Spirit Airlines: Less Hamsters, Oh No!

I don’t have a lot of words. I am really trying to think of a circumstance where I could see where this woman was coming from, but it’s not working. I’m really really trying.

Belen Aldecosea had to fly home, and she wanted to fly with Spirit Airlines. In the recent past, because of anxiety over a medical diagnosis, she decided she needed an emotional support animal, and chose a hamster. She even got a note from a doctor saying this hampster, Pebbles, was her emotional support hamster. As I said in this other post about emotional support animals on planes, emotional support animals aren’t trained and don’t do anything for the owners except give them a warm, fuzzy feeling by being there. She probably could have gotten the same effect by buying a plush toy.

Apparently she called ahead to check that she could bring Pebbles on as an emotional support animal, and was given the incorrect information that this was possible. When she arrived at the airport and started the process of checking in, she was told that this was not going to happen. Then, according to her, she was told that she could either release Pebbles into the wild or flush her down the toilet. After a lot of “agonizing”, she flushed her.

I don’t even know where to begin here. This feels like that story where the woman put her guide dog in a cabby’s trunk, only way worse. At least that poor guide dog lived. I would hope that, God Forbid if somebody told me that Tans couldn’t get on the plane and actually physically prevented us from boarding, that I would possess greater problem-solving skills than this. I would hope that I would choose not to go on that flight so I could work something out. I would make some calls. I would figure something else out that wouldn’t result in an outcome so final for Shmans. It’s not like anyone had a gun to her head or anything.

Her lawyer is trying to say that this isn’t her fault because she’s only 21 so didn’t know what to do. I remember being 21, and although I was just learning about advocating for myself, I’m pretty sure I would have done something other than this. At the very least, I might have called my folks and got some more ideas. I would have never tried to take psych rat Hope on a plane, but if I did, I can’t even begin to picture a scenario where I would flush her if I was told she couldn’t fly. Maybe I would have called a vet to figure out how to board her somewhere. Maybe I would have asked for help finding some other officials in the airport to get more ideas.

This line kills me every time I read it.

“She (Pebbles) was so loving. It was like she knew I needed somebody,”

And that was how she repaid the poor thing.

She has a new hamster. God help Pebbles 2.0.

I guess I had more words than I thought.

Delta And United Could Be Rolling Out Kind Of Bad Service Animal Policies

I have been meaning to write about this for a while, but I was hoping to disentangle everything and be able to have a very coherent response with a clear way forward. But that isn’t happening, and it still needs to be written about.

Back in mid January, Delta Airlines decided it had had enough of the disservice animal problem, or the problem of people bringing animals onto planes, saying they were for service and support, and then the animals freaking out because they were not trained, having accidents on the plane, injuring flight crews and passengers or being a general nuisance and hazard. They decided to tighten up their policies in the hopes that they would be able to filter out the ones abusing the system. United Airlines has decided to tighten things up as well, but they went about it slightly differently. Both policies are to go into effect March 1. Here’s an article about both airlines. Also, here’s Delta’s policy (.pdf format) and United’s policy.

First of all, I totally understand why they need to try and make sure animals that aren’t trained to be good public citizens don’t make it onto planes. They could hurt people and other service dogs because they are not well-socialized, and a plane is a rather confined space. Once you’re flying, it’s kind of hard to open the door and kick out the bad one. So, I applaud them for wanting to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, at least Delta went about it all wrong. I’m still holding out hope for United, although upon a quick read, I’m afraid there’s a lot of wiggle room.

