CONCORD, Calif. (KGO) — When you take a flight, you expect the airline to take you home as well. But that didn’t happen for a furry passenger – a service dog and beloved pet who nearly got stranded overseas.
It was very traumatic for the family of “Coconut”. They flew with their dog to Romania, but when it came time to go home, the airline wouldn’t let the dog on board.
Veronica Burdeti of Concord couldn’t imagine life without Coconut, the family’s toy poodle who has grown a little too big.
“It was really stressful for me to think he wasn’t coming home,” she said of her ordeal. “I told my husband that I was 100% sure that God sent me this dog because I needed him.”
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Coconut has become more than a beloved family member, a passionate companion and cuddly pet – Burdeti says it saved his life.
“In September I was diagnosed with cancer,” she said.
When Burdeti fell ill, Coconut responded.
“I had days where I wouldn’t move from the bed and I didn’t feel well. He was by my side 24/7. He sat by my bed all day,” said said Burdeti.
When she wanted to give up, Coconut took matters into her own hands.
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“I had a very bad experience. I went into depression and had suicidal thoughts,” she said. “He got me out of bed every morning for a walk. Forced me. So he kind of saved me. I started noticing the flowering trees, the flowers, the birds.”
The experience gave him new life. And in May, the family flew to their native Romania for a visit, with Coconut sitting on their laps on the plane.
“Coconut was really happy. He was really enjoying the freedom in Romania. He was running in a field,” Burdeti said.
Then the troubles started. Without explanation, Lufthansa Airlines sent an alert: no dogs are allowed to fly until August 31, three weeks after their scheduled flight.
“And I said to my husband, ‘It must be a mistake,'” Burdeti said.
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She told Lufthansa that Coconut is a service animal and should be allowed on board.
The airline sent her an email saying she needed to produce a certificate from a dog training center.
But Burdeti had trained the dog herself.
“I was like, ‘You let me travel with the dog to Romania. You’re not allowing me to travel with the dog to the United States?'” she said.
She says other airlines would only ship Coconut on its own – a risky 11-hour flight in a cargo hold.
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“I prayed a lot. I prayed a lot, ‘Please God let Coconut come back,'” Burdeti said.
By now, many in his town knew of the little American dog stranded in Romania.
“Everyone, like friends in Romania, keeps calling,” Burdeti said.
A Facebook friend suggested 7 On Your Side. We contacted Burdeti in Romania and Lufthansa in New York. Soon a solution was found.
“And I was like, ‘Yeah! We can take Coconut home. We can be back home,'” Burdeti said.
Lufthansa booked the dog on its flight. All had returned home.
Burdeti says people in Romania are now asking, “What is 7 On Your Side?”
“Yeah, they all know you now,” she laughed.
Apparently, a whole town in Romania, called Clug, has now heard of 7 On Your Side and wants to say thank you.
This is a warning: countries and airlines have different rules for traveling with your pet or service animal. Lufthansa and other airlines do not consider “emotional support” dogs to be service animals, but they can fly as pets.
Read Lufthansa Guide “Traveling with animals” here.
Read Ministry of Transport information on international travel requirements for service animals here.
Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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