CLT aeroventure

On Friday we took Felix to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) so that he’d have an experience walking around the airport, smelling the smells, seeing people with luggage, and so on. Brad also took this opportunity to experiment with a number of photographic techniques including making an airplane out of the bokeh (the little points of light in photos), using a mirror to reflect things from the ceiling or higher up to down low on the picture, a crystal and iridescent strip to make colors on the pictures, and a lens that allows you to get multiple things in focus at the same time. I am wearing a light blue dress, and Felix is a sable and white Japanese Chin wearing a purple service dog harness.

We were in a rush, so I didn’t have time to potty Felix before we left the house. We arrived at the airport and parked, then took an elevator down to the baggage claim level. It was Felix’s first time in a glass elevator. He’s been in regular elevators before, but never a glass one. He was a bit worried about what was going on, but not so worried that I thought it was a big deal.

Next we walked through the rental car area, which is a beautiful space with a high blue ceiling with fans on it. Brad wanted to get pictures of us traversing the space, so he went ahead of us, then gave us the signal to follow. Suddenly as we were rolling through the door, Brad started hitting his hat with his fist and then slapping his leg. I was very confused! I kept coming, and he kept doing the motion over and over again, getting more and more insistent every time. I was so enthralled with figuring out what was wrong with Brad that I totally missed the fact that we passed a service dog team sitting against the wall. When I finally reached Brad, he explained that he had been trying to sign dog to me in ASL. Only he got the sign backwards– it’s hit your leg and then snap. As a result, he missed most of the picture taking opportunities for us in that space and only got a few. Luckily the dog didn’t react when we passed it—at least I don’t think it did because I didn’t see the dog at all LOL!

The rental car area exits into the lower level of the airport where people pick their friends and family up from baggage claim. This area is underneath the departures area, so it’s very dark and echoey and scary. Felix did a very good job of walking next to me across the very long street with lots of echoes of car noises and honking.

The pictures below show Felix in the parking deck, in the elevator, in the rental car area, and crossing underneath the elevated road.

CLT is under construction and has been for a very long time. So they have closed off all the outdoor service animal relief areas. Normally I would potty my dog before going inside anywhere, but there was just nowhere to potty Felix outside due to all the construction. I knew there was a service animal relief area inside baggage claim at the far end, so we headed there first. Unfortunately Felix couldn’t hold it that long and pooped in the terminal as we were walking along. I was so embarrassed! Luckily it was easy to clean up, and we quickly moved on. Next time if I’m in this situation, I’ll keep Felix on my lap until he has pottied!

We found the service animal relief area at the far end of baggage claim. It is a large three-sided metal box with fake grass and a fire hydrant. This is one of the better service animal relief areas I’ve seen in any airport because it’s out in the open so it doesn’t stink like chemicals all the time.

Felix had a good time sniffing around on the relief area, and eventually peed a few times.

The pictures below show us walking to the relief area and Felix using the relief area. Notice that the sign specifies that the relief area is not a play area for children LOL!

Then we headed to the far corner so that Brad could use the restroom, while Felix and I hung out and watched the baggage carousels. He did a great job! He wasn’t afraid of the baggage carousels at all! He was just cool as a cucumber.

After a while hanging out there, we worked on walking around in baggage claim more. Felix was a bit stressed by the crowds and unpredictable rushing people and their luggage, but he held his own very nicely. It was very hard for me to drive my chair, watch Felix, and watch out for people! Felix ended up passing several luggage carts and a janitor’s cart and did very well. We got a video of him going through the area as well as several pictures of him walking and relaxing next to baggage carousels.

Unfortunately after a bit of this, Felix started doing the thing he does when his hernia is uncomfortable. He’s having it fixed Sept 25th, but for now every once in a while he gets uncomfortable and needs to just sit or lie down somewhere. So I put him in my lap as we explored the airport further. We came to the other end of baggage claim which really looks like a construction zone. It has exposed ductwork and plain concrete floors and everything. Brad got some interesting shots on the way there and there.

Finally we headed upstairs to departures. It was also crowded there, but since Felix was in my lap, he was totally cool with it. We went around the whole area to get him used to the smells and sights. Brad got some more pictures LOL.

Finally we headed back down to baggage claim so we could use the bathroom again. This time I went in. The “accessible” stall was not very accessible!!!! It was the same width as the regular stalls, and only a few inches longer. I could fit my wheelchair in the stall and close the door behind me, but my footplate was touching the toilet. So it was interesting trying to maneuver around to actually sit on the toilet. If you had to transfer yourself, it would have been impossible. Then on my way out, a person with a cleaning cart came in! She left her cart in the S-shaped entryway and I had to maneuver really really well to get past it. It was all in all not a very accessible restroom visit! My visit was better than Brad’s though, as someone in his restroom was spraying cologne and it got all over the paper towels, which then got the cologne all over Brad’s hands as he dried his hands. Ugh!

We got some more pictures of Felix in baggage claim (back on the floor) and Brad all styling in his blue blazer, pink shirt, teal pants, blue shoes, and black hat.

We left the airport and headed back out to the dark and echoey road crossing to get back to the rental car area. This time Brad took a video of Felix walking the second half of the road crossing. He did very well!

Brad also got a video of us in the rental car area, but he used his mirror to make it look like the ceiling is underneath us. I’m not a fan of this style of photography and got kinda mad at him when I saw it, but I guess I can’t always be choosey about the videography and photography Brad does.

After that it was back in the glass elevator, which Felix handled better this time (he was totally fine and not worried at all!), and back to our car. We had some traffic on the way home, but it wasn’t too bad. I think that even though Felix didn’t get to go through security this time, that experiencing the airport as he did has prepared him for flying as much as he can be.

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