Well, it seems like it will always be eventful with a guide dog. Carmel behaved very well overall at the conference, better than I thought she would. But, I have to be honest-it is really hard traveling with a guide dog. I know however that this will get better. Several friends have told me so. And, of course as Carmel gets older she should calm down somewhat. Wait, that hasn’t worked with me-the older I get I get more enthusiastic. LOL. Anyway, here’s the bad thing that happened, since I am trying to keep it real. On Friday evening as we were headed back to our hotel Carmel decided she wanted to go a different direction than I was going-and she led me right down a flight of
stairs. Fortunately I have some pretty good balance, because I managed to keep myself to
only falling down the first 3 or 4 steps, and got myself sat down so I would stop falling. I couldn’t say how it all happened, it happened so fast, but Carmel was very upset. She was shaking, and right in my face. So, before anything, I found myself calming her down and letting her know I was okay. After I made sure I was okay, my ankles were both hurting, but I was able to get up and walk fine, we proceeded on. Now, I should have retraced our steps and made her do that again, but it was just not the time for me. I went back to the hotel room, fed and parked Carmel, took a long hot shower, and ordered room service. The next morning when I woke up I was fine. Thank God.
The trip home from Littlerock went better than the trip there. Carmel behaved much better-even though it was a much more stressful day. Saturday morning we went over to the conference center to say our goodbyes, especially to our friends at Seeing Eye, who were exhibiting and presenting at the AER conference. We arrived at the airport a couple of hours early and I managed to return some emails. Then we met some colleagues from the conference and talked a lot. They told me tht Carmel put a smile on everyone’s face who passed by.
Our flight was delayed, so I was concerned about Carmel needing to relieve herself. I asked the gate agent if I could just take her outside of the jetway area and they said no. It was just too far and long and complicated to take her all the way out to the front of the airport-and to repeat security again. So, as I was boarding the plane (Carmel again went into the cockpit to look around), the flight attendant asked if I had taken her out. When I said no he said he would see what he could do. A few minutes later he came back and told me the pilot said he would take her out if I would let him. So, I handed over Carmel on her leash. The entire plane watched Carmel relieve herself. It was hilarious because they were saying, she’s doing a number one, she’s doing a number two—hilarious. The co-pilot came on the loud speaker and said-we are ready to go as soon as our pilot and last passenger board. Carmel raced up the aisle to me-so excitedly.
The flight went fine-Carmel acted a lot better.
Once we got to Atlanta, we had very little time to make our connecting flight. We ended up racing through the airport, with a wonderful lady we had met in Littlerock (who also attended the conference), and we got there to be at the back of the line that was boarding. Now, when we got on board Carmel greeted every single passenger as we went down the aisle. I finally said “everyone, it seems my dog would like to greet all of you, I apologize to you all, she is just so excited to meet new people”. They all seemed really happy to meet her too. It was a bumpy flight and we ended up spending about an extra hour in the air circling til a storm passed in Tampa, but finally we got home.
Sunday we relaxed all day. I didn’t even take her out for her normal long walks. I was exhausted and just wanted to rest.
Overall traveling with Carmel provided me with a greater feeling of confidence and independence, but it was a lot of work too. I am glad to be home. I now know a few things more that will help for the next trip.
I did tell someone that this past week really was beneficial to me though because I do believe it helped me build a greater level of confidence in traveling with a guide dog and enhanced some of our skills. Becoming a guide dog handler was the right choice for me-and that becomes clearer with experiences like this trip.