Airport training with Service Dogs on the Town 3

On Friday our Service Dogs on the Town class went to the airport to train! It ended up just being me with Hestia and Alice (Japanese Chin), Brad in his power wheelchair, Scarlet in their power wheelchair, and Skyler with Korra (Standard Poodle). We all rode together in our van (windows cracked and masks on).

It took a while to find an accessible spot to park, but eventually we did. Next we tried to locate the service animal relief area outside to let the dogs potty. Unfortunately there is tons of construction there right now and they relocated the area. We couldn’t find it, but did find a patch of grass across a street. So Skyler and I took the pups across the street to potty on our own, because the area wasn’t wheelchair accessible.

Veronica, Skyler, and their dogs across a street in a construction zone pottying on a patch of grass.

Next we headed inside to meet up with our friend Stephanie from JetBlue. She helped us get gate passes to go through security. We were SO excited to see Stephanie again, it had been over two years!

Stephanie took us back behind the check-in desk to meet a few fellow employees. They had just trained to be complaint resolution officers (CROs) and we got to talk with them about service dogs. We had a great conversation!

In the break room with JetBlue employees.

Next we headed to security. It ended up being both Brad and my worst security experience ever! Skyler went first, and the security people were both totally confused about what they should do but also wanted to be totally in charge. They wouldn’t listen to Skyler’s description of how they should go through security. The TSA agents asked me, without knowing that Skyler and I were together, to hold Korra’s leash while Skyler went through the metal detector. They really had no clue what they were doing and didn’t want to listen to how we knew it was easiest for us to get through the metal detectors. We know what our rights and options are, and what works best for us.

Skyler and Korra stand in front of the metal detector as Hestia and Alice stand behind them.

I was so stressed by how they were treating Skyler that I couldn’t work on training Alice, so I ended up picking her up and holding her. Then it was my turn to go through security, and I tried to do the same thing Skyler did with Korra. Again they had issues. I’m not sure what they ended up deciding, but I just went through on my own. They had me repeat going through like three times doing things slightly differently (like once I was apparently turned to the side too much???). Eventually we made it through.

Hestia and Alice standing on the floor in front of the metal detector.

Poor Brad had an even harder time! They made him take off his sweater and shoes, and then took him to a separate area than where we were. They asked him several times to get up out of his wheelchair so they could screen him better. They even asked him if his wheelchair cushion was removable. Brad replied “Not with me in it”! They asked him if he could sit in a regular chair while they screened his wheelchair even! Poor Brad was having horrible muscle spasms with how much they were having him move around in his chair, and was doing really really poorly.

Eventually we all made it through, thank goodness!

There was an indoor service animal relief area right near security. It was the kind in the open air with three high stainless steel sides—my favorite kind. So I took Hestia and Alice to use it. Hestia used it right away, as she always does. Alice wasn’t too sure about it, and wanted to get off the artificial turf fairly quickly. She may not be the kind of dog who will use these types of areas.

Hestia sniffs in the relief area, Alice stands next to it, and Korra walks by.

This particular hallway wasn’t very crowded, so I took Alice out of the pouch and walked her up and down a few times while Scarlet held Hestia. Alice did great! I was so proud of her! Then as we were walking, another team came past us to use the relief area. All the pups were so good! Alice didn’t care, and neither did Korra. Scarlet said that Hestia didn’t care, either!

Alice heeling next to Veronica in the airport while Scarlet with Hestia and Skyler with Korra look on.

After that, I re-pouched Alice and we walked around in the airport for a while. It was SUPER crowded and Korra and Hestia did great navigating the crowds! I was so proud of them! Hestia was really happy to be out working with Korra—she loves Korra and so kept wanting to walk right next to Korra LOL!

Korra navigates a huge crush of a crowd like a superstar.

We found a more empty area and hung out for a while for Brad to recover more. Skyler and Korra did some more walking while the rest of us recovered.

Hestia sitting on Veronica’s lap craning her upper body and head to keep an eye on all the crowds going by.

Finally we headed across the airport to the new wing where they have a new relief area. We had to walk through the food court area and the dogs were all SO good!

