Major on the moon

Tackling our 3rd reader question today, and it’s a good one dealing with “life with a service dog”.

Pasha-Anna Federov asks: “I would like to hear your thoughts on travel with a DAD, amusement parks, airplanes, long car trips, zoo/fair with lots of other animals around. Also, does Stella go to sleepovers, or visit grandparents without you? And, if so, what happens to the dogs? Do they go with her? Stay home with you?”

Another great question. We travel everywhere with a dog, and often we have 2. As I touched on last week here, some people think it would be really fun to travel with a dog. And while you get used to it, (so much so that when you don’t have one you feel naked) it is an awful lot of work, and requires an awful lot of logistics.

We have 2 bags we normally carry. My wife has the diabetic supplies (extra sites, insulin, meter, Gatorade, snacks, etc) in her bag, and I carry the dog back pack which has a “place” blanket, shoes, collapsible water and food bowl, water, food, treats, poop bags, a reward toy, and more, and sometimes double if we have both. If we are going somewhere over night, we have to bring a crate with us too.

8275518763_8cefc21981_bOur dogs have been everywhere with us, long car trips to Vegas, planes back to Boston and Mississippi, Disneyland, Seaworld, there aren’t many places these dogs haven’t been. Each outting has special considerations to be aware of.

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When flying with a service dog, the dog stays with us in the cabin. They don’t go in the cargo hold, or need to be in a crate. With a service dog, often yu are allowed to board first, so you have the possibility of taking the bulkhead seat with the extra leg room. I prefer a standard row so I have access to a table. Major is just find tucking under the seat in front of me, one of the HUGE benefits of not having a large service dog. When traveling with a service dog, you may (or may not) be required to remove all their gear, harness, collar, leash etc. Then the dog will be required to sit and wait while you go through the metal detector, and then you will call your dog through. Give yourself some extra time when traveling with a dog to get through TSA screenings. When we fly, we cut food and water off from the dog and make sure they have gone to the restroom prior to going through screening. Traveling back east with a layover can be an 8 hour trip with no grass in sight, and it isn’t as easy to go outside as it once was. Several airports now have indoor potty spots for dogs, so you may want to see what is available.

When staying at a hotel, remember it isn’t like being at home. Housekeeping will be coming into your room, and they often leave the door open. If you travel with your dog,  plan on always taking your dog with you. The housekeeper can’t be responsible for keeping track of your dog, and they may also be startled by seeing a dog in the room (especially if it’s black). At the very least, have a crate with you, so that if need be, the dog can be in the crate. But again, think twice before leaving your dog in the hotel room.


Major on Smallworld


I can’t believe you are letting her drive!


6787964720_65d3f3c719_b(1)When visiting an amusement park, check to see if there are any on-line forums that discuss service dogs at that park. It helps to know prior to arrival what rides the dog can go on, and where the areas are for the dog to relieve himself. There is a lot of info on-line for places like Disneyland. At the So Cal Disneyland, the dogs are allowed on Pirates of the Caribbean, Small World, Jungle Cruise, Autotopia, and a few others. But the dogs aren’t allowed on the roller coasters, so if you plan on going on Space Mountain or the Matterhorn, make sure you have an extra body to wait with the dog. It is my understanding that on some of the rides, there may be a kennel available on some of the rides to leave your dog so you can go on, but we haven’t been since that started. Also be aware that Disneyland is cracking down on fake service dogs, but of course, none of you would do that, right? Disneyland is a long day for a dog. Think about your house pet, and how often he naps during the day, or needs to go out in the yard. Our service dogs are often moving all day long, with only the briefest of opportunities to rest. It isn’t a normal dogs life. And always remember to have water available for your dog, and on hot days, shoes are a must.

7645075986_ae3f9d879a_bWe have never taken our dogs to the zoo. The zoo is a tough place for both the service dog and some animals at the zoo, and often requires a previously arranged set up with some zoos. Sometimes the zoo will require you to have an escort, and you may not be able to enjoy the whole zoo. Please check with your zoo prior to going.

1119867_660547930640109_1014978786_o 6531275403_24992e9578_b 820839_572618846099685_1210343979_o 886749_590228184338751_1023318156_oWe have been to many aquariums and museums with the dogs. The aquariums are much easier than zoos, the fish, dolphins, and whales don’t mind the dogs. However, there was a sea lion at the New England Aquarium that really thought Major was an escapee and tried to alert the authorities. 🙂 Please be prepared to be as interesting or even more-so  than some of the exhibits. These are all places where a dog normally isn’t seen, so often we are stopped and asked questions by the general public. And if the dog is wearing shoes, forget it. Know that when you travel with a service dog, it will seem like you have a large neon sign strapped to you. My particular family has never had an issue with employees anywhere, or with trying to get into someplace. We have been asked the “questions“, and we have answered them and been granted access, with no issues.

8484234624_089c5a5854_oOn long car trips, just like with kids, plan on making a stop along the way to let them stretch and go to the restroom. If you plan on stopping to eat a long the way, make sure you have access to their harness so you can put it on them before entering a restaurant.

I don’t think we are all that different from many T-1 families when it comes to sleepovers. Stella (she is 10) has never had one, and she has not spent the night away from us since diagnosis, with the exception of diabetic camp, where she was VERY well cared for. We are considering letting her have some friends over to our house for her birthday, but she won’t be going elsewhere just yet. We have on occasion left her with a grandma for a couple of hours while my wife and i have gone out, and we leave Major with them too (or if the babysit at our house, than all the dogs are there) Major will alert to Stella’s grandmothers, and he will alert to her when we are not around. We always brush them up on his alerts before we leave so they know what to look for, and we don’t want them to ask Major to show if it is a high or a low, just to check Stella. If she is fine, they know to recheck in 10 minutes. Both Grandma’s love the dogs, and they don’t mind them coming to their house with the kids.

Hopefully that covers some of the different scenarios with traveling with your service dog. As alwyas, if you have more questions, please ask.


Team Blackdogsrule

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  1. So, I clicked on the link regarding questions you have been asked and I have to say….minature horses? Seriously?! That is a new one to me. How long has it been since Stella was diagnosed? My daughter was diagnosed 10 years ago (today, as a matter of fact), when she was 2. We let her start spending the night at her aunt’s house when she was around age 10 and she has one friend that she spends the night with. In both cases, the adults were willing to learn about glucagon and were willing to do night testing. I am curious, will there be a time do you think when you would consider allowing her to spend the night at someone else’s house? I know, it is really a leap of faith to do so. Thank you for being so open and sharing your adventures with us.

    • Stella is 10, and yes, at some point there will be an overnight. She spends 5 nights at camp every summer, and we have a couple of friends that are either type 1 families or are willing to learn what it takes to care for her. But she hasn’t asked, and we aren’t pushing. 🙂

  2. Christina Milburn

    I just want to confirm that there are kennels at some of the roller coasters at Disneyland. I was just there in August and while i don’t have a service i did notice those who did. On the matterhorn roller coaster there was a kennel at the beginning of the roller coaster that i saw someone place their service dog in while they rode the ride. After seeing that i started noticing the kennels at other rides. I think its great that disney does this.