nice person type thoughts here.)

But that’s not at all what I thought. My first thoughts, rapid fire style:

  • Did anyone find out if it’s a legit service dog?
  • Why isn’t the dog wearing a vest for identification?
  • Given that it appears the dog was actually sick, having uncontrollable diarrhea, what kind of handler would take a sick service dog on a plane? (Hint: We wouldn’t.)
  • How could a handler NOT know that her service dog was sick? (As a handler myself, I can tell you that the health of the service dog is my top priority. None of the (3) dogs I’ve handled ever had so much as a broken nail without me knowing about it. We are a symbiotic team, I can sense a mood change in my service dog at a glance, and given we are together 24 hours a day, we read each other’s needs countless times a day. Missing an illness as severe as to produce explosive diarrhea would be a VERY rare occurrence.)
  • If the dog was frightened of the flight, and was having “nervous diarrhea”, then that dog was not ready for public access, and more work should have been put into putting that dog in a variety of stressful environments so it would be used to it. If someone were to have a seizure on the plane, the dog can’t be helpful if it’s shitting up and down the aisle.

A service dog handler follows protocol for limiting food intake at the beginning of the day of the flight, and to ensure that the service dog has ample time to eliminate before boarding the flight. In addition to that, we pay VERY special attention to the service dog’s general health in the days leading up to lengthy travel, so as not to be stuck midair with a sick dog (would be one of our worst nightmares, to be sure). We have to add on extra time to our arrival at the airport, if we book multi leg flights, we need to book flights with adequate layover time for the service dog to eliminate, if needed. When we arrive at our destination, we allow for another potty stop before we get ground transportation, too. A service dog is performing a life saving job for its handler and, at the very least, the dog deserves a handler that will do her best to ensure that traveling is as comfortable for the dog as possible. A well trained service dog can easily (and they very often do) ‘hold it’ for a cross country flight, and longer. In fact, service dogs are trained to eliminate on command. If I don’t tell Gen she can go, she will hold it until her body physically fails to do so any longer. Therefore, if my service dog has an accident, it is MY FAULT, 100%.

Owner and her dog.

Via Chris Law’s Twitter feed.

At least one of the passengers on the plane felt that the owner was lying about her dog being a service dog. My knee jerk reaction is to suspect that, too. I’ve flown 6 flights with service dogs. On several of those flights, I witnessed people trying to scam their way to a free flight for their pet by claiming it’s a service animal. It is infuriating. On my last flight, a woman who was clearly lying about her pet being a service dog, was ultimately denied her seat on the flight, but only for the technicality of the crate she wished to bring with her not meeting proper specifications for pets in the cabin. (Service animals don’t fly in crates. How can they do their jobs from a crate?) The airlines are at such a loss to control the “fakers” because of the laws that protect the actual disabled people that have a properly trained, legitimate service dog. It keeps them from asking too many questions, even when they suspect someone is lying. A disabled handler does not need to present any formal documentation other than (possibly) a health certificate, and some flights require nothing. The laws that were made to protect me and other disabled people from being harassed unnecessarily make it easy for the fakers to avoid any line of questioning by the airline. The airline faces fines and penalties if they do not adhere to federal laws, their hands are usually tied, and the rest of the passengers just have to hope that the dog is really a service dog. In the case of the woman who was kicked off my flight, every single employee dealing with her continually shot glances at me and Gen throughout the time she stood at the bulkhead arguing with them. Gen and I were in the front row, right in the middle of the action. (As a courtesy to other passengers, and for the service dog’s comfort, I always purchase bulkhead seating. I don’t have to, but I consider it a small price to pay for a seamless travel day.) The crew had a real-time example of a true service dog’s behavior. Always at my thigh, she obeys each verbal or non-verbal command I give her, and when we are seated, and she curls up into a ball at my feet and doesn’t move from her spot until I tell her she may get up when we reach our destination. The most common thing we hear? “There was a dog on our plane the whole time?!” (We get that at restaurants all the time, too. No one even knows she’s at my feet under the table.) Our presence definitely did NOT help this woman’s (faker) case to try to smuggle this frightened, tiny lap dog in a make-shift crate when there was a certified Seizure Alert and Response Service Dog performing her duties two feet away. When I fly, I overhear people sharing their plans to buy vests for their dogs so they can fly for free. Most common type of OH: “I’m going to have my therapist write me a note for an emotional support animal and then I’ll get a vest and Fifi can fly with me!” Even though “Emotional Suppport” Animals are not considered service animals under the Americans With Disabilities Act, (Edited with info from Jeff’s comments below, Thanks Jeff! ) —> Air carriers are governed under the ACAA, and airlines can and do accept ESA’s (even other than dogs) if the handler has a qualifying disability (key word: disability), but NOT for all mental illnesses. I recently had a twenty something girl share with ME that she had her psychologist friend write a note saying that her PET RABBIT is her emotional support animal so she can take it to Hawaii. I immediately shared with her that emotional support animals are not considered service animals, that a rabbit is a RODENT (nope, not even covered under ACAA) and then I guilt tripped the shit out of her with the old, “Would you fake the need for a wheelchair because you didn’t want to have to walk on your two healthy legs like everyone else?” I basically enlightened her on what it feels like to be disabled and have to watch people fake a disability to bring pets on planes, keep pets in apartment buildings that usually don’t allow them, or just take their fucking pomeranian everywhere. These people aren’t just faking having a service dog. They are faking having a disability. Fucking gross.


