One Life to Live
March 19, 2013
Take Care
March 29, 2013
One Life to Live
March 19, 2013
Take Care
March 29, 2013

Travels with Tommy

Act I: Leaving on a Jet Plane

tommyplane1Entering the airport felt like stepping onto a movie set. Heads turned to catch a glimpse of the celebrity. Cameras flashed. Oohs and aahs escaped the lips of other travelers who slowed their hurried pace as they passed by us.

In addition to this ‘puparazzi,’ all that is crazy-busy about airports drove Tommy’s sensory gage toward the red zone. I used my soothing voice to reassure him as neon lights blinked from all directions, suitcase wheels rumbled from behind, beeps rung out from unidentifiable sources. And the smells. Multitudes of smells.

Still, my star companion listened to my cues as I directed him through the scene. He stayed in his service role despite a nervous start and in the end, gave a stellar performance.

The Team Tommy Travel Awards

Excellence in Boarding: Tommy
Practice paid off. I’d been backing and tucking Tommy between furniture, into nooks, under tables throughout the house to ease our squeeze into our row on board.  We stepped down the ramp, over the scary gap between ramp and plane and up to Row F without incident. With a right turn, back, back, back, down, Tommy was in his locked position for takeoff.

Note to those who are approaching their first travel with their service dog:

–        While I felt as though I were cutting ahead in line by boarding the plane before my row was called, it’s much easier on the dog as well as fellow passengers to do this turn and back-up maneuver before others are in their seats or hovering to load up the overhead bin.

–        Adult legs fit over the dog, feet under the seat in front; child legs fit above, feet dangling between seat and dog. Preteen legs, however, land at about rib cage, which brings me to my next category:

Winner: Most Bendable: My eleven-year old
Not only did he gracefully climb over me into the center seat, he spent the flight shifting between his knees up or feet tucked under his seat in what little space was left from the bag of the person in the next row back. Being plugged into his music the whole time help keep him oblivious to any discomfort.

Badge for Preparedness: Me
The contents of my carry-on included:
–        Light blanket: It outlines Tommy’s space, provides a bit of cushieness for those big elbows, creates a barrier between him and the array of who-knows-what in the  carpet, and is there for warmth when the cabin gets cool.
–        Cookies: Essential. The human kind and the dog kind.
–        Stuffed toy: He didn’t play with it, but I think it provided comfort as a familiar smell.
–        Wipes: Super essential. Drool happens.
–        Badge, prescriptions, a meal or two’s worth of dog food (delays happen).

In addition, a restroom stop before boarding kept me from needing the facilities on board. Not only would Tommy follow me and need to be retucked into position, I haven’t quite worked out the down-stay with a door between us (Danes are agile, but there’s no way he’s fitting in that lavatory with me.)

Best Supporting Role: My husband
Porter, blocker of reaching hands while in line, gatherer of the bin items from security, tall guy willing to squish into the window seat with a giant dog’s backside under his legs, and all-around “of course we can make travel work” go-for-it, positive attitude,  he’s the embodiment of the saying “There’s no “I” in team.”

Surrounded by leading men: not a bad way to travel.

Next posts will cover more tips and tales of travel with a service dog:
Act II: It’s all relative
Act III: There’s no place like home


  1. Shelley says:

    It makes me cry, all the great guys you have!

  2. Mary says:

    Thank you for sharing your plane trip with Tommy. Was this is 1st flight? I like how you explained how you got him settled on the floor. I wondered how Carlene traveled with Lulu to California, but I imagine just like you did with Tommy. I hope he enjoyed his flight.

    Please tell us more about his and your travels.


    • Renee says:

      Mary, I’m overdue on telling the second half of my travel story. I shall report in soon – perhaps following the story of how he escaped from the vet (that one’s a scary story!).

  3. mike murphy says:

    Love your story! I am at the very start of working with k9’s for patriots. I suffer from PTSD and in the very beginning stages of training my now 13 week old male harlequin. I am very familiar with the breed as I have had them in the past (non-service dogs). Already anxiety filled, I am very nervous about getting on an airplane in the years to come to visit family. I’d love more tips on anything you have done outside of flying that might make life easier for me (you seem more prepared than I ever will be). You have already shared so much but anything else would truly be highly appreciated.

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