Monday, February 4, 2013
Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder!
Ready to begin his journey to Alaska, 6-1/2 month Dorian (Southeastern Guide Dogs) is on a down / stay outside a Raleigh-Durham Airport terminal. This picture was taken last July.
What a great education air travel is for both puppy and raiser! For the puppy it is a non-stop day of training. Airport sights, sounds and smells abound, from the clack-clack-clack of suitcase wheels in the terminals to the crush of entering and riding on trams and elevators, to the sensory experience of "busying" in designated airport pet relief areas.
In the security lines, the pup gets another lesson in waiting patiently. The line moves slowly but suddenly it's time and the raiser is depositing shoes, backpack and laptop, emptying pockets, etc. into the bins and onto the carousel. Because the leash and collar contain metal, they come off too. Then it's time to go thru the x-ray scan: first the pup is put on a down/stay while the handler goes thru, then the handler calls the pup thru. Sometimes the puppy is given a once-over examination by security (dog reads: petting), an experience they love!
Husband Frank with Dave, our Southeastern Guide Dog pup in training, 2008. We have just flown into Chicago O'Hare Airport. Now that his plane flight is over Dave gets his food and water, which explains why his coat is off.
You might think this would all be sensory overload to a young service dog in training, but I've found the opposite to be true. As long as you are calm and matter-of-fact, the pup takes his cue from you. All eight service dogs we've flown with have taken the experience in stride, and many have thoroughly enjoyed it! As we quickly walk through the terminal, I glance down to check the pup's reaction to all the comings and goings. His body language tells you all is OK: the shine in his eyes, the proud carriage of his tail and the smart trot all say to me, "Hey, this is cool! What an adventure we're having!"
By the time you board the plane your dog is ready to curl up and take a long snooze while the low rumble of the jet engines sings him to sleep.
"Sleep tight, Davey, we'll wake you on touchdown!"