(TMU) — Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Chicago to Omaha were recently treated to the pleasure of seeing an unexpected—and adorable—miniature horse on board.
The service animal, named Flirty The Mini Service Horse, delighted passengers who captured video of the tiny pony and shared it online in footage that has now gone viral.
While many have confused Flirty with an emotional service horse, Flirty is acgtually a seven-year-old miniature service horse who has provided mobility assistance and medical alerts to Hensley since 2017, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a “final statement of enforcement priorities” last month clarifying that miniature horses are allowed to board commercial planes alongside cats and dogs.
Flirty was accompanying her owner, Abrea Hensley, who was flying out to visit her aunt. Hensley has been recording her travels alongside Flirty on Twitter under the handle @FlirtyTheSH.
In a tweet posted on Friday, the Bellevue, Nebraska native said:
“Flirty and I took to the skies, yesterday! It was a great experience and I learned a lot. Flirty was FANTASTIC and handled it all like a pro. That being said, I’m going to keep traveling by car, it’s just easier on Flirty. Flying will be reserved for emergencies and such.”
Flirty and I took to the skies, yesterday! It was a great experience and I learned a lot. Flirty was FANTASTIC and handled it all like a pro. That being said, I’m going to keep traveling by car, it’s just easier on Flirty. Flying will be reserved for emergencies and such. https://t.co/AHfHXpoU2V
— Flirty The Mini Service Horse (@FlirtyTheSH) August 30, 2019
Despite Flirty’s great behavior, the two still encountered slight difficulties. Hensley wrote:
“Because my airport is smaller, the planes are smaller and don’t have solid bulkheads. Flirty couldn’t help jostling the seat of the person in the last row of first class every time she moved.
Once we got up to cruising altitude, she took a nap and was very quiet. But she had to rebalance quite a bit while ascending and descending and kept bumping the back of their seat through the curtain ‘bulkhead.’ She did such a good job of handling everything, though, I’m so proud of her!”
The American Airlines flight crew also shared a photo of Flirty on an Instagram story from their “AA Stews” account.
Here is a great picture of Flirty and the flight crew from our return flight! They absolutely loved Flirty. pic.twitter.com/QfavxFj0B2
— Flirty The Mini Service Horse (@FlirtyTheSH) August 31, 2019
Twitter user Evan Nowak, like several other passengers, posted video footage of the well-mannered horse standing before Hensley’s feet at the front of the plane.
Nowak posted the video along with Lil Nas X’s hit song “Old Town Road” and the caption:
“At this time we would like to begin boarding with any active duty military, families traveling with children under the age of 3, and horses…”
“At this time we would like to begin boarding with any active duty military, families traveling with children under the age of 3, and horses…” @AmericanAir @LilNasX @barstoolsports @BarstoolILLSt @realslimshanny @UNITEDA1RLINES @billyraycyrus @SouthwestAir @TSA @Kat103Omaha pic.twitter.com/qVRLCH4IFc
— Van Novak (@ecnowak) August 30, 2019
While many were delighted by Flirty’s presence on the flight, social media users predictably spewed vitriol at Hensley and her service animal. Mistaking the small pony for an emotional support animal, users subjected Hensley to “three straight days of harassment, insults, threats, sexual harassment, and misinformation being spread all over the internet and even the entire world,” she said.
One Twitter user wrote:
“People who need ‘emotional support’ animals shouldn’t be flying. I feel sorry for your poor horse and that person in first class whose flight you ruined.”
“Well, it’s a good thing she’s not an emotional support animal, then!”
Service animal and emotional support animals serve entirely different functions, with service animals undergoing strict training for the purpose of assisting people with disabilities with specialized, specific skills.
In another tweet, election lawyer J. Christian Adams attempted to pin the blame for Flirty on former Attorney General Eric Holder, tweeting a story he wrote for far-right news site PJ Media that attempts to advance the theory that the Obama administration advanced a “radical” agenda to transform commercial planes into de facto flying zoos, disrupting civilization like the “barbarian invasions and slave revolts” of the past.
“Years ago I warned that Eric Holder’s radical policies would lead to horses and pigs on airplanes so crackpots could fundamentally transform the plane cabin. Now @FlirtyTheSH fulfills that prediction.”
Years ago I warned that Eric Holder's radical policies would lead to horses and pigs on airplanes so crackpots could fundamentally transform the plane cabin. Now @FlirtyTheSH fulfills that prediction.https://t.co/6hAh4FwR12
— J. Christian Adams (@ElectionLawCtr) September 2, 2019
A user responded:
“Methinks you’re just agitating for attention, pesty J. As far as ‘crackpots’ go, I’d say you’re talking to the mirror on that one. Service mini horses have been flying since the 90s. They live about 35 years, which means they have a much longer work-life than service dogs.”
Indeed, miniature service horses have roughly three times the working lifespan of service dogs, and are trained in a highly similar way.
A spokesperson from American Airlines told the Independent:
“This miniature horse was a trained service animal, which American Airlines accepts onboard following evaluation on a case-by-case basis.
We recognize the important role trained service dogs, cats and miniature horses can play in lives of those with disabilities and they are welcome in the cabin, at no charge, if they meet the requirements.”
While it may be impossible for the online peanut-gallery of haters and ableists to understand, Flirty is a crucial asset to people with disabilities such as Hensley. Service animals like Flirty make it possible for all kinds of people to enjoy the world in ways that they never could before.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.