From what I understand, Delta’s new policy requires that every time someone flies with a service animal, 48 hours before their flight, they have to submit a special form with paperwork from their vet certifying that their animal is up to date on its vaccinations and is healthy. They also can only go to a specific counter so their animal can be visually inspected by an employee. United’s policy is better, but still has some problems. It seems that anyone whose service animal is doing a task to mitigate a physical disability doesn’t need to do more than what we already have to do to travel. For example, if I’m traveling to Hawaii, I have to satisfy the requirements of Hawaii. But I don’t have to give all this extra notice and go to special counters. But, they have lumped psychiatric service animals in with emotional support animals, which is not cool. Psychiatric service animals are still service animals. They have been trained to do tasks like giving a person with PTSD space between them and a crowd, or looking around corners etc. Emotional support animals give their owner that warm fuzzy snuggly feeling when they give them a pet petty pet pet. Who knows if they have been trained to deal with anything unusual, which…flying several thousand feet above the earth is pretty unusual. Who knows if they’re used to sharing small spaces with other people and service animals. To be completely clear, I’m not being a discriminating arsehole and saying that certain disabilities are less worthy of having a service animal. All I care about is the rigor of the training that the animal goes through. Nine times out of 10, the people bringing emotional support animals either don’t need them and are just trying to get Foofoo on the plane instead of putting her in cargo, or they have no idea what puppy raisers and trainers go through to ready their dogs for public access, and that is the problem.

To get back to Delta’s policy, the reason theirs is problematic, above and beyond what I just said, is that they are putting unnecessary restrictions on people who have legitimate service animals as well, some of whom already can’t drive so are down one transportation option. The 48-hour notice requirement basically makes it impossible to make an emergency trip, use Delta as an unplanned connecting flight if another one gets canceled, or use Delta if traveling very frequently. In addition, I fail to see how these requirements actually help Delta do more than cover their butts. How are they going to validate that the animal will be good? The only way they’ll find out is when we board. So, they are making it harder for people who already have barriers, and for no benefit. For example, I now would have to make my vet fill out a form, or complete a potentially inaccessible form and navigate a website whose accessibility may change without notice just before I travel. I probably will have to pay to have my vet fill out their special form. People who want to bring Fluff-Muffin won’t find these steps to be overly problematic. They don’t have to worry about inaccessible websites or limited transportation options.

And don’t even get me started on the whole requirements of going to a special counter for a visual inspection. I have had my dog referred to as an emotional support dog. My black lab whose mouth isn’t moving has been blamed for the barking of a yappy chihuahua-sized dog several feet away. These people have no idea what they are inspecting. It also excludes people from using kiosks or curb-side check-in. They might find these to be better options, and again, it is of no benefit. At the end of it all, the person is standing in front of someone who has had very little training to make them qualified to make a determination that this dog is healthy and socialized. It penalizes people who are already limited in their options, and the owners of emotional support animals will only be mildly inconvenienced.

I have 0 problem bringing my dog’s health records, but I should be able to bring a certificate that the vet already drafts up, which we can receive at the point of last vaccination. I should not have to make a special trip to the vet to fill out some proprietary form, and every airline will have its own form. I also don’t even mind signing something quickly upon checkin that says something to the effect of “My dog will not crap on the plane floor, run rampant through the plane or gnaw on my fellow passengers or flight crew.” It’s annoying, more annoying than having health records on hand, but if I can do it quickly, I don’t mind. I have no doubt that my dog will be fine. When I was in Vegas, I had to sign such a form at the hotel. They didn’t charge me pet fees, but they wanted me to assure that I would not leave her loose in the room and she wouldn’t leave any undesirable presents for housekeeping. Fine. Whatever the process, it needs to be as streamlined as possible and can’t leave room for misinformed people to make decisions that could prevent a person with a legitimate service animal from traveling.

From what I have read, the whole problem could be taken care of by tweaking the Air Carrier Access Act a wee smidge to tighten up on what is a service animal so we don’t get any more support peacocks et al, as well as making clear procedures on how to deal with an animal, service, support or whatever, that has become a danger, and we wouldn’t have to deal with all these different airlines and their different policies.

The fact is Delta started the ball rolling and now we have to get the ball rolling the right way, or flying is really going to suck for anyone with a service animal. Here is a post that states it well and has links on where to make complaints and make our voices heard. The links are in the comments of the post.

