MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On any given day, or any flight, chances are pretty good there’s a dog on board.
For $125 each way, Deb Pullen is happy to pay to bring her Maltese along as a carry-on.READ MORE: 'She Was A Jewel': Community Holds Vigil For Victim Of Quadruple Homicide
“He likes to travel,” Pullen said. “No one’s really said anything, but some people ignore him and others just go nuts over him you know, and want to talk about him.”
Chris Heeter is a well-known leadership speaker from the Twin Cities. With the help of her rescue dog, Tuu Weh, she entertains and motivates through her message of experiencing the wilderness.
“It’s her story that’s so compelling,” Heeter said. “And then typically I also have someone come on stage and put a sled dog harness on her as part of the story. And then she goes out and visits people.”
Her Retriever mix was rescued from a South Dakota Indian reservation, where Tuu Weh was likely hit by an automobile and lost an eye.
Despite being malnourished and abandoned, Tuu Weh has the softest, most loving disposition a pet could have.READ MORE: Woman Critically Injured In Minneapolis Shooting
When Heeter found out about Delta Airlines allowing certain celebrity dogs to travel in first class, she tried booking two tickets for an upcoming speaking engagement in Dallas. LEAD2015 will feature former President Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker.
Working through her travel agent, they tried to get Delta to allow Tuu Weh the special exemption, but she doesn’t fit the airline’s restrictive definition.
“She would have to be a celebrity of her own right, like recognizable without a person attached,” Heeter said. “And they didn’t think she qualified for that.”
That’s when friends launched an online petition drive on Change.org, hoping to get Delta to reconsider. Heeter says she’s not angry with Delta, just puzzled over the narrow meaning of what constitutes dog fame.
Delta Airlines says it understands Heeter’s dilemma and the special bond all owners have with their dogs. A spokesperson said the company tries to be as pet-friendly as possible, but the airline has allowed very few celebrity dogs to travel over the years primarily due to obvious safety concerns of having a large, unrestrained dog in the cabin.
“She really is a celebrity, so I just assumed she’d be going and traveling in the way in which is accurate for her,” Heeter said.MORE NEWS: Twins, Lynx, And Gophers Take Home Weekend Wins
The few cases of celebrity dogs that have flown over the years were approved by the FAA on a case-by-case basis.