So here’s how it went down: The traffic was very light. There was a ratio of about 20 TSA workers to 4 travelers when we went through security for a United Airlines flight from Seattle to Portland in the last week of January 2010. I helped Raja out of his airline travel bag so it could travel through the X-Ray machine while I carried Raja through the metal detectors. As we passed through, the TSA employee held up his hand for us to stop. He asked if Raja bites and if he could examine him. Raja doesn’t bite, but he’s never been given the once over by a total stranger in that way with no introductions and no friendly words. He told me to hold him out at arms’ length and then he passed his gloved hands around his neck and head, under his legs and belly and through the fur on his back.
OK, that was it… not too rough and pretty speedy, but 100% unexpected. Later I asked an idle TSA employee who had watched the scenario if this dog frisking was new. She admitted that it was totally new to her, but since the TSA employees had been asked to “step up their vigilance” and had been specifically requested to “do unexpected things” it did not surprise her.
How do I feel about dog frisking? About as enthusiastic as I feel about any of the processes of airline security. It’s not any fun, but I comply.
How does Raja feel? He’s not thinking about it now, but it creeped him out. Since he’s a small globe trotting dog, his training asks him to be both friendly and wary. Although naturally inclined to be sociable, he needs to resist being picked up by strangers because he’s no Doberman.
What’s the message for canine flyers and their people? Just as the show dogs stand quietly while the judge “frisks” them to check their conformance, all dog flyers should learn to stay calm if a TSA employee decides to do something “unexpected.”
Challenges, challenges, challenges… Mikey Hicks, Raja knows how you feel!