Now that I have written all of this down, maybe I can put together something resembling a useful and reasonable complaint.

They’re Your Worms, You Figure It Out

I’ve become drawn to reading stories about people and their parasites ever since Carin and I started watching Monsters Inside Me on Sunday nights while we eat supper. Yeah, we’re a little different, what’s your point? But it wasn’t these people’s hookworms that stood out to me as I read, it was the slimy behaviour of our government that most caught my eye.

Even after diagnosis, more frustration awaited them. Zytner said the medications that are used to treat hookworms are not licensed for sale in this country: Health Canada has put ivermectin and albendazole on its Special Access Programme, meaning that they can only be obtained by federal approval on a case-by-case basis.
Zytner said his request for the drugs was denied. “They said our case wasn’t severe enough to get the medication.”
“I don’t know how much worse it has to be for them to approve it. People have passed away from (parasitic infections).”
Fortunately, a connection with a doctor possessing a dual-nation license allowed Zytner and Stephens to quickly get the medications they needed in the U.S.

And if anyone presumes this to be an isolated case: Zytner said he and Stephens have been in touch with a couple from the Niagara region who they met at the resort.
The Niagara couple are also currently suffering cutaneous larva migrans.
“They have the exact same thing,” Zytner said. “And they were also denied by Health Canada for access to the drugs.”

This is Canada. We are a very fortunate nation. So why must there ever be cases where people are denied medications they need? If we’re talking about experimental treatments that run into the five or six figures and have a more than even chance of not working, by all means, review those all day long. But when it’s a simple matter of this is what you have and this is what fixes it, playing a game of we can’t stop your legs from falling off until your legs fall off should absolutely never be something that someone is paid to do. Nor, by the way, should a citizen of this country ever have to know a guy who knows a guy in order to get medicine. That’s just goddamned ridiculous and I should be able to expect much better from my country.

Bee Afraid, Bee Very Afraid!

When I saw this story about a swarm of unknown insects flying through parts of London, All I could think was “Aaaa! Black Mirror!” I know these things were live bee-like things, but still. I’m not alone in this, other articles mentioned the thought too.

We still don’t know why, but there are lots of videos of parts of London where people are trying to dodge swarms of bees, or wasps, or something.

You know how I feel about bees anyway, and then add in the Black Mirror comparison, and…eek!

Looking at all these posts about bees, I’m wondering if I need to make a bees tag.

I’ll Give You Your Cocks Back If You’ll Give Me Your…

So. Um. This is a thing that happened in Kentucky.

According to the arrest warrant deputies served on Rodney Brown, 25, the crime started with the theft of 25 roosters, a goat, some rooster pens, and some other equipment used to keep those roosters.
Police say Brown took them from the victim’s home December 21. They arrested him yesterday and charged him with theft by unlawful taking.
Brown’s arrest warrant says after he stole those animals and items he contacted the victim. The citation says Brown “offered to give the items back if he would consent to sex with him.”

He also told the victim that he’d beat him up if he went to the police, say the police he went to. Great job.

The story says that all of the requesting and threatening was done via text message, which has me wondering if Brown and his target are somehow known to each other.

Brown, who has since bonded out of jail, was charged with promoting prostitution and third degree terroristic threatening.

Imagine Riding A Bus With A Moose…

I finally know what this video

is about.


This is a Norwegian video that shows all sorts of animals with a harness, such as a burrow, a duck, a yak or an ox, a moose/elk, ostrich, etc. They all have a person with them as though the person shown next to them is using these more exotic animals as their guide. There are all sorts of unexpected, humorous things happening with the animals in the video, such as the animal leaving droppings on the floor, eating hay in a restaurant and charging at the red table cloth as though it were a red cape in the bull ring, the large antlers of the moose making it difficult to see out to the back of a bus for the driver, etc. Finally the scene at the end shows a taxi pulling up in front of a guide dog team and then has a close up of the dog with the caption “It could have been worse, it is only a dog we would like to bring with us”

Friggin great. I’d like to show this to cabbies who are worried about a little dog hair on the car floor, or people all worked up about bringing a dog into a restaurant.


