Act I: Leaving on a Jet Plane
Entering 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