Dogs have their day as the guides meet other passengers, enjoy sun and fun en route to Mexico

Nancy, Clarance and Telly-the dog guide
Nancy, Clarance and Telly-the dog guide

Today was the day for dog guides to meet about 100 human Star Princess passengers. My dog guide, Telly led me to

 the pool area shortly after 10:00 a.m. where the gathering was held. Before we stepped through the heavy metal gate, I removed Telly’s harness so he would know he was completely off duty. My wife Nancy and I were among the people who would help to answer questions. We were surrounded soon after we stepped onto the pool deck area. Telly and all the guides where true celebrity.

Questions came at us from different directions: Always the first question, Can I pet your dog? I answered; this is a good time to pet my dog as he is not in harness. When the harness is removed, the service animal is not working and it is okay to pet them. Then, where does he relieve himself on board ship? How often does he eat and what do you feed him? Do other people try to feed your dog? What kind of dog is he? Where was your dog trained?

The dogs relieve at any of three designated areas on deck seven. Telly eats twice a day, even on board. I’ve packed his food in individual plastic bags and he eats high quality dry lamb and rice dog food mixture.Unfortunately, some people slip Telly food or attempt to feed him. I prefer to be the only person to feed my dog guide; it’s important for bonding and he gets sick when fed unfamiliar food by strangers. He’s a yellow Labrador Retriever. He was trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind, a wonderful dog guide program with campuses in California and Oregon. Telly was trained at the Oregon campus and graduated in 2004.

Somewhere in this crowd were the other dog guide users, probably answering similar question. Our Dimensions in Travel tour guide, Irene, told us that as many as 100 dog lover passengers wanted to meet our unique working dogs.

One person who talked with Nancy stated she trained dogs at Guide Dogs for the Blind. They sat off to one side, as this passenger didn’t want to interrupt my conversation with other inquisitive fans of service animals.

After an hour, all the guide visiting passengers were asked to leave the deck so that the dogs could have some free time to run, stretch their legs and play. The shallow pool was covered with a rope mesh to prevent any dogs from falling or jumping in. The deck area was secured with a high exterior fence which kept people and dogs from falling overboard.

We unleashed our dogs after the last visitor left. I told Telly to go and have fun. Telly stood at my left side as some of the other dogs took off running and playing with one another. One dog, Smithers from Canada, immediately jumped into the pool. The crew staff jumped in and untangled Smithers from the rope mesh. They quickly got the refreshed dog out of the pool, to his disappointment.

Maybe Telly will play if I walk away from him, I thought. Instead, at his own pace he just walked across the deck and plunked down on the pool deck. Telly seemed to enjoy just soaking up the warm tropical sun. I wondered if he was thirsty and took him to water. Once done lapping it up, he found a nice place to lie down again.

Granger, a dog guide from Ireland, tried to get Telly to play. I tried to get Telly to play with Granger’s tug toy. Telly showed little interest. He clearly wanted to sun himself rather then play with the other dogs.

There is something wonderful to be on one of the top decks among sunbathing dogs and dogs at play on a large ship bound for Mexico. The motion of the ship didn’t seem to affect the dogs in their activities.

We met people throughout the day who wished they’d been able to meet the dogs. I assured them there would be another chance to meet the dogs would be offered later on the cruise.

We took in one of the lounge shows that evening. At the end of the performance the pianist came over and talked with us. He joined in our conversation with three British flight attendants. The four of them had lots of questions about Telly. We didn’t make our way back to our stateroom until 1:00 a.m.

I was used to the motion of the ship, a slow gentle back and forth glide through the water with ship generated waves. I was used to the feeling of an up and down motion as we moved forward through the calm blue Pacific. I was now aware our ship stood motionless in the water. The air around us was much warmer then yesterday. We would take a van tour of Acapulco the next day. I often wondered what Telly was thinking of all this fuss and commotion? I know he enjoyed his time at sea!