I need the help of somebody with a long memory for these sorts of things (Carin, I may be looking squarely in your direction).

I seem to recall that several years ago, either police or wildlife type people issued a warning to citizens of a state that may or may not have been Florida asking that they please refrain from kissing the local raccoon population on the lips no matter how cute they think it is because neither raccoon bites nor rabies are overly pleasant. I thought this was on the blog here somewhere but I can’t find it, and I’m having about as much luck with Google. So did this actually happen or am I remembering something incorrectly? This is important, because I need to know whether this Floridiot here is raising a bar or firing a first shot.

Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies said Austin Hatfield, 18, captured the 4-foot cottonmouth, also known as a water moccasin, while swimming last week and kept it in a pillowcase at his girlfriend’s house, where he was bitten on the lip.

Friends told investigators Hatfield was trying to kiss the snake when it struck him.
Hatfield was initially hospitalized in critical condition, but his status was upgraded to good condition and officials said he is expected to make a full recovery.

They’re also hoping that he learned something and that one day they might be able to upgrade his mental status from duuuuuuuuuh to duh.

And because I know you’re all wondering, the answer to your question is no, Hatfield did not possess the proper permits allowing him to catch or keep cottonmouth snakes according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is now investigating.

Smoked Bacon

There are a lot of common reasons for going on a bender. There are also some pretty ridiculous ones. But I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of anyone hitting both extremes simultaneously quite the way Chad Spohn did.

Investigators say that Chad Spohn, 44, became highly intoxicated after drinking a bottle of Everclear, the 190-proof alcohol. Spohn threatened to harm himself during several 911 calls, according to a Washington County Sheriff’s Office report.
Upon arriving at the Spohn residence in Waterford, deputies learned from Spohn’s wife Heather that he was upset over their marital problems and “because their pig had ate all of his marijuana.” She added, “Chad gets upset when he does not have marijuana.”

Apparently Chad also gets upset when the police come to collect him, and requires a tussle and a tasing before he’ll cooperate with the nice officer.

He’s been charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct by intoxication.

Millie the pig, while unharmed, appears to be in need of a new home.

In a message to his Facebook friends, he wrote, “anyone want a pig she is free and comes with food and cage. she is house broken as long as you show her where to go. if you have a dog she will follow it.” He added, “i just dont have time for her anymore.”

So if you’re looking for a friend or maybe something to eat when the munchies hit, there you go.

2014: Goodbye And Good Riddance

It’s mid January, and I feel like I have to write the usual holiday wrap-up/year in review post. I feel like this will be the shortest one ever because both the holidays, and the year, feel like they have been snatched and tainted.

Getting to my family’s Christmas was coloured with a bit of Carin-style adventure that wasn’t even my fault. We decided to take a bus to the bus terminal and get on the Greyhound. The night before Christmas, I checked to see if buses were running, or how. Apparently they were running on a reduced schedule that wasn’t explained. So, I called, and thought I got the correct info.

Um, how about no? After standing at the bus stop for way too long, we decided we’d have to cab down there after all. As we ran back to our building to call a cab, poor Steve tripped and fell, hurting his ankle. I seriously thought we were screwed, and the fates had decided I was truly going to have myself a little Christmas that wasn’t merry at all. But poor Steve limped through, and we caught the greyhound and got to Toronto to meet family.

