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Man stranded at LAX for three months during coronavirus pandemic is almost home

A man and his dog at LAX
Seth Tom Davis was stuck at LAX with his support dog, Poppy.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

These are the kinds of problems Seth Tom Davis hasn’t faced since he left North Dakota four months ago and got stranded at Los Angeles International Airport during the coronavirus outbreak:

Where to buy pots and pans? Will the grocery store have Fritos and ranch dressing — key ingredients for his specialty, taco salad? And a new one: Are any veterinarian’s offices open during the pandemic to care for Poppy, his seizure dog?

Davis was on a long layover at LAX on Christmas Eve when he fell asleep and his wallet was stolen. The thief raided his bank account, hijacked his identity and waylaid the Social Security payments he and Poppy survive on. Davis has Asperger syndrome, epilepsy and dyslexia.

So, navigating the world can be difficult for him in the best of times. The last four months have been far from the best.

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After The Times wrote about Davis and Poppy and the months during which Terminal 6 was their home, bighearted readers donated more than $11,500 through PayPal and GoFundMe accounts. The problem, though, was that PayPal had frozen most of Davis’s funds.

But on Tuesday, after four days of work, PayPal was able to get Davis access to the money. The first thing he did was book a month at an extended-stay motel in Albuquerque, where he and Poppy have landed. That will allow him to hunt for an apartment that accepts federal Section 8 subsidies without having to worry about ending up on the street. The second thing was a grocery run, the third was a visit to the vet.

A man and his dog at LAX airport
Seth Tom Davis with his support dog, Poppy.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

“Our teams have been working closely with Mr. Davis for several days to alleviate the complexities and issues associated with his account,” said Bernadette Guastini, a PayPal spokeswoman. “It was never our intention to delay Mr. Davis’ access to critical funds, and we appreciate his understanding during these challenging and unprecedented times.”

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One problem was the pandemic itself. Because of coronavirus safety precautions, PayPal shut down its customer service phone line. And those seeking online troubleshooting faced lengthy waits. In addition, because Davis’ identification was stolen, the company struggled to validate his identity. And the flood of deposits to a new account, Guastini said, raised security red flags.

Tuesday afternoon Davis was relieved and exhausted. His temporary home, he said, is “good. I have a bed, a stove, a TV, a dresser and a bathroom and stuff. I have pretty much everything. I feel good. I feel really good.”

And Poppy? She’ll feel better soon, too. The diagnosis for her coughing, sneezing and lethargy was simple: allergies. The solution is pretty easy, too: Benadryl.

“I have to go find a place to get Benadryl and a giant bowl for taco salad,” Davis said, after they left the vet’s office. “Those are the best problems I’ve had in my life.”


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