This article is from the April 2019 Issue of Forever Young

fyng april 2019 feature image

By William Thomas

ESAA – Emotional Support Animal Absurdity

Today’s flight attendant must feel like Noah of the Ark – animals boarding the plane one after the other taking their places on and under the seats. Dogs, cats, rabbits and pork belly pigs – all of which their owners claim to be emotional support animals and approved by doctors as well as the airlines themselves.

Actually, it wouldn’t be so bad if that list of ESAs (and yes, they now have their own anagram!) was limited to those four species. Recently a woman showed up at the United Airlines counter at Newark, New Jersey for a flight to Los Angeles with an emotional support peacock named Dexter. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard the shrill scream of a peacock but flight attendants would be better off dealing with a drunken Guido from Jersey Shores than a bird who’s cry tops out at 115 decibels.

Yet another woman had her ESA rejected upon checking in and was quoted as saying she could not “think about life without Stormy,” her emotional-support snake. (Didn’t Trump say the same thing about Stormy, the one who dances with poles?) Snakes on planes – bad – but not possibly as bad as the movie.

Delta Airlines has banned “creatures with tusks” which could well avoid the embarrassing situation of a real elephant in the room. On a Frontier Airlines flight from Columbus, Ohio to Las Vegas someone’s emotional support marmoset got loose and disappeared on the plane. Oscar a seven-foot boa constrictor ESA must have been sleeping at the time otherwise he’d have found that varmit!

Jet Blue has since banned “unusual animals” like “snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents and spiders.” Spiders! Really, there’s a person out there who experiences calmness when a black widow crawls down his shirt?!?

Jet Blue’s initial experience with a bad ESA flight came when many passengers complained about a duck walking up and down the aisle unaccompanied. The duck’s name was – not making this up – Daniel Turducken Stinkerbutt and he was wearing a Captain America diaper and tiny red shoes. Are you kidding me? I’d pay 50 bucks extra to sit back with a drink and watch a duck wearing a nappy and sneakers walk up and down the aisle. I once had a woman change a diaper next to me during the inflight meal so yeah, I’m definitely going with that duck.

In Albany, New York a passenger left a support goldfish on the luggage carousel. (Oscar was salivating in his cage nearby.)

What truly boggles the mind is that although they banned ESA rodents and reptiles, miniature horses were allowed to fly on all Jet Blue flights. I suppose it comes down to how everybody aboard feels about miniature horse buns. My worst nightmare on long flights is the crying kid so I’m thinking… yeah, pony rides.


And finally we come to the grand ESA of them all – Wally a five-foot-long, 60-pound alligator and the doctor-approved security blanket for 65-year-old Joie Henney of York Haven, Pennsylvania.

“My doctor wanted to put me on depression medicine and I hate taking medicine” said Joie as he snuggled on the couch next to this grinning grey reptile with huge warts and teeth the size of railroad spikes. “I had Wally, and when I came home to Wally all was okay.” (All okay except nobody has seen the paperboy in over a year!)

Ah Joie, you need to watch “Grizzly Man”, the Werner Herzog documentary about Timothy Treadwell who befriended three grizzly bears in Alaska to the point where he petted them, fed them and they slept together. Grizzly bears are described as “man-eating” for a very good reason and on Oct. 6, 2003 Timothy became one of those reasons. It’s sort of a twisted version of “The Three Little Bears” which ends with Papa Bear saying: “Screw it. I’m not going out tonight to forage for food. I’m eatin’ in!” I know Joie hates taking medicine but I wonder how he feels about embalming fluid?

Look, I understand the palliative power of pets. I’m uplifted just by petting a dog or a cat. But that’s it, dogs and cats. All other animals go in the hold and keep the bunnies a safe tongue-snapping distance from Oscar. The last thing a flight attendant needs is a “Your ESA ate my ESA fight” at 30,000 feet.

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