That dinner was nice, and we had a lot of laughs and talked about old memories. I don’t know if pets and guide dog thought it was such a nice Christmas though. You see, my sister has 2 cats who are a little shy of interlopers, and Tansy would love to play with a couple of cats. So I had to keep Tansy on a leash, and we had to baby gate off the house so the cats would feel safe. Then my brother brought over his wee little dog, who I need to write about in another post. She also would love to play with either Tansy or the cats, and the gate really wasn’t much of an obstacle to her. Those poor cats…although before I left, I saw one of the cats corner her by some stairs and try to enforce the law a wee bit. Anyway, the animals had anything but a relaxed Christmas, even though they gave us lots of entertainment.

Then we came home, intending to have a few nice, relaxing days, and then have Brad over, hang out for New Years, and then go over to Steve’s dad’s for Christmas dinner with him. Hehehehe about those relaxing days. We got home on Friday afternoon, and sort of had a relaxing day on Saturday, got the call about Steve’s grandma on Sunday, and then she passed away that Monday. Tuesday we got another call saying we had to scoot home because there would be visitations the next day. Then that day was New Years Eve, so then we headed back to our place with Brad. Who knew 5 people and 2 dogs could fit in one vehicle, but we did it.

New Years Eve was pretty low-key. I think we were all exhausted, and throughout the evening, each of us sort of nodded off a bit. But we were awake at midnight, which is better than we can say some years.

Then we headed over to Steve’s dad’s. It was good to spend time with him right now, and I hope he got some pleasure out of us being there…although the poor guy had a wicked cold and his mom had just died. But I think he had a few laughs and, after some adventures with cooking appliances failing and pie fillings not cooperating, we had a good meal, and hey, a good meal with family is all that matters.

We headed home after that, and really, nothing else exciting happened, which is probably a good thing. I just got ready to head back to work after being off because of my unwanted companion not so affectionately nicknamed the captain.

What can I say about 2014? Ug, not a whole lot. Aside from a couple weddings and going to CSUN, the year felt like an unending string of me hoping that after the current trouble was over, maybe the future would look up. We went from my step-grandpa going into hospice and eventually passing away, to a seemingly unending winter of brutal cold with a couple of fun things sprinkled in, to my brother’s wedding, which was lots of fun, to Steve’s sister’s wedding which was also lots of fun and I haven’t written about it, to my gallbladder’s doom in May, to my long battle with the captain starting in June, which eventually made me work from home in August and take a leave from work as of September. December was looking up, I was starting to feel better, and then…hey, how about turning this year into a death sandwich? Sound good? No? Well, too damn bad for you. So I’m really really really hoping that 2015 has a lot more cool things in it for us…but I’d even settle for a year of ordinary living at this point.

As for the state of the world, holy crap did it suck too. I think someone needs to take that We didn’t Start the Fire song and update it with stuff from 2014.

How did somebody put it? Most of 2014 was full of a whole lot of terrible things from all directions, or an octopus of nope. Ebola and Islamic State whatever the hell they want to call themselves and shootings in Ottawa and hands up don’t shoot and I can’t breathe and Ghomeshi and Cosby and aaaaaaaaa no more! It was a horrible time to be sick, and looking at way too much Twitter. I think I lost my mind a little bit. Hell I know I did. When I was home for Christmas, and mom said “What’s the name of that guy from the CBC? The one with the long stories…like essays?” Internally I went straight to “oh please, you’re not talking about Jian Ghomeshi are you? Not now! Nonononononononono! I’m not gonna say it, you’re going to have to give me a lot more before I say it.” Never was I so happy when I figured out it was Stuart McLean she was referring to!

The year 2015, on the news front, isn’t starting off too well either. I can only hope that things will calm down, although I know that even in better times, there is always too much death and tragedy. I don’t know what made things seem so acutely bad last year. There’s a cynical part of me that keeps whispering “It wasn’t any better or worse, you just had to look it in the face and realize that there’s a lot of evil around us and we haven’t advanced past it, and we can’t deceive ourselves into thinking we have.” I don’t know, but I hope that eventually I’ll see the signs pointing to the good in humanity a little more often.

So, let’s go 2015. Allow me to shake 2014 off like a dog and move on to a better year