Traveling with a Service Dog

October 16, 2009 · Posted in Public Interaction, Service Dogs 

Whistle on doggie rest area

Traveling with a disability has always been an adventure but adding a service dog to the equation can create additional needs and experiences. I don’t know about you but I have had some pretty close calls trying to find a place to toilet my dog in places such as busy airports during long distance national and international travels and in urban cities that have little or no vegetation. On a recent trip to Denver, Colorado I had a similar experience.

I was a member of a conference planning team that was planning to hold a national conference in downtown Denver. We found the perfect hotel. Well, almost perfect. The hotel had no available toilet relief area for my service dog or for any assistance dog that might be attending the conference with his or her human partner. The hotel was located directly across from Denver’s Convention Center. Denver is a modern, western city. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to visit Denver’s Convention Center? Along with an incredible 40 feet tall steel blue bear that was created by the artist Lawrence Argent and peers inside the Convention Center’s glass windows is a sign that simply states “no dogs allowed on the grass”.

Well, we all know what that means. Here we were gazing at this beautifully landscaped green grassy area that no service dog, or any other dogs for that matter, can access. Instead, we had to travel by foot quite a distance through some downtown areas that felt a little insecure to the only available toileting area. This was not acceptable and was a potential deal breaker for this hotel to secure the contract.

I spoke with the hotel administrators about it and they vowed to solve this problem in order to win the contract to hold the conference at their hotel. We were all skeptical and a little nervous about this issue. As the months went by and the conference date rapidly approached, I would periodically call the hotel and ask how they were progressing toward a remedy for the relief area dilemma. I was always assured not to worry that the problem would be solved.

When the conference finally rolled around Whistle and I traveled to the hotel. We arrived after a six hour drive and Whistle had refused the opportunity to toilet when we stopped for gas. We both were delighted to see that the hotel staff had indeed remedied the situation. As we pulled into the parking garage, the valet proudly informed us that the a doggie relief area had been created within the parking garage. To Whistle’s relief (in more ways than one) we saw the doggie relief area as soon as we pulled into the accessible parking space. It appeared that the hotel maintenance staff had made a square area by strapping together the ends