airplane aisle

When a Flight Attendant Realized How a Dog's Yips Affected My Son


Our flight to Florida was a full one. My 10-year-old son Wil, who has Down syndrome, was sandwiched between his 11-year-old twin sisters, Katherine and Elizabeth, in a three-seater row. I sat in the same row just across the aisle from them. We had made it through the first two hours of the flight without incident. With only one hour to go, a tiny dog started to yip. It happened to be in the row directly in front of my kids.

Wil is sensitive to noise, especially high-pitched noises. I asked Elizabeth to take Wil’s noise protector headphones out of his carry-on bag. She was able to find his headphones quickly, but he was already in such an agitated state that they did not calm him down as they typically do.

After some shuffling, I was able to help Wil from his seat and pull him to mine across the aisle.

Almost immediately, a flight attendant was standing by my seat, blocking Wil’s view from the still yipping dog. The flight attendant handed Wil a packet of pretzels, then discreetly showed me the snack size Milky Way bar she was holding (in nonverbal fashion of asking my permission). I nodded yes.

“Here, Wil,” she said. “This is what you do. Take a bite of pretzel, then a bite of chocolate. It’s the best.”

Wil was immediately intrigued by this and calmed down. The flight attendant continued to stand there, blocking Wil’s view of the dog that just would not shut up already! I asked the flight attendant’s name, and she said it was Marcie. I thanked her for her kindness. She stayed and chatted with Wil, asking how old he was, what was his teacher’s name and what he liked to do for fun. Though the high-strung dog never stopped its banter, Wil (with headphones still on) was now freely answering Marcie’s questions with only a few sideways glances in the dog’s direction.

Our plane’s descent was soon to come, and I knew Wil would need to return to his seat. Thanks to Marcie’s kindness and two extra Milky Ways (“for later,” she said with a wink), Wil returned to his seat between his two sisters without fear. Katherine and Elizabeth also received compliments and Milky Way bars from Marcie for being wonderful sisters.

The dog owners never apologized. Maybe they were embarrassed or maybe they figured it was not their problem. I don’t know and never will. Yet without their dog, Katherine, Elizabeth, Wil and I would never have known Marcie. For the first two hours of our flight, she was a friendly flight attendant. Her smiles, as welcoming as they were, would have no reason to stay in our minds. The dog incident is what prompted me to ask Marcie’s name so I could thank her personally for her forthcoming kindness.

Thankfully Marcie attached herself to this memorable flight, turning it into a very good one, indeed.

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