My dog guide ate a smaller portion of his dry dog food the night before we left for San Francisco. He would eat less and relieve more prior to our flight so there’d be no accidents on board the plane. No breakfast for him on trip day. He’d eat when we got to our hotel.
Our cab came promptly at 7 a.m. We locked up the house, switched on the security alarm system and bade farewell to our home for the next 14 days. Good-bye Minnesota and hello California.
The three of us filled the back seat of the cab, my wife Nancy on one side and me with my dog guide on the other. There was no comment from the cab driver about my dog guide. “That’s a good sign,” I thought.
After pulling up in front of Northwest Airlines Terminal, our cabbie helped us bring our luggage inside. My dog found a nice spot to relieve before we entered the building. No place to relieve himself at 35,000 feet in the air.
We walked up to the ticket agent, she asked for our picture identifications and boarding passes. “Nice dog,” she said. “Do you need to see my dog guide’s identification?” I joked. “Not necessary.” She tagged our luggage. Mine may have been slightly over the weight limit, but she didn’t charge me for extra pounds. The 22 small bags of dog food really added to the weight.
The agent told us to wait in the lounge and signaled to her right. I thought my use of a dog guide was a clue that I was blind. Did the ticket agent get the clue my wife may be extremely nearsighted as she held print material a couple inches from her face. I am totally blind and Nancy is legally blind.
Since neither of us could see where the ticket agent pointed, we asked for more specific and clear verbal directions. It was a mere 100 feet, at most. She said an attendant would be with us soon to walk us to our gate. It seemed like a lot longer then a half hour had passed and I got a little nervous. Would we miss our flight? I went back to the ticket agent’s window and I asked her if she forgot about us. She told me to go back to the lounge and the attendant would soon come and escort us. He came about ten minutes later.
The four of us walked what seemed like a long ways to the gate. We stood behind other people in line as we waited to move forward through the security check.
“Take off your backpack and put it on the conveyer belt or in the plastic bin. Remove your belt. Take off your shoes. Take off your fanny pack. Empty your pockets in the plastic bin. And take off that thing hanging from your neck; what is that?” “My Braille Note Book, it’s like a compact computer, but without the screen,” I said. I pulled the strap from around the left side of my neck and placed it with the rest of my belongings inside of the plastic bin.
Nancy was already seated and waiting for us even before we went through the scanner. The security check for me and my dog began as Nancy made herself comfortable. She always gets through the security gate without much problem.
The security agent asked me to hand my dog’s leash over to him. I requested to keep my dog at my side and both of us passed through the electronic scanner together. My dog’s metal collar set off the alarm. So we were asked to step to one side for a more careful screening. A different security agent came over to me and asked to pat me down. He ran the wand around my body. “Stretch your arms straight out from your shoulders and hold them in that position while I check you over.” “Spread your legs apart.” I was patted from top to bottom, front to back. Next, he asked me if it was okay to touch my dog guide. The wand was floated over the surface of my dog’s fur. His hands searched along my dog’s body.
I asked Nancy how it went for her to have gone through security. “No problem.” She couldn’t resist joking, “Both of you must look like some kind of derelicts.” When we were done I picked up my things and we were on our way again.
Our escort took us to the plane. My dog usually stops where there’s a gap in the connection between the sections of the passageway. I encourage him and he carefully steps over the gap as if it’s much larger then an inch. After boarding we found we weren’t given the seats we requested and needed. I always ask for the bulkhead so my dog can lie at my feet. The seats we were given were too close together and there wasn’t room enough for my dog to lay for the more then three-hour flight.
The flight attendant moved us to a bulkhead seat. The three of us had a much more comfortable seating arrangement because of that change.
The plane started down the runway a half hour late. My dog guide didn’t move from his curled up position on the floor as the plane gained speed and altitude. Once we leveled off, the warning systems shut off and we could move around the cabin.
The flight attendant seemed nervous around me. When I asked to use the bathroom, just five steps from where we were seated, my dog wanted to be right there to guide me.
After landing, we needed to get to the luggage claim. I asked a flight attendant to get an escort for us. After we retrieved our luggage, the escort loaded the two heavy suitcases onto a cart and we headed for the shuttle service to our hotel. We had to cross one lane of traffic to get to the island that was between traffic lanes and the terminal sidewalk to catch our shuttle.
The worker gave us hand signals about where to wait and call for the shuttle. He told us we needed to use the phone to call for the shuttle and he walked away in silence. The phone number for the shuttle was on the voucher, but the print was far too small, even with magnification, to read. We were left stranded, alone, on the island between traffic and in the wrong location. We searched for the correct place to catch our van. Since neither of us could see the signs, we’d go from shuttle stop to shuttle stop in search of the one we needed. “Hey there! — Are you going to the Radisson at Pier 39 in San Francisco?” It was hard to pull our heavy, seemingly heavier wheeled suitcases from stop to stop, a hundred feet one way and a couple hundred feet the other. My dog guide was as bewildered as we were. Another attendant came to our rescue. She took us to the correct spot, more than several hundred feet from where we were initially left stranded. The van came within ten minutes. We loaded our luggage and hopped in. Ten minutes later, we’d be at our hotel. What a relief. We made it.
The hotel staff checked us in, gave us our room keycards and told us how to get to our room. One of the staff walked with us to our room I asked her about outdoor relieving places for dogs. She told us about some good areas around the corner of the hotel. Both relief areas would be visited a lot over the short time we’d be at the hotel.
Before we went off for lunch, my dog guide would get his late breakfast of dry dog food with warm water that made a nice gravy mix. He was very delighted to finally eat; it had been a long trip for this partner as well.
The next notebook segment of my journal will be about our first two days on board ship