Hi, This Is My Emotional-Support Tarantula


There are countless stories of musicians having trouble getting their instruments on airplanes. Even though the American Federation of Musicians’ has helped make it legal and easier for musicians to carry on their instruments, the stories continue.

While I have a relatively small instrument that fits in the smallest of commuter jet’s overhead compartments, I still get hassled now and then.

“You’re going to have to gate check that,” and “Whose violin is this?! I can’t fit my roller bag in the overhead!” have become my monthly norms as I travel for my living as a professional violinist.

Upon reading The New Yorker’s article by Patricia Marx about society’s latest craze of designating people’s pets as Emotional Support Animals (ESA) I was astounded how easy one could go about acquiring the proper documentation.

Marx shared her own experiences of taking a turtle, alpaca, snake, pig, and a turkey through various places, including restaurants, museums, and airplanes. The pig got the airplane ride.

While the article was hilarious, the more I thought about it the angrier I got. How is it that what I need to take with me for a living, (and yes the violin pays the bills which keeps me emotionally supported) gets trumped by a pig?

The hypothetical side of me started asking the questions. What if I had an Emotional Support Animal that lived in my violin case? Or What if my Emotional Support Animal could wear a vest that would happen to hold my violin case?

Maybe a chinchilla would be awesome; it could be tucked in my violin case’s music pocket. Its dual purpose of ESA would help get the violin on board with my emotions calmed, and then it could serve as my adorable hand warmer. Or how about a hermit crab? It could cozy up next to my rosin in the small compartment of my case. Or maybe I really do need a pig. I could put a big vest on the pig which would have compartments for my violin on one side and clothes on the other. That way, my luggage wouldn’t get lost either.

Or the extreme, “Hi, I am taking the violin on board, it will go in the overhead just fine. You should know my Emotional-Support Animal, my tarantula Trina, lives in the case. She keeps me calm and I have a letter to prove I need her. I’d be happy to open the case to let you see Trina and her adorable ESA vest she sports, or you can let me carry my already approved violin and case on board without further discussion.”

I am working...
Please do not pet Trina, she’s working.

I don’t want to go the spider route, but as I see people taking every other kind of animal on my jet commuter flights, I might just start shopping in earnest. And if I do get an ESA, I’m buying a Go-Pro camera to capture every awesome moment.

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

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6 thoughts on “Hi, This Is My Emotional-Support Tarantula”

  1. I’m a cellist living just up the road in Knoxville. I am also a teacher who has to travel for workshops and summer institutes, and I love what you have written here. I’ve been advocating for musicians on planes for a few years now, and I am about to resort to an ESA, and try to keep a better sense of humor. Thanks for this piece!

  2. Loved this article (as well as the New Yorker one that she mentions)!! Today’s news had an article about a woman wanting to fly with her (uncaged) emotional support peacock. Prettier than a spider….


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