My wife and I were recently having dinner at a restaurant up in the Bay Area when a woman came in with two emotional support dogs on leashes. I’m not all that conversant with dog breeds, so I’m not sure what sort of breed they were. They were both sausage-shaped, low to the ground, slow-moving, and had legs short enough to grace a centipede. Both of them looked like they could have used their own emotional support dogs.

The sight got me thinking about the oddity of emotional support animals. Yes, I’m afraid I’m not that empathic of a person. Do people have such animals because they’re limited in their human relationships? Were emotional support animals common back in earlier centuries?

Hannibal: This is my emotional support elephant.

Medieval Peasant: This is my emotional support chicken, which I’m going to eat for my last meal before I starve.

Cleopatra: This is my emotional support viper…ouch!

Emotional support animals seem to be regularly making the news in the context of air travel. “Man Ejected From Plane After Emotional Support Llama Ate Passenger’s Hat.” That sort of thing. I wonder when, or if, World War III happens, historians will look back and discover that an emotional support animal was the initial culprit. Perhaps a ferret running amok due to unanticipated proximity to someone wearing too much perfume, bites occur, confused screams of terrorism, total pandemonium, the plane crashes into a parade being hosted by the prime minister of a Balkan country, etc, etc. Sabers start rattling, someone pushes the wrong button, war…

At any rate, what I want to know is if the person behind the counter at check-in ever asks, “Now, ma’am, can you specify exactly which emotion of yours this animal supports?”

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