Service dogs take flight

Service dogs take flight

Can Do Canines’ assistance-dogs-in-training boarded a mock Delta airplane at the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport to destination: nowhere. The non-existent flight earlier this summer was part of the nonprofit organization’s training program to acclimate future assistance dogs to an airport, TSA security, and the inside of an airplane. 

Can Do Canines works with the Minneapolis Airport Commission and Delta to make these “Flights to Nowhere” possible. “These trainings are very important because many of our clients travel with their assistance dog. Being certain our dogs can perform their often life-saving skills in a busy place like an airport is vital,” said Kaity McGinn, Can Do Canines staff member. 

Can Do Canines offers Flights to Nowhere five times each year. Since 2014, staff members have coordinated the two-hour sessions and offering them to foster volunteers (and occasionally, certified clients). The registered group meets for the “fake flights” at Terminal One of the Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport. Dogs and trainers are escorted together through the airport, go through all the normal security procedures, visit the pet relief station, and ride the tram to a special, private room. There they board a previously used plane fuselage that Delta Airlines has donated for various types of flight training. (Read more about the simulator in Regional News.) 

Although Flight to Nowhere is not part of certification for the dogs, dogs aged 7 months and older, usually pass the experience with flying colors.  

Lisa, who has hearing assist dog Cleo, said that the Flight to Nowhere “definitely helped to get a feel for how the process works going through TSA, talking with gate agents, and how the dogs fit under the seats in the planes.” Lisa and Cleo have taken about 45-50 flights together. Cleo is a big help, whether by alerting Lisa to someone calling her name in a noisy airport or by picking up a dropped item so Lisa doesn’t have to risk experiencing vertigo.  

“I feel much safer and more confident traveling alone when Cleo is with me,” said Lisa.