His name was Dexter. He was a peacock. And when a United Airlines passenger tried to bring him aboard a United Airlines flight, he became a symbol of everything that's wrong with airline passengers abusing the rules allowing emotional support animals.
Now the peacock's owner, a New York artist named Ventiko, says Dexter is gone: dead, but perhaps not quite yet buried, as his feathers adorn a little shrine in Ventiko's loft in Brooklyn.
Dexter rose to fame when Ventiko tried to bring him aboard a United flight from Newark to Los Angeles on Jan. 27. But both the artist and the bird were denied boarding, and Ventiko capitalized on the situation by posting pictures of the pavo cristatus from the baggage claim area on Instagram.
The photos went viral, and both Dexter and Ventiko got massive attention.
Which was quite likely what Ventiko intended, and to give credit where it's due, it's something she's quite good at. As Ventiko explained to the Los Angeles Times, she'd originally found Dexter in a Craigslist ad while working on a 2014 art exhibit.
"I scooped him up, and was like, 'Oh my peacock, oh my darling,' and he just, like, immediately wrapped around my neck and that was it," Ventiko told the Times back in March. "He would perch on my arm, and he just really became the true embodiment of the stereotype of peacocks -- representing beauty and just loving attention."
After United turned them down, Ventiko told the Times, she drove across the country with a friend, mostly with Dexter sitting on her lap. She also said she'd previously flown with Dexter on a Delta Airlines plane--carrying him in a dog kennel during that flight.
On United, she tried to buy him a seat. But United wasn't having it.
"The animal did not meet United's guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size," a United spokesperson said at the time.
In the wake of some highly publicized emotional support animal incidents, airlines have banded together to try to at least limit the emotional support animal madness. And it seems that Dexter's quixotic effort to fly the friendly skies helped drive the movement.
Last month, I reported how Airlines for America, the airline lobbing group, used Dexter as Exhibit A in a 39-page position paper to the U.S. Department of Transportation, practically begging for more reasonable rules to let airlines restrict emotional support animals.
"It strikes most people as absurd that, under DOT's current rules, airlines must consider allowing, for example, pigs and birds to travel in cabin on a case-by-case basis," the airlines wrote at the time.
Since then, the DOT has amended the rules a bit, and airlines have rushed to restrict them as much as possible.
On the big four airlines, for example, you can no longer bring exotic animals aboard and claim they're there for emotional support, but you can still bring emotional support dogs and cats, with some restrictions.
Which means the new rules wouldn't have banned the dog that viciously attacked a Delta Airlines passenger last year, or the dog that bit a 6-year-old girl on Southwest Airlines, or the emotional support cat that caused a 15-year-old girl with severe allergies to leave an Alaska Airlines plane recently.
Dexter, for what it's worth, was not allergic to cats.
He and Ventiko lived with two rescue cats in her Brooklyn loft. One of the cats can be seen in the shrine photo that Veniko shared after Dexter's reported death.
Posted on Instagram, naturally.
Where the peacock had 17,000 followers at the time of its death.
Here's Ventiko's post. As crazy as the episode that sparked Dexter's fame was, let's hope he rests in peace.