Friday, October 11, 2013

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Dewey Takes Flight: Taking Your Guide Dog Puppy on an Airplane

Disclaimer: This blog is written purely for entertainment purposes. It may contain excerpted and abbreviated accounts of events and should not be construed as a reenactment of the actual event. Author is prone to exaggerate for comic effect.

Our last meeting was at the St. Pete Airport where Dewey was able to experience the wonders of travel, without the crowds (or expense!).  It was a major meeting with all for puppy groups from Pinellas County showing up.

Some of the raisers walking with their puppies down the hall of the airport.
We met at baggage claim and then we all proceeded to security where we lined up to be scanned.

Fred and Dewey wait patiently to go through the security scanner.
Dewey was paying very close attention to Fred, which was a good thing as going through security you need your dog to be focused on you and the commands you are going to be giving them.

Dewey is watching Fred intently.
Here is the process for taking a guide dog puppy through security.

  • Leave the collar, leash and coat on. 
  • Put your dog in a sit.

  • Tell your dog to stay.

  • Walk through the scanner yourself.  Your dog should remain on the other side in his stay.

  • Ask your dog to Come to you. 

  • Depending on whether they have a buckle collar or a martingale or training collar, they may need to be patted down.  Have them hold a Stand while the TSA agent does this.  Try to prevent any licking! 8-)

Most of our puppies, like Dewey's sister Bridget, made it through security just fine!!

A close-up of the lovely Marcie, a yellow lab.

Fred walking Dewey out to the Allegiant plane.

Melisa, Brian and Fred and their pups in front of the plane with the sun in the background.

Melisa, Brian, Fred, Blair and Julie and pups in front of the plane.

Blair walking Sheba up the planes ramp.
We also all got to board a plane and have the dogs sit in a plane and experience walking down the aisles.

We had the pups experience the loud baggage claim area.  Dewey did great!  He wasn't scared at all of the noise or the turning belts.

Dewey staring at the baggage claim belts.

Dewey sitting by the baggage claim belts
It was an amazing meeting.  Great exposures and wonderfully organized!!

Here is some other info for flying with your dog that we have gathered over five puppies:

 We have had several experiences flying with our Southeastern Guide Dog puppies
and even thought the airline was the same, it really all came down to the personnel.  We always used US Airways and for the most part, they were great.  It was the return flight that was generally the problem (they weren't used to service dogs like Tampa people were).  However, we just recently had a raiser in South Pinellas group who had an incredibly bad experience with Southwest Airlines, that I just have to share: No Fly Zone!  

The TSA also has a general list of rights and guidelines of what their handlers can and will do when you and your service dog are going through the line.  It would be a good idea to make a copy of this webpage and have it in your purse/backpack if it seems the TSA agent is unsure how to pat down you or your dog.  It never hurts to be prepared.

I always have copies of shots and a note from the vet stating that the dog is good to travel.  This info is not required, but is nice to have on hand just in case. In addition, you can request an airline access letter from Southeastern (ask Katie Young) and that will detail you and your dog's credentials.  This letter must be requested at least 2-3 weeks in advance of your travel date in order to give them time to prepare and send it to you on letterhead.

Another thing I have found to be very helpful is knowing where the relief stations are.  It used to be that you could ask for a supervisor to escort you and your pup out onto the tarmac just before the fight and they would take you (they did this with Bingo, but not with Berkeley because of the Xmas underwear bomber.  They won't do that anymore in most cases.)  It was nice, because a lot of relief stations are back behind security!!  Now someone has come out with an app for finding those relief stations!  The app is called Where to Go.  It was created by Working Like Dogs and there is an app for the iphone and the android. 

So, if you are making reservations and you are taking your pup, be sure to do the following:
  1. Send in a request for an airline access letter to  the appropriate person at Southeastern Guide Dogs at least two to three weeks BEFORE you plan on traveling.  She will be able to get you a letter on official letterhead attesting to your status with Southeastern, your dogs credentials, etc.
  2. Don't choose Southwest. 
  3. Do choose United/Continental who officially supports Southeastern Guide dogs in training or US Airways (I've had good luck with them).
  4. When making your reservations, tell them that you are bringing a service dog so that they can indicate that on your reservation from the very beginning.
  5. Download the Where To Go app
  6. Make sure you have all your documentation and also have duplicates in some other location as well.
  7. Have a back up plan in case something doesn't go right at the airport.
  8. Relax and enjoy your vacation.

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