Having a service dog isn’t a game, it isn’t cool, and it is a fuckload of work every single day, but having her is the only way I can be safe, especially when I’m alone. In 2012 I had a seizure that could have killed me, and I had no warning, could not call for help, and am damn lucky to be alive today. In the past few years, I have had seizures that caused dangerous falls and serious injuries. I’m lucky to have recovered from those injuries. Without Gen, I would need round the clock supervision and lose more freedoms than I have already lost. A service dog is a true lifeline for me.

Could this service dog have been a genuine service dog? I guess, but my spidey senses feel otherwise, and it pisses me off. I would never bring a sick dog on a plane, and I would never bring a service dog that could not handle air travel on a plane. The training that service dogs go through is thorough and rigorous. While accidents do happen (service dogs aren’t robots after all), it seems like this situation was preventable. The other thing that got my spidey senses up was her (totally weird) request for the other passengers addresses so that she could buy them all Starbucks gift cards. Smells like guilt to me, bigger than just the fact that the dog forced an unexpected landing, but more like the dog shouldn’t have been there in the first place. If I’m wrong, and the dog was a service dog, then I recommend that the handler get more training and pay more attention to her dog.

Perhaps it’s time to require more service dog identification and certification for public service. I have always feared that doing so would make access unnecessarily and unfairly difficult for people with disabilities, but because some people are fucking assholes we are already facing unnecessary discrimination if we don’t outwardly appear disabled. Thanks, dicks.

Social (Media) Graces (aka Don’t be a jerk.)

For some time now I have been trying to put my finger on why some folks get how to use social media to market themselves or their services and some completely miss the boat. I’ve been trying to identify exactly why one person drives me completely nuts, and another person’s message is welcome, and even met with a smile and desire to share their message. Then it hit me. Social graces. Good, old fashioned manners, courtesy, humor and genuine interest in others. You know, how people have been building relationships since, well, forever. “Social networking” is still just networking, period. Networking is still about people. Just talking to people and building relationships. Hopefully that relationship has value for both parties, whether it’s emotional value or monetary value, it doesn’t matter. You define that value.

So, let’s say you met me in real life. If every other thing out of your mouth was “Read my blog!”, “Buy my stuff!”, “I’m so great!”, “Have you heard how AWESOME my blog is?”, I would run away. Seriously. I might even have to resist the urge to smack you upside the head.

(Ok Sara, then tell us. Tell us how to market ourselves without being an obnoxious doucher.) Gladly.

Ask yourself a few questions:

Am I being myself? — Seriously. Be yourself. This, apparently, is easier said than done. Even the “social media experts” that preach the ever hyped “authentic/transparent” strategy don’t always practice what they preach. How do I know this? I’ve met plenty of them in real life that are quite different than they portray themselves on social networks. That doesn’t work. Why? Because the ultimate goal of networking is usually a real life conversion. If you aren’t really who you portray yourself to be online, you lose my trust.

Do I talk about myself/blog/business too much? — This is highly annoying in real life, and amplified on the web. If the majority of your activity on social networks is telling people about all the great stuff you are doing/have to offer/etc, you are probably coming off as narcissistic. Please stop. Thanks.

Am I courteous to others? — Are you prone to hijacking tweets? Do you take other people’s ideas from one forum and re-purpose as your own on another? Do you “borrow” other peoples snark/funny/content without giving credit? Well, that’s just douchey. (And also plagiarism, asshole.)

Am I the know-it-all? — Yes, yes, you may be a genius. You may have thought of everything before any of the rest of us. We know, you have an opinion on everything. Bless you. Here’s the thing. It’s ok to just shut up every once in awhile. If you did this at a cocktail party in real life, you wouldn’t get many future invitations. Dial it back, mmmkay?

You see, when people in my social network are helpful, courteous, knowledgeable and friendly, I WANT to hear about what they’ve got going on. I WANT to advocate on their behalf. Why? Just like in real life, I want to help my friends. In turn, those friends will want to help me. Together we will both grow our networks of friends, acquaintances, clients and so on.