Stephanie, Scarlet, Veronica with Hestia and Alice, and Skyler with Korra navigate the airport. There is a captain with rolling luggage behind the dogs.
Hestia likes to walk RIGHT next to Korra LOL!
The sun-lit food court is a great backdrop for Veronica with Alice and Hestia, Stephanie, Scarlet, and Skyler with Korra.

Scarlet wanted to get a pretzel to take home with them, and while we were waiting for them, Hestia and Korra lay down nose to nose and communed. It was so so cute!

Hestia and Korra communing nose to nose.

We weaved our way through the crowds some more, and eventually got to the new relief area. It is in a room with a mural on the wall of a dog using a human restroom and washing their paws in the sink. This room was a bit smellier. Hestia used the bathroom in it, but Korra was not so sure about it. I didn’t want to have Alice walk in the smelly fake turf and then put her back in the pouch, so she stayed in the pouch.

Korra hops into the relief area while Hestia squats and pees.

As we were leaving, another service dog team came to use the bathroom—I haven’t mentioned most of them, but all in all we saw 8 other dogs while we were there, I think 5 were service dogs and one was an airport police dog. Two were pets.

We headed back to the car, but on the way there got separated by the elevator usage needs. So Scarlet and I ended up sitting for a while in an area where people were walking past with their luggage. Brad got some motion shots that he likes of people walking past us.

Veronica with Alice and Hestia as seen through gaps while a person is walking by in a blur.

Finally we made it to our car where we really had to squeeze in! Skyler, Scarlet, me, Hestia, and Alice shared the back seat of our van! It was quite a production getting everyone buckled in! Luckily we didn’t have to go too far to the restaurant.

Skyler with Korra and Veronica with Alice and Hestia walk through the rental car area on the way to the van. The roof is a really interesting structural arch shape, kinda like a wing.

We ate at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place that had a great outdoor patio. It was called Miguel’s. Scarlet got a really cool looking daiquiri, so I got one too—a mango daiquiri! It had real mango in it and was sooooo tasty! We had a great time talking, and the weather held up nicely for us.

Scarlet, Veronica with Alice and Hestia on her lap, Stephanie, and Skyler at the restaurant.

We were sad to say goodbye to Stephanie as we dropped her off at the airport. I hope it’s not 2 years before we see her again! Then we headed home. It started to rain just before we dropped Scarlet off at their house, then we dropped Skyler off at their car (they parked at the end of our street), and we finally made it inside the house!

We were SO exhausted! It was a great outing and totally worth it, but also totally draining. I am SO proud of all the dogs present.

Alice was totally relaxed in the pouch the whole time. She didn’t seem stressed at all, and in fact seemed to be enjoying watching all the people and hustle and bustle. When she walked, she did wonderfully as well.

Alice is the focus of this picture in front of a colorful candy shop. She’s in her pouch and looking interestedly into the near distance while Veronica talks with Stephanie.

Hestia was great in the airport, weaving through crowds expertly! I was very proud how well she ignored all the other dogs.

Veronica walks along with Alice in her pouch while Hestia heels beautifully.

You would have never guessed it was Korra’s first time in an airport or in crowds of that size! She blazed a trail right through the crowds with no fear. She also handled several people petting inappropriately like an expert. She is really a fantastically trained dog!

Korra in perfect heel next to Skyler as they weave through the airport.

Brad got a lot of pictures, and they are all below. In them I am wearing galaxy leggings and a black top. Alice, a tiny sable and white Japanese Chin wearing a purple vest, is in a rainbow pouch on my chest. Hestia, a black and white Japanese Chin wearing a purple vest, is walking next to me. Brad is wearing turquoise pants, a colorful shirt, a turquoise hat and tie, and a black and white sweater. Stephanie is wearing grey dog leggings and a black top. Scarlet is wearing black and grey and using a purple power wheelchair. Skyler is wearing a sweatshirt and gray jeans. Korra is a sable Standard Poodle wearing a black vest with holographic patches.

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3 thoughts on “Airport training with Service Dogs on the Town

  • Anonymous

    This is such a wonderful entry. I love how you took the time to speak to employees at the airport to further educate the public on our needs!

  • Sabrina

    As usual, a well written post about the outing. And Brads photography wonderful. All the outings are so helpful to us handlers but it really is so amazing how they teach others in the community. Thank you for your continued work. We are thankful!