Something very exciting happened yesterday – Wiley’s first plane ride! We had been in Sydney for a couple of days attending the Guide Dog AGM and staff training. We got a lift there Tuesday morning with one of our lovely colleagues – thanks Lindel! It was a long drive but Wiley happily snoozed the whole way.
However as Jo (the better half of the Jo Jo admin team!) and I were leaving a day before the rest of the ACT team we didn’t have a lift home. That meant catching a flight home.
I am not going to lie – all week I was a little nervous about the trip home. Wiley is generally a great traveller but the experience of flying is pretty left field of anything he has previously experienced.
A big concern for me was that our flight didn’t leave until 7:30PM. That meant a very late dinner for Wiley, something I knew would upset him. I didn’t want to feed him before we boarded incase he was sick on the plane. I compensated by giving him lunch – I also knew he’d be getting plenty of treats on the flight.
My biggest comfort was knowing Jo would be with us every step of the way – not only is she incredibly supportive I can count on her to laugh with me if things go horribly wrong.
By the time the actual flight came around I was too exhausted to be overly anxious, this was good as anxiety tends to flow down the lead to Wiley.
The cab trip to the airport was a long and slow one, thankfully Jo had sensibly given us two hours to make our flight so despite the terrible traffic we made it with plenty of time to spare.
We entered the airport and Wiley followed Jo to a counter, they looked at our bookings and said as we were flying with a dog we didn’t have to use the self check in and could go to the business counter to check in our luggage and be issued boarding passes.
Once again we followed Jo going around the maze of paths to get to check in. Everything went nice and smoothly. Wiley’s guide dog work was perfect, he got lots of compliments which was lovely.
Our next task was to get through security. We were ushered to s a special line. Our bags were put on the travel belt for screening while Wiley and i walked through the detector. Needless to say thanks to all the metal on his harness we set off lots of alarms. I had to stand while someone patted me down and waved wands around me. Wiley just stood there, I asked if they wanted to wave the wand around him but they said he was ok.
After a comfort stop Jo directed us to our departure gate where we sat and chatted until someone came to staff the departure desk. Our flight ended up running a little behind schedule as the plane we were catching arrived late.
There was a slightly anxious moment when it looked like the seat next to me hadn’t been blocked – meaning someone could sit there. When you fly with a guide dog they should be allocated the floor space in front of the seat adjacent to the handlers. The problem was quickly resolved and they kindly allowed Jo, Wiley and I to get on first. That meant we could settle in and I could have a personal safety briefing before the other passengers boarded.
I was a little worried when I realised we had to walk out onto the tarmac to get onto the plane. It was so noisy with planes landing and taking off. It didn’t seem to bother Wiley. I was doing sighted guide with Jo so he just trotted along beside us.
Much to my relief there was plenty of room for Wiley on the plane, I put down an absorbent mat I had bought with me and he flopped down, I think he was as tired as I was.
If there was going to be a problem it would be on take off or landing. I tried to create a positive experience by giving lots of praise and treats. Wiley hasn’t had so many treats in one go – ever! He was thrilled – in his mind I am sure a plane is a giant metal treat tube.
We were on a small D-8 plane so it was quite noisy, bumpy and my ears went funny on the way up and down. When my ears were uncomfortable I gave Wiley bigger treat pieces so he had to chew and swallow. It didn’t seem to bother him at all, although I noticed a slight amount of drool which is an indication he was anxious.
It was a quick flight – just enough time for a quick snack and drink before we were ready to land. Both Jo and I were very happy when the plane finally came to a complete stop. We waited until everyone else disembarked. It was lovely to have Jo’s family there to greet us, plus her boys were able to finally meet Wiley.
We collected our luggage, headed outside and met my friend and her dog who had come to give us a lift home. I don;t think I have ever been quite so happy to walk through my front door. It was about 9:30PM – the first thing I did was feed my beautiful boy. He had been so patient and well behaved, I couldn’t be prouder of him.
My endless thanks to Jo for all her help and wonderful company and also to the QANTAS staff who were professional, friendly and accommodating.