On Wednesday we went to the airport with my Service Dogs on the Town class! There were three dogs there– Hestia my Japanese Chin, Phoebe the Standard Poodle, and Avalanche the Great Pyrenees mix.
Tammy with Phoebe stopped by our house, and while Brad was finishing getting ready, we let Hestia and Phoebe play in the yard for 5 minutes. They had fun finally getting to interact instead of having to ignore each other!
When we got to the airport, it was pretty overwhelming. There were lots of people rushing around, lots of cars and busses driving by the entrance, and lots and lots of luggage everywhere. Due to construction, the relief area we were supposed to meet at was closed off! Luckily we found Phyllis and Avalanche, and Tammy was able to cross the street to find a grassy area to potty Phoebe.
We went inside and got our gate passes from JetBlue. They were all SUPER nice there to us! They were very respectful of our dogs, and happy to help us train.
We headed to the security screening area, and when we asked to go in the disability line, the person in charge of the area made a big fuss that Brad in his wheelchair (who arrived at the end of the line of the four of us) go first in line. Disability hierarchy anyone?
When we were in line to get screened, Brad tried to unhook his backpack from his chair, but it was difficult. He overexerted himself a little too much trying to unhook his backpack and started to see stars! Luckily he told me so I was able to unhook his backpack. It was well and truly stuck, so I had to bend over for a long while to figure it out. I had treats in a purse that I knit, and when I was bent over the purse was hanging down. Hestia saw this as a wonderful opportunity to bite the treat-smelling purse and try to play with it! I didn’t notice at first, I was so focused on the backpack, but boy was it funny (and embarrassing!) when I did notice it!
Since Brad wasn’t doing well, he was unable to get pictures or video of the dogs getting screened. But that’s OK, we have lots of video of Hestia getting screened!
The dogs did great going through security! Only Avalanche set off the alarm and had to be patted down.
After security, we found a service animal relief area. The Charlotte airport has some really nice ones! They are fake grass (and a pretty large amount of fake grass!) in a three sided metal holder. There is a red plastic fire hydrant in the middle. Hestia peed and pooped for us in the relief area, and of course Brad got a picture LOL!
We went to sit down and rest, but soon Avalanche made a noise that indicated she needed to use the bathroom, so back to the relief area we went for more pooping. After a big cleanup (Avalanche is a big dog!), we headed across the airport.
Lots of people made comments about our dogs and tried to pet our dogs. Since Phoebe is a black poodle, Tammy got a lot of comments about the black poodle that won Westminster. Hestia and I got a lot of comments about our matching galaxy theme (I had galaxy leggings, she had a galaxy vest). Avalanche just got a lot of comments about her size.
It was pretty crowded, and the dogs did great! It was a little stressful at times, but they took it well. We ended up at Jamba Juice, where the humans got smoothies. Then we headed over to an eating area.
We ended up sitting next to a flight attendant who was insisting that Avalanche couldn’t fly because of her size, but I think we did a good job of educating him. After a break, we tried to head over to the new terminal to see the new relief areas.
It was a long walk, and Phyllis was getting more tired and falling down more. One time she fell down rather spectacularly, and people around here were so rude! One woman stood right in front of her, not offering to help, blocking Phyllis from being able to get up. Several others stood around, mouths agape. And a few took advantage of Phyllis being otherwise engaged and pet Avalanche! How rude!
Shortly after that, Phyllis decided to turn around and head home. Brad escorted her to the secure area exit, while Tammy and I tried to find the elusive relief area with the mural. Well, we found a different one (one without a mural), and it had un-picked-up diarrhea and firm poops from two different dogs on it, yuck! Good thing Phyllis didn’t expend a lot of energy just to see that! So we headed back.
We met up with Brad, who needed a restroom, so we found a bench outside of a security screening area to sit at and wait. On the next bench over there was an elderly dog about Hestia’s size wearing a therapy dog vest with their family. The kids in the family read the patches on Hestia and Phoebe’s vests outloud– patches that said “do not pet”.
Tammy and I were talking when all of the sudden the boy of the family, probably about 6 years old, came running over and tried to grab Hestia! I put out my arms and was forced to push him away from her a bit to protect her, while telling him firmly “NO! Don’t pet!”. The mom just laughed, ugh!
While we were sitting there on the bench, someone with a pet dog walked by. Hestia did a great job of ignoring both of these dogs!
When Brad returned, he told us he had found the elusive relief area we were looking for with a mural in it, so we went to check it out. It had a mural of dogs using a human restroom! It was basically in a large closet space with a windowed door, so it wasn’t as nice and open as the regular Charlotte airport ones, but it was OK.
Then we headed back to the front of the airport. Tammy left to go home, and Brad and I went back to the JetBlue counter to talk with the people there about service dogs and wheelchairs. We had a great time talking for about an hour with them! While we were talking, a small white dog passed by several times and even stood around near us. I did some LAT (“look at that“) training with Hestia and she did really well! A Vizsla police dog came by and had a very hard time ignoring Hestia, but Hestia ignored it! I was very proud.
Then when we were leaving that area, we passed another dog in the security screening line, which I didn’t even see (Brad pointed it out after we passed it) and Hestia did great!
Brad needed to use the restroom again, and there was a German Shepherd security dog outside of the restroom, so we waited about 20 feet away from them while Brad used the restroom. Hestia did GREAT with this dog, hardly giving it a second glance. The German Shepherd was distracted at first, but soon settled down for a snooze!
When we finally got back to the car, my feet were SO tired! We were all exhausted. But we were very pleased with how the dogs did. All three of them handled the airport well, and Phoebe and Avalanche did great at their first time at an airport!
As to Hestia’s distraction level around Phoebe and Avalanche, I did have to use quite a few treats the first half hour to keep her focus on me. But after that, she calmed down and I didn’t really need any treats! She was a little rock star after that first 30 minutes! All our training around other dogs is really paying off.
Pictures are below! I am a woman with long brown curly hair, wearing a black top and galaxy leggings. Hestia is a small white and black Japanese Chin with a smushed nose and googley eyes wearing a galaxy vest. Tammy is a woman with long brown hair wearing an orange and cream shirt. Phoebe is a black Standard Poodle wearing a fuchsia and black vest. Phyllis is a woman with blonde hair, wearing a purple shirt. Avalanche is an extra large white Great Pyrenees mix wearing a pink vest. Brad is a man in a power wheelchair wearing a red shirt and green blazer. He has a peacock scarf on and a green hat.
Haha! The dog potty area is ‘not a children’s play area’!
i wish i had a group to go with to test in an airport!
these dogs are going to be so ready for flying!!
as usual, great photos!
Great pictures of a successful outing! The photo of the dogs in the glass elevator impressed me, because, as a member of the CLT Canine Crew Therapy Dog Program, the glass elevator was AJ’s biggest hurdle to overcome. So scary that it caused us to retrain all elevator usage.
Very educational. My Buddy is ‘service”. Red/white Japanese Chin. I noticed that over the years, people have become aware of the ‘do not pet’. Your article is wonderful, thank you,