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 metal...like 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.