Although she is the joy of my life, sometimes traveling with a service dog is a pain in the arse. And unfortunately, it seems, I’ve traveled more in the last five years since I’ve had her than in the previous 20 years combined.
Traveling by car or train isn’t too bad, but traveling by air is a nightmare with all the new regulations since 9/11. You have to get there early, once you are in the secured area you can’t leave. God help you if your flight is delayed for hours, as ours was at least once. It’s that much longer your dog has to go without doing her business.
Fortunately, being an apartment dog, Friday is used to long hours without a trip out. But sometimes, it’s been a near thing. Going through security is a trip, too. Some of the screeners made me take her vest and collar off, and carry her though the gate. This is difficult for me because she weighs about 36 lbs. I’m just grateful she doesn’t wiggle when I’m carrying her. And then at the end of the line we have to both get dressed again.
She is a great attraction when we travel, all the kids want to pet her. I have a vest for her that says “Ask to pet me, I’m friendly,” and kids will come over and ask to pet her. Of course, she just hates all this attention. NOT!
But the worst trip we ever took was to a seminar on disability in Palo Alto, CA. This was sponsored by a local organization that didn’t have much experience in scheduling trips for disabled people. They were just cheap. Surprising, since all the people in the organization were disabled. The man I was traveling with had physical and mental disabilities, and he is the one who made the arrangements for travel. One of his mental disabilities is that he doesn’t recognize his own disabilities. So he booked us on the cheapest flight, which of course was a five minutes after red-eye flight. Which meant we had to be at the airport at four o’freaking clock in the morning. And took us to San Jose after we changed planes in Salt Lake City.
The first problem was that we decided to go to the airport by ACCESS, the local transporter for the disabled. It was the cheapest way for us to get out there. When I called to book the trip, I made sure they knew that I was taking a scooter, a walker, and a service dog. They sent a cab. Obviously, this wasn’t going to work, so I called them back, and they found a van to get us there at 5am, later than they tell you to be there, but then again, sane people don’t travel at that hour. Then there was all my luggage. He was used to traveling light with just a carry-on. Sorry folks, I need a suitcase for me, one for Friday, a travel case, and my CPAP machine, which you have to carry on or you may never see it again. I usually pack my meds in it as I’m going to carry it on.
Airlines try to stick those of us with service dogs at the forward bulkhead, where there is no room for them. You end up using your dog as a footrest. It’s uncomfortable with a small dog like Friday, I can’t imagine what it’s like for somebody with a German Shepherd or Lab. Or gods forbid, a Great Dane. The only people who could be comfortable with this situation is somebody with a purse dog.
Then there was Salt Lake City. It is no wonder the US airlines are going bankrupt when they force you to fly 1000 miles out of your way to get to where you are going. This is because they make you fly to their hub, and then fly to your destination. It’s a stupid system.
Of course, when we got to Salt Lake City, the other gate was as far across the airport as it possibly could be. Luckily, we aren’t talking O’Hare here, but some of these small airports can still be pretty spread out. I was riding my scooter, which helped, but my companion was walking. And he forgets that he has pain and overdoes things. Great.
So we get on the next plane, and we’ve been traveling for hours. And we finally get into San Jose. Once again, the organization is being cheap. Instead of paying for a shuttle for us to get to our motel with all the luggage, we have instructions to take the train to Palo Alto, and then the bus to our hotel. The head of the organization had made the trip the year perviously, and that’s what she’d done. As luck would have it, she traveled on a weekday, and we were traveling on a Sunday. Cal-Train doesn’t run that much on Sunday. We waited and waited. There was a bus that came a couple of times while we were waiting, and from looking at the route map, it looked to me like the bus would get us where we were going. But no, Fearless Leader, who’s cognitive impairments include an inability to adapt to new thinking, insisted we wait for the train. If Cal-Train hadn’t run a special train for football fans, we would still be there.
So we get to Palo Alto on the train, and then promptly have to back-track half the distance we rode on the train, on, ……………..wait for it…………the very same bus that came to the railroad station. I load my scooter on the bus, and am about to go push my walker, which has all the luggage on it, onto the bus, when I see that Fearless Leader has begun to carry my bags onboard, one at a time. Totally unnecessary, and of course, in doing so, manages to cause himself some pain. This does not bode well for the week ahead of us. Tune in tomorrow for more Travels with Friday.