The ticketing agent looked at me, then down at Perceval, then back at me. Her eyebrows edged up toward her hairline and she opened her mouth.
I handed her a small white business card.
I am a Service Animal and my handler and I are protected by the ADA in all 50 states, the header read in small, neat black lettering.
“Ah-um.” The airline-issued ascot tie at the woman’s throat bobbed nervously. Her plastic name tag said “Sally”. Perceval twitched his tail, almost bumping into a pink suitcase and the young, very nervous-looking little girl holding it. A small trickle of blue smoke rose out of Perceval’s nostrils. The girl giggled. Her parents glared at me.
“Easy boy. So sorry,” I said as I turned back to the counter where the woman’s mouth still swung slightly open like a ventriloquist doll. “You were saying?” I reached over and tapped the next few lines of the card with my index finger. It read:
You May Ask:
- Is this a Service Animal?
- What Tasks does the Animal Perform?
“Umm, what tasks does the—”
“Yes, I see, dragon — er — perform?”
“He sits,” I said, “and he’s got anti-flame tablets for the flight.” I patted Percival’s scaly head and felt the thrumming of his contented rumble through my fingers. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the little girl edging closer, eyes wide with wonder, her parents buried in their phones.
“He normally breathes fire?” asked the ticketing agent. “Why would you need it to do that?”
“Him,” I said. “His name is Percival. He’s an Icelandic miniature.” I sighed and reached out a patient hand to tap the card again.
You May NOT:
- Ask about my disability
- Discriminate or charge extra fees because of my Service Animal, regardless of breed or size.
- Require proof of training
I watched the other passengers give my ticket station a wide berth. There was a reason I always arrived early for my flights. I lightly drummed my fingers on the counter.
Sally’s smile was plastic. “One moment.”
I felt a tug on my jacket. The little girl’s nervous frown was replaced by a smile. “I think he’s cute,” she said, her brown eyes sparkling. “I’ve never seen a dragon before.” She stood on her tiptoes and whispered conspiratorially, “This is my first plane ride. I’m very scared. But I feel better flying with a dragon!”
“Olivia!” hissed her mother. “Don’t get too close. They let people bring anything on a plane these days.”
I smiled. “You’d better go back to your parents.”
Olivia scooted back to her family and twiddled her fingers at Perceval. He blew a smoke ring out of one nostril.
“Easy…” I scratched him underneath the chin. The sapling-sized tail thumped. The girl pulled on her mother’s hand, “Can we sit next to the dragon? Please, mom?”
Her mother shot me a look that could incinerate. The little girl was now bouncing on her tip-toes with excitement and I felt the warmth of her joy light up the cold airport.
“Yes, okay. Okay. Thanks a lot.” Sally dropped the phone back in its cradle and plastered on her customer appreciation face before turning back to me. “My supervisor wanted to thank you for being a continued customer. Here is your ticket, sir, please enjoy your flight.”
Believing that adventures are best experienced first-hand, Jillian Wahlquist is an avid historical re-enactor, medieval sword fighter, and world traveller who has been writing stories for as long as she can remember. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her delightfully nerdy family and dog Leia.