Travelling with a Guide Dog

Wiley and I have had a busy but enjoyable week. There will be a few posts about what we have been up to but I wanted to start by sharing what it is like to travel with a Guide Dog.

Our latest trip was a flight to Sydney for work. We were scheduled to depart Monday afternoon. I think I have mentioned before that it is difficult to pack light when you are travelling with a Guide Dog. My bag was again full of things for Wiley, I wanted to make sure he had everything he needed while we were away.

I have equipped myself with some great luggage. I have my usual over the shoulder bag/treat pouch, another over the shoulder laptop bag and a big backpack. What this means is that I can carry everything whilst still leaving my right hand free to give hand signals to Wiley while he is working.

I caught the bus from Yass into Canberra where mum and dad picked me and took me to their place so I could do some work before heading out to the airport to catch my flight. Mum and Dad dropped us off at the airport about an hour before our flight. I always like to make sure there is plenty of time for check in just in case there is an issue with me taking Wiley on board.

As we had flown several times before Wiley easily guided me into the terminal and took me over to the QANTAS area of the airport. A QANTAS staff member approached us to ask if we need assistance and they took us over to the check in counter.

I confirmed Wiley had a seat allocated to him and checked my big back pack so I didn’t have to carry it around anymore. I was asked if I needed assistance to get to the departure gate. I asked what the gate number was, it was one we usually fly from so I said we’d be fine to get there ourselves. It was really lovely being asked if I wanted assistance rather than having the assumption made I needed help.

Wiley and I made our way to security, another helpful staff member helped me put everything on the conveyor belt. We stepped through the screening arch together and as expected we set off the alarm thanks to all the metal on Wiley’s harness. I stepped off to the side for a pat down (nice to be the one patted rather than Wiley). Again someone helped by collecting all my gear from the conveyor belt and we were on our way.

We found the gate and I listened to an audio book until it was time to pre-board. The flight to Sydney was uneventful, Wiley was very settled, happily ate his treats during take off and landing and spent the rest of the flight snoozing. Here is a photo of him waiting for take off.

Wiley on the floor at my feet on a plane

Wiley on the floor at my feet on a plane

As per the usual protocol we waited and disembarked last. I was met by airport staff who kindly took me to the baggage collection area, found my bag and escorted us to the taxi rank. I used the follow command so Wiley went wherever they did making things nice and easy.

I took a taxi to the campus where I was going to be staying for the next couple of days. I had arranged to meet the course convenor our the front and they took me to my room, described the layout and left us there so I could get settled in and most importantly feed Wiley.

After a couple of great days it was time to head back to the airport. I had just gotten into the taxi when I received an email saying my flight was delayed. It was a little disheartening to know I was going to have an almost four hour wait for my flight.

Once we got to the airport I sought assistance as I didn’t know where the QANTAS check in desk was located. On check in I was very kindly offered entry into the QANTAS Club which I gratefully accepted. We had an escort through security and into the lounge where we were well looked after by some lovely QANTAS club staff as well as other travellers.

There were lots of questions about Wiley which along with my audio book helped to pass the time. My biggest concern was the fact Wiley was going to be fed really late. I thought the best thing was to give him a small dinner portion and then feed him the rest when we got home. I always have at least one and sometimes two spare meals to deal with these types of situations. The small portion was enough to keep him from being too unhappy and settled during our long wait but wasn’t enough to cause tummy issues when flying.

Again we pre boarded and someone came to collect us from the lounge. Unfortunately there was a bit of a mix up with the seat allocation so I had to move seats, I was very surprised when we were given a seat at the bulk head in business class. There was so much room we both became a bit disorientated. We quickly figured out how he could safely remain in one spot and be given treats so he was happy and I had a lovely comfy seat to enjoy during the flight. Here is a photo of Wiley in business class, thought I’d better take a picture as it is likely to be the only time we travel business class!

Wiley travelling in business class on a QANTAS jet

Wiley travelling in business class

Our disembarkation was a little different to usual, normally Wiley and I walk down the stairs but on this occasion there was a person who required wheelchair assistance on the flight so we used a portable lift thingy which was an interesting experience.  It was a little loud and unsteady but Wiley was a good boy and laid down as it was moving. I love having a food motivated dog who is easily rewarded so I can create a positive experience during potentially scary experiences.

My wonderful parents were there to meet us (I had told them the flight was delayed) even though by this time is was past 10PM. I have never been so happy to get back to my parents, where I fed Wiley, took him out to toilet and then fell exhausted into bed.

The great thing about this particular trip was that I gained confidence in our ability to cope with change. It will give me more confidence the next time we fly.

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