Walking a dog through airport security

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <>

Many years ago, when Bertie was still a young dog (and we lived with my parents), we used to drive across town to the airport to meet my mother, whose hectic travel schedule had her returning at all hours of the night. We learned to time our drive so that we would reach just as she walked out of the terminal, but we spent many hours loitering near the airport before our timing became that good.

This was in the late nineties, some years before the construction of the new Terminal 3. The Delhi Airport was still surrounded by little patches of scrub forest and agricultural land, criss-crossed by winding roads and dirt tracks, with hardly any traffic at that hour. The security presence outside the airport buildings was minimal. If you were unlucky, the solitary police car on patrol might ask you to move along… but not actually wait around to make sure you leave.

One foggy winter night, Bertie and I arrived early at the airport, and were not in a mood to drive around. We paid for parking near the terminal and wandered over to the exit, settling down to wait near one of the railings that separated arriving passengers from the crowds that didn't want to pay to wait inside the arrival hall.

A disgusted huff from Bertie made me look up just in time to see a small dog being carried through the metal detector in its owner's arms, and set down inside the entrance. A dog! Well, we had nothing better to do than to go over and see if the guards would let us in. They said no, of course, but they had no answer when I pointed silently at the little dog trotting around inside. “You'll have to get permission from the director of security”, they said, hoping that we would go away.

These days, there are elevators to take you from the arrival terminal to the departure terminal above. Back then, at terminal 2, there were only some poorly-lighted stairs, and the security director's office was near the entrance. I left Bertie sitting outside by the office door, with his leash on the ground, and went in to ask for permission. The director was amused by the request. “He's perfectly well-behaved”, I said, “Look, he is sitting quietly at the door to your office”.

Some minor functionary had just entered the office, and confirmed that a dog was, in fact, sitting outside. The director eventually acquiesced, after I protested the unfairness of only my dog being denied entry. Had Bertie actually been visible, she may never have agreed, but she was busy, and granted permission, perhaps with a mental image of a dog being carried through the metal detector.

Predictably enough, the guards at the entrance didn't believe me when I returned, but they did let us in reluctantly after a call the office upstairs confirmed my story. By then, we didn't have too long to wait.

My mother's look of delighted shock when she saw both of us waiting inside the arrival hall made the whole adventure worthwhile.