Unless you are painfully socially awkward, you can do this. You have been building lasting relationships your whole life. Employ what you already know! You know how to NOT be a douchebag. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your online relationships are any different. They require care and work and time to grow. Be yourself. Listen when other people are speaking. Remember it’s not always about you. If you wouldn’t do it in a real life conversation, don’t do it in an online conversation.

And keep your elbows off the table.

Later Gators.

If everybody likes you, you’re doing it wrong.

In my attempt to be honest about things that grind-my-gears on Twitter, I’m really getting under people’s skin. While I’m not SO much of a jack-ass (although I fully admit to being one) to say things just to get people riled up, I put my opinion out there to get other people thinking. I figure, this is what I think. I do not expect everyone to agree. I do not assume I am an authority on, well, anything. I am merely expressing an opinion, right or wrong. If everything I said was agreeable to every person, I’d be a total fraud. It’s not possible to make everyone happy or to make everyone see your point of view. I’m totally ok with that.

You may not always like what you get, but you know you’ll always get me.

Recently, I expressed my opinion on Twitter about whining (and keeping the small things in perspective). I had no individual person in mind. It was more of a thinking out loud type of rant. Twitter is, among other things, a place where people like to complain. A lot. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s thought provoking, and sometimes it just gets on my damn nerves. I used SEASONAL allergy symptoms as an example in my rant. I can’t even count how many times a day people tweet about their terrible runny nose, how itchy and puffy their eyes are, how very very miserable they are. I get it. It sucks. But, my point is…that’s LIFE. And if you live a life where what you have to complain about is a runny nose, your life is pretty damned easy. Really, the point is not about allergies or any one thing in particular at all. It is about PERSPECTIVE.

I have watched too many people suffer seriously debilitating illness, injury and loss, and do so with such grace and dignity, NOT to realize how precious this life is. And to be grateful for what I DO have, even if it’s not perfect. I mean, good lord, we ALL have stuff wrong with us. Some people have it harder than others, I’m not dismissing that. I’m just saying that each of has a choice to make. You can live your life as a victim, complaining about everything wrong in your life, or you can adjust your attitude, grab a dose of perspective and say, “Hey, maybe this sucks, but I’m grateful for this life. How can I work to improve this situation?”

Be your own hero. Don’t live your life as a victim. If you are lacking perspective, just open your eyes. The world is full of true suffering: genocide, crimes against humanity, poverty, famine, incurable and vicious diseases, the list goes on. If you feel your “First World problems” are too much to bear, volunteer to help someone out who has it worse than you do. Maybe that will help you get off the complain-train and live your life with gratitude and generosity.

And before anyone jumps down my throat about how I don’t understand, blah blah blah… Stop for a moment and think before you type. Just because someone chooses not to complain about their own life, doesn’t mean they haven’t been in your shoes, or worse.


Repost: Effing IKEA and Post Pardom Potty Mouth (2006)

I like to buy things from IKEA because their selection is typically affordable and generally fits in my smallish type of home. I hate to buy things from IKEA because I typically hate being around a thousand people that generally get on my f#%king nerves. Jennie and I did the IKEA run today and I was reminded of how much I really hate people. I just do. Don’t get me wrong, I love many people (individually), but I also hate many people (all together in a big f#%king idiot mob). Okay, sorry, I’m not myself right now. I just spent way too much time inching my way through three floors of Scandinavian particle board. Oh, and about 73 thousand other people. Alright, it’s really not “people” I hate, it’s the crowds I hate. So in all fairness, I am sorry “Mrs. Man Hands” for not helping you at the self-checkout. (okay, but with those mitts, you should have been golden.) I apologize, “Skinny Girl who bumped into my sister and didn’t say she was sorry”, for shooting you that rude glance/eye roll. (Hey, I get cranky when I haven’t eaten too – and I figure you’re probably still going on the Diet Coke and half of a crouton you decided not to purge on Thursday.) Forgive me, “Ladies with matching black velour track suits” for not answering your question about which line to stand in for the manager’s lunch special. (I realize you may have just overshot Great America and didn’t expect to be making such complex lunching decisions.) And finally, “Woman with lots of money and no brains who brought your 2 week old (if that) newborn to IKEA” – I’m actually not sorry for quietly ridiculing your poor judgment in bringing a tiny newborn to a place like IKEA, but I am sorry that your kid’s brand-spankin-new immune system had to be exposed to 73 thousand germs. I am also sorry that every time I saw you, that poor, tiny baby was crying. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I do actually hate you… I’m not usually this surly, which brings me to the other thing I wanted to talk about. After the birth of each of my girls I was (am currently being) overtaken by a severe case of “post-partum can’t f#%king stop swearing syndrome”. I can’t stop it. I manage to censor myself around Gracie, but dammit, I’m out of control. I’ve tried to substitute, but sometimes you just have to say it. Out loud. With feeling. You might even need to yell it. It just, well, fuck, you know what I mean.

© Sara 2006