Disclosure: Links within this post may contain affiliate links that I earn commissions from. Example, if you click on the pet carrier link and purchase anything from that site, I make a small commission, no matter what you purchase, at no cost to you. This is how I pay for this blog and make a living as a writer. Thank you for supporting me!
Traveling in and of itself always seems to have hiccups and things that go awry. Add in 4 flights and 5,000 miles to pick up a puppy… things get interesting real quick. Here’s the little story of meeting my pup Porter Storm for the first time, what happened at the airport and the various guidelines for service dogs in training, and how this little pup might one day save my life.
Airline Guidelines for Service Dogs
For trained service dogs there really is little issue – they can go anywhere with the owner. They are allowed to sit in front of their owners on the floor of the plane and don’t cost extra nor count as your carry-on. For Service Dogs in Training the rules are a little less clear and seem to be up to the ticketing or gate agent for certain airlines. Thankfully on Alaska Airlines, they are treated the same as Service Dogs. I was told to have his shot records and the letter from my doctor to show the ticketing agent. I was also flying American Airlines, and their rules were not as clear, even after I called and asked a bunch of questions. To American Airlines, they view Service Dogs in Training as pets. As such, they only allow 7 animals on the plane for $125 and they count as a carry-on item. The agent may waive the fee if they feel the animal is a service dog and not a pet after reviewing the paperwork.
Wonder why I need a Service Dog? Read this post. Isn’t Porter Storm a cute at 8-week old AussieDoodle??
With everything coming together so fast, I was unable to get a rolling pet carrier shipped to me fast enough. Amazon Prime takes 7-10 days for Alaska, no same day delivery for us! The local pet stores were sold out of all carriers too. My friend lent me one that she used for her 5lb dog. When I landed in Seattle from Anchorage, I made a quick call to the breeder in North Carolina and was told that my little Porter Storm was topping 9lbs! He would be way too big for the carrier I had!
Thankfully, at SeaTac there is a new Baggage Storage store (can store bags plus refrigerated or freezer items) that sells travel supplies, including pet carriers. With my Beecher’s coffee in hand and delicious cheese tucked into my pack, I headed to this store located at Baggage Claim. I took a few minutes to breathe and move things to the new kennel. I knew if American Airlines felt he was a pet, that I would have one extra bag. I travel with my purse that has my medications and journal and planner (plus the Puppy Training Guide, my GoPro backpack with my laptop and electronics, and a checked piece of luggage with everything else.
Meeting Porter for the First Time
Once I landed in Raleigh, I made my way to the American Airlines ticket counter. I was meeting with the breeder’s delivery partner and I would have just an hour to pick up Porter and get back through security. Mind you, I was SO scared to go meet him. I was having doubts on whether I could handle a puppy, what if we didn’t bond or he didn’t like me. What if all of this was just too much? I am the Champion of the What If game.
I picked Porter Storm up for the first time and kissed his cute little black head and held him tight. I breathed in his sweet puppy breathe and then thought, my goodness, what is that smell? Was that poo? I asked the breeder and he said in all of his time bringing a pup to the airport, that this was the first one who not only poo’d in the carrier, but then had a dance party in it. He had tried to clean him up, but there was still poo in between his little paws. The stench was overpowering! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was seriously worried about the potty training as I am not a fan of bodily functions… at all. I had packed baby wipes and gallon sized plastic bags just in case there was a mess on the plane. I went to work cleaning him up one paw at a time. After I washed my hands and chuckled in the restroom, I went back out and had a proper deep hug and cuddles with my new little guy.
Our first pic together, post poo-apocalypse.
I then had to take him and my paperwork up to the American Airlines agent. The next window open was the one for First Class, which usually has the agent with the most experience. She was so incredibly nice! She read my doctor’s letter, gave Porter a little pat on his head, and said yes he did qualify as a Service Dog and there would be no fee and he wouldn’t count as a piece of luggage. Yay! I felt some of my nervous energy state to fade.
This was the very first time I held, smelling like poo and all. Love the little guy!
Next up was getting through security – I wasn’t exactly certain how this worked. I was waived into the preTSA line (why I don’t have this yet, I don’t know) and was told I needed to hold him and go through the old security line, not the one that does the strange body check. Next they have to wand my hands to make sure I hadn’t just made an explosive device. Porter was only 11 weeks old and since he hadn’t had his second round of shots yet, he was still susceptible to the Parvo virus, which is deadly for puppies. This means that he shouldn’t be around unvaccinated dogs or in places where people could have tracked the virus in on their shoes… so basically, I couldn’t let him walk anywhere in public until I got him back in Anchorage where he would get his puppy shots.
Porter was so exhausted from leaving his first home and the poo incident that he slept in his carrier for that first flight. Then we had to switch planes in Charlotte. Most airports now have a Pet Relief Area, and Charlotte’s was pretty cool with a fire hydrant and everything. I was terrified of him getting Parvo from it! He wasn’t having it though – he would not pee on the artificial grass for anything.
Charlotte, NC has a pretty cool Pet Relief Area on the A/B Connector near Checkpoint A, but Porter Storm said NOPE.
I wiped his paws off and got us onto our last flight to Indianapolis. We sat next to two awesome people who were so nice! The flight attendant came up and asked if I was the one with the service dog puppy. I thought I was in trouble… nope! She wanted some puppy cuddles. 🙂 Porter Storm was loved on by quite a few people on that flight and then slept in my arms for an hour or so.
Once we landed in Indy, I took him outside to their grassy Pet Area. Nope. Still not going to pee for me nor did he want to drink any water. I was pretty worried to be completely honest. Finally, I dipped my fingers into my water bottle and let him lick my fingers. After about 10 dips, he finally drank from his traveling water dish. Success!
Porter Storm playing in the grass at the Indianapolis Airport with a dryer ball – cool tip for teething pups!
Big shoutout to Mazda for the 2018 Mazda3 Touring Coupe that was waiting for us at valet. We still had a 2-hour drive ahead of us to get to my family’s home in North Vernon. I opened the pet carrier and Porter popped his cute little head out. He slept on the front seat tuckered out from his long day. After traveling for 22 hours, I pulled into my cousin’s house and put the Mazda in park. I sat there for a moment grateful that we made is safely and wondered what this new addition would have on my life. I was ready for this next step in my journey.
Welcome to the family little Porter Storm!