Monday, April 25, 2011


Flying with a dog can be a hassle, flying with a Service Dog can be rewarding but is still a pain in the butt.  Here are a few hints for those of you flying the first time.

Food, if you are going on a long trip, or multiple planes it is suggested that the dog should have their last meal 12 prior to your flight.  Limit water during this time too.  Ice chips when you get close to landing, depending on how much of an iron bladder your dog has.

Be prepared for stupid "requests" from the TSA.  They don't see many of us and really have no idea what to do.  So off came my shoes, Spirit picked them up and put them in the basket and we walked forward.  As I came up to the scanner a TSA agent walked forward with his hand out and gave this lovely "request".  He asked me to remove my dog's harness, boots and ANYTHING else that had his collar...and leash.

Um....I'm disabled...he has gear on for a REASON!!  And loose dog?!?! Is that anyone's idea of "safe".  I looked at the agent, with sarcasm and disbelief dripping off the tone of my voice and asked him if he was willing to be responsible for my $30,000 dog in case something happened? Was he willing to walk me the rest of the way to the scanner?  Did he know what he was asking me was illegal and akin to asking me to disassemble a wheelchair?  Really?

So the dance began. He got puffed up and snippy.  I ask loudly who was his supervisor.  He was waved over and a hushed conversation was initiated.  His supervisor said, in a carrying voice, that I was correct and that the dog would be patted down on the other side.

So we came to the archway, Spirit went into a "sit-stay".  I walked through and then called Spirit over.  Another agent on the other side waved me to the "pat down" area.  She tried to catch the eye of the supervisor, who just waved at her and then turned his back.  The poor woman's hands were shaking.  

Because I could sit I asked her if she wanted me to remove his harness (remember Spirit wears cloths, so she wasn't able to see his fur) to make his pat down easier.  She asked to have his boots removed (I drew the line there) but lifted each leg so she could feel the bottoms of his feet.  She called to the supervisor to say she was done, he asked if she had looked under his chest (which she hadn't) so I had him stand up with his feet on my shoulders.  

When she saw how tall he was she paled even more, but gamely patted him down the rest of the way, very quickly.  As I snapped his harness back on she let me know that she was terrified of dogs.  I smiled and told her these were the least scary dogs out there.

As I left, I wondered what she would have done if George hadn't  washed out and she would have had to pat down a 85 lb "pit bull"?

So onto the lovely underground train where we went and got squished, though on the way off had a lovely chat with a couple that are puppy raisers for CCI and admired seeing a good team out and working (they had witnessed our little TSA pat-down) and had never seen a Standard Poodle as a working dog.

When I walked into the terminal toward my gate, I started looking for the pet relief area.  This is something you want to prepare for.  Some airports have them after TSA and some have them before.

Google the airports that you are flying to/from or click this: "Pet Relief Area" to find out where the pet relief zones are.  Please make sure you are looking at the right section of the airport.  When I printed it out for Dullas I was so happy that there were three spots, one looked to be right across to where our gate was. . .I had the international map. . . totally different layout.

And, no one knows where they are at.  Not the helpful "information" people, gate guards at 9 out of 10 gates you ask at.  The non-disabled have a completely different idea what "close" it compared to those of us with mobility challenges. 
So yes, we had to hike to the far end of the airport before our cross country flight. Which I guess is a truism everywhere.  When you need the bathroom it is always at the far end of wherever you are. 

But it was the coolest dog potty zone anywhere!  It was in it's own room.  You walk in, then open a "gate" and step up onto a astro turf area with a fire hydrant in the middle of the room.  Bags are provided along with a high power hose to rise off the area.  Then you get to push a big red button (once off that area), the grass floods and the entire area "flushes". Spirit was fascinated.

The flight back was easier (thank you mom for the front row first class seats!) and Spirit went into sleep mode.  My brother wanted to interact with him halfway through the six hour trip.  I was like "Dude! Let him sleep!" the last thing we need is an 80 lb poodle deciding it is "play time" at 32,000 feet.

When we got home it was total play time with the brothers furry and I finally got to kiss my George between the eyes and had my wiggly, pitty cuddle.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Naked Puppy!!!!

Yeah! Today was bath day.  We are all getting ready for another cross country flight so Spirit had to get all gussied up.  

First there was the bath: "I don't want you to wash my face!"
Then the dry: "Hey!!! Get that thing away from my ear!"
The the clip: "Are you done yet?

After that we hopped out of the tub and he thought he was finished. . .boy was he wrong!

We went to the other end and handed him off to the groomer where she did his - face: "not the lips!" 
his sanitary: "Do I have no privacy?" 
to the feet: "It tickles!!!"

Here he is all nice and clean:

"Really? please lets just leave o.k. mom?"

"Oh there is a yummy trachea involved? Why didn't you say so!"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Training with Friends - It's all about shoes again

Today my friend Sara (an assistant trainer here in Baltimore) came over and we kidnapped my brother's dog Koda.  My brother bought him shoes (see back onto shoes again) and tried to get Koda to wear them.  He wasn't successful.

Most Service Dogs are introduced to shoes early in their life.  Because they are out and about more so than the average dog, the shoes protect their feet and provide traction on slicker surfaces.  But as anyone who has tried to put shoes on an older dog. . .well it's kind of funny.

So armed with treats we tackled Koda.  Here are some steps if you are introducing a dog to shoes.  You will need:
  • A friend - As you put the boot on one foot, they will hold the corresponding food up also.  This keeps the dog off balance and keeps him from pulling his foot back and out of your hand (as you are stuffing their foot into the shoe and Velcroing them in).
  • Cookies - Lots and lots of cookies.  Make them small and high value.  This can be anything from dried chicken to diced hot dogs.  
  • A room with room - A clean & clear distance for you to throw the cookies and for your dog to run on.
Now if the friend also wants to run a video camera...

So, how do you do it?  Put one shoe on. Once it is secure throw a cookie about a foot away from the dog.  Repeat and throw at different distances.  Wait until it looks like they are using the paw normally.

Put on the next shoe.

I tend to start with the front feet.  It seems that they have an easier time putting down the front feet in comparison to the hind feet.  Once you dog is accepting the front feet fully booted, move on to the back.  This is where most dogs get the weird, high stepping walk.  Ignore it and keep tossing those cookies!!!  

Once they are moving normally in all four boots, leave them on for awhile.  Once the dog settles down, remove the boots and treat and tell them they are a good dog.

To get this behavior to stick, you should repeat the whole booting experience daily until they walk normally once you have put the boots on.

Spirit was watching all of this and started to mope, so we worked on some targeting.  Koda was right next to us watching (Hey, Auntie Art had cookies and some might come his way again, you never know), so I went ahead and tried to see if he understood what we were doing, and he did it like a champ.  Who knows, laundry might be next!

Sara's little dog Parker was there too, bossing the big guys around.  We went out and played in the back yard.  Koda and Parker ganged up on Spirit, who then started rolling on the ground.  Both Koda and Parker looked at Spirit and backed up and said "Nevermind", while Spirit said "Hey!! Come back!!! I made myself shorter for you!! Attack my tummy!!!!!"

Koda's brain and body were totally exhausted.  He will sleep well tonight!

can't a guy just sleep?