We’ve been in Washington DC these past few days. We took the train up on Saturday. It is a 10 hour trip, as we take the train that stops all over in North Carolina. There is an 8 hour train, but it leaves in the middle of the night!
The train ride was fairly uneventful except for two things. First, one of the stops where we were allowed to get off the train and take a stretch break had grass!!! So Hestia got to pee. So nice for her not to have to hold it the whole 10 hours.
Second, there was a man on the train that kept walking by us and having full on conversations with Hestia. I was watching shows on Netflix, and so just ignored the man every time he did this, and Hestia of course ignored him, too. Well one time he apparently decided conversations with a service dog weren’t enough. I was sitting in the window seat, and the foot area of Brad’s wheelchair was next to me. I was watching my show when all the sudden this guy leans completely over Brad to try to pet Hestia! I blocked him and told him no, and he didn’t understand. It took a couple of minutes of explaining that he could not pet before he left us alone, but I’m still not sure he understood the concept that you don’t pet service dogs.
When we arrived at the hotel we had big problems. We hate staying in pet friendly hotels because they always try to charge us a pet fee. This hotel wasn’t any different. They wanted to charge us a $200 pet fee. Eventually they relented and said they wouldn’t charge us. But then they wanted us to sign a pet agreement! We refused. We tried to explain that what they were doing was illegal, showed them the laws, etc. But no, their hotel policy is more important than the ADA apparently…..
It took us over half an hour, and they called their manager three times. In the end, they agreed to let us stay at their hotel without signing the pet agreement, but they refused to give us housekeeping service. Further attempts to educate throughout our stay were met with staunch resistance, so we will be filing a DOJ complaint and a complaint with Hilton (it was a Homewood Suites, which is owned by Hilton). We have audio and video recording of the encounter, plus an email from the manager insisting they have every right to require us to sign the pet agreement, which they do not require of guests without pets.
On Sunday, for our own time on our own dime, we went to the National Museum of American History. We took the Metro (subway) there, and got a great video of Hestia riding the subway! It was cold, and her service dog coat hasn’t come in yet, so I had to put her in a light pink sweater with her purple vest over top of it. She did an excellent job on the subway!
The museum was pretty good! I enjoyed most of the displays, though some of them were confusingly laid out without a clear path to travel to view all the items in the displays. Unfortunately, I was still in pain. At first I tried to make it through with sitting frequently, but the sitting was becoming more and more of the time spent there. So I borrowed a wheelchair.
For those who don’t know, when I use a manual chair, we use a hooked umbrella on the back of Brad’s chair to pull my manual chair. It works pretty well, and we were able to zip through the rest of the museum with minimal pain. One guy who we passed thought he should be performatively “funny” for his friends, and shouted out to us as we passed “That’s cheating!”. Ugh.
I had another interesting experience with a girl about 6 years old. I had Hestia on my lap in the wheelchair and she was leaning up against my chest. I was not attached to Brad at this point, we were taking in a display. The girl came up and leaned over to give Hestia a kiss! Note that Hestia was leaning against my boobs, so this little girl leaned in to get less than a foot from my boobs! Yikes! I blocked her as quickly as I could react, and she didn’t seem bothered and went on her way. That is the only time we’ve gotten a drive-by-kiss with a service dog of mine!
For dinner we went to a really great restaurant called Rasa, which is a create-your-own bowl style restaurant with an Indian theme. It was sooooo tasty!
Throughout the whole day, Hestia was nearly perfect! I was so proud of her, she heeled perfectly through crowds, on the train, ignored people, she is really doing well.
Early Monday morning, our friend Jenine and her guide dog Roger arrived! Hestia and Roger are good friends, and we were all happy to see each other when we met in the hotel lobby. I took Jenine and Roger back up to our room where Brad was still getting ready. Hestia was so happy to see Roger that she launched herself onto the top of Roger’s head in the elevator. Oops! Well, she didn’t have her service dog vest on at the time at least…….
Hestia and Roger got to play in the room while Brad got ready, and then we went to breakfast. It is a buffet in the hotel, and some kid had spilled an entire bowl of dry cereal on the floor in a space you have to pass to get to the rest of the food. Dried cereal and little marshmallows were everywhere, some ground into the carpet. Hestia was AWESOME! I told her to leave it, and she looked up into my eyes and we walked through the cereal minefield like pros! At least the first time we had to pass through it. The second time she was a bit more interested, but still at least didn’t eat any of it!
We headed over to DOT (the Department of Transportation) for our meeting. When we got there, we had to wait for the people to come down and get us to take us upstairs. There were several guide dogs there, too. Hestia did very very well! Most of the guides she ignored without any problem. I was able to get close enough to the other teams to hand out business cards with Hestia being perfect and ignoring them.
One guide team was a bit newer, and when he saw Hestia, he did a play bow. Hestia play bowed back! I was very embarrassed, but worked on Hestia’s loops to keep her focused on me and not on the team she wanted to play with.
The meeting went pretty well. PSDP will issue a statement soon detailing exactly what happened in the meeting on all the points our community brought up. But the long and short of what we learned is that the new Notice of Proposed Rule Making is coming out any day now! They couldn’t comment on a lot of what we brought up because it is covered in the NPRM that is going to come out. Apparently they submitted it over three months ago for oversight review, so really it should be coming out any day and we’ll be able to give feedback toward the final rules. We are very excited!
After the meeting, we went out to lunch again at Rasa with our friend Jenine with Roger. Sheri from ADI joined us as well. It was a good lunch, both taste wise and conversation wise.
We had the afternoon free, so we went back to the hotel and I relaxed while Brad did a bunch of immediate follow-up work from the meeting. For dinner, a friend of mine from kindergarten came and met us! We have been friends forever and I really really love her. It had been over 10 years since we’d last seen each other! We had a great time and some great tacos for dinner. It was awesome to catch up, though we almost forgot to get a picture before she had to go!
Then on Tuesday we took the train back home. It was an uneventful ride, no grass on the way back for Hestia, though. When we arrived in Charlotte, I got off the train among the first people and went outside so I could feed Hestia her dinner. I did, but the meat juices got all over my hand! I had to wash my hands. But I had a suitcase that needed to be pushed with one hand, and one dirty hand that couldn’t touch anything. Good thing for shoulder leashes, and I had Hestia heel through the massive crowds and luggage of everyone de-training and waiting for people without holding onto the leash. She was excellent! I was very proud of her!
Below are a selection of the pictures that we took, including all of the advocacy day pictures. To see all the museum day pictures, visit the following Google Photos album: