When I first booked my trip to attend the BlogPaws Conference in Myrtle Beach, I thought my biggest obstacle would be overcoming my anxiety and fear of flying or overcoming my social anxiety. Boy was I wrong! Looking back, that was the easy part.
I experienced what NO pet parent should ever have to experience at an airport or anywhere for that matter.
FAT. SHAMING. ANIMALS.
What?! Yes, you read that correctly. Bruce Wayne was “fat shamed”. Not only was this actually said aloud by a human being, but by an airline employee, no less! At what point in society, did we think it’s okay to speak about someone’s body weight? At what point in society, did we think it’s okay to speak about a helpless dog’s body weight? At what point in society, did we begin to think that 6.5 pounds is “fat” for a Chihuahua?!
The Incident ….
As I said, I have a fear of flying. I have a fear of most things. It is a daily struggle sometimes to battle my Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But surprisingly, that’s not what I had to overcome when I arrived at BWI airport on May 17, 2017. For reference, Bruce Wayne is a certified Emotional Support Animal. I have a letter from my therapist stating that Bruce Wayne is needed to provide emotional support for my anxiety.
When I arrived at BWI, I went straight to the Spirit Airlines counter. Usually, I fly Southwest Air, however, Southwest Air does not fly to Myrtle Beach. This was my first time flying on Spirit Airlines. I had no prior experience dealing with the staff, but I chose Spirit, honestly, because they were the cheapest airline to fly into Myrtle Beach. Some would say “you get what you pay for”, but just because you fly a cheaper airline, does that give them the right to say inappropriate comments to you? While waiting in line for the next counter representative, the following conversation took place with a Spirit Airlines employee:
Yes, that’s exactly the conversation that took place. You may wonder how I could remember each word? I admit, I do not have a great memory. I can barely remember what I ate for dinner last night, however, that conversation is and always will be engrained into my head. I will never forget it, because I will never forget how it made me feel. I felt sad, I felt angry and most of all, I felt disbelief. Not only was a woman, from my hometown, calling my dog fat, but in some sort of twisted way, she thought I had an attitude and she was being “kind”?!
Again, I keep asking myself, at what point in society did we begin to think it is okay to fat shame animals? You do not know what anyone or any animal is going through. For instance, when I told Heather of Bridle and Bone, whom I met for the first time at the BlogPaws Conference, about what happened to us at the airport, she proceeded to tell me a story about a client of hers. I won’t go into all the details, as you can read it here, but long story short, someone had called her client’s dog “fat” when in turn, the poor dog had a mass on his liver. In Bruce Wayne’s case, he has been diagnosed with Atypical Addison’s Disease and his weight has always been a concern for me. It’s part of what keeps me up at night and fuels my anxiety, but by no means would I declare Bruce Wayne as “fat”. And even if he were, would I think it’s okay for an airport employee to comment on MY dog’s weight.
Spirit’s Response …..
I believe in giving an employee or company a chance to reply. I did not blog about this initially because I wanted to give Spirit a chance to gather their facts and respond. It would be unfair of me to call them out and not give them an opportunity to right the wrongdoing. I actually waited until I got home to write to Spirit. I wanted to cool down and didn’t want that experience to ruin my BlogPaws Conference experience. As soon as I got home, I sat down, gathered my thoughts and wrote to Spirit.
My initial contact was answered 2 days later by a guy named “Charlie” who asked for me details and said he would get back to me. I’m still waiting to hear back from Charlie. In the meantime, 6 days after my initial contact, a gentleman by the name of “Joe” called me on Memorial Day. Since I was with family, I did not pick up my phone, however Joe also sent me the following email:
Spirit issued me a $50.00 voucher as their way of righting the wrong. I eventually did make contact with Joe over the phone and was happy to hear about his Chihuahua. What I was unhappy with was that he could not confirm that the employee had actually been spoken too about the incident. It had been well into 2 weeks by this point and there was no actual confirmation that a supervisor had even brought this issue up with the employee. I wasn’t writing to get a voucher. I don’t even think I’ll be using it, as it expires pretty quickly and I have no plans of flying anywhere that Southwest Air doesn’t fly too anytime soon. I was writing to get some action. I wanted to make sure that this employee didn’t do this to another person or dog. I wanted to make sure that the employee knew that what she said wasn’t okay. Just because “it’s a dog” doesn’t give anyone the right to be so rude.
As I write this, I still have not heard back from Charlie, but I did hear back from Joe regarding my second follow up. I had asked for confirmation that the employee was actually spoken to regarding the incident. I received the following email:
Do I actually believe that the employee was confronted about the incident? No. Do I hope that I am wrong? Yes. I am not writing this for anyone to protest Spirit. I am writing this in hopes to change the way we speak to each other and the way we think. I’m not saying that you always need to be “politically correct”, as I know I’m not always, but what you should be is kind. Kind to one another and kind to animals. I hope this never happens to you. I hope that no one has to deal with “fat shaming” of any kind. We are better than that. And with that, I leave you with this thought: