Monday, February 4, 2013

Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder!

Making airplane reservations is always a daunting task, but especially when you factor in flying with a guide dog in training! Nevertheless, this week Dorian (pup in training) and I managed to secure our reservations. In March we will fly from Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina to Los Angeles for a 10-day visit with my Dad, sisters and brother. For me as a puppy raiser, this now makes about 25 air commutes where I am accompanied by coated canines. The majority of the flights were long coast-to-coast trips:  Alaska - North Carolina, or North Carolina - California. A few were shorter - to Chicago or Tampa, Florida.

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!"


  1. How nice that you have such pleasant experiences with the airlines. We have without fail had one good leg and then one awful leg on our trips. We just seem to have one attendant who doesn't recognize that guide dogs in training are in fact legitimate and it makes for a stressful time. Do you bring a crate with you as luggage? We did our last two trips, but for this Christmas we were thinking about just getting one at our destination. What do you recommend? I'm adding you to my blogroll on the side. Love your blog. It's so soothing! And I didn't know Southeastern send puppies up to Alaska!! Will you be coming down for the walkathon?

  2. No, I don't bring a crate. Mostly I use a tie-down. My pups sleep in our bedroom on a tie-down and so they do well traveling with one. If I have to I borrow a crate from friends / family. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll and thanks for the comments.
    No, the puppy shipped to Alaska was our our first puppy with Guide Dogs of the Desert. Southeastern does not ship puppies.
    Dorian and I come IFT April 20. Never been to a Walkathon, but maybe someday. They sound like fun.

  3. I love finding new puppy raiser blogs! Do you mind if I add you to the blog roll?
    Also, it is TSA guide lines that they are not allowed to ask you to remove any of your dog's gear, but just have to pat them down. I will be flying to return my puppy in August for the first time, so I am always glad to get tips and such on traveling with them! Do you have any experience with AirTran? I have never flown them, so I am a little nervous.

    1. Hi Hannah, You must be with Southeastern guide dogs? Thanks for adding me to the blog roll. Sorry, I don't think we ever flew with AirTran. As long as you clear that they allow service dogs in training in the cabin all should be fine. Be sure to call ahead and get bulkhead seats if at all possible. Dorian and I flew United last week - they were fantastic. We ended up having a whole row to ourselves, which might have aroused just a little jealousy in the ranks. :)

    2. Thanks! I actually raise for Canine Companions for Independence, but know a few great people who raise for SEGD. :-) When I called AirTran, they were great, but I know that they are merging with Southwest soon, so that had me concerned as I know that they do not allow puppies in training.
      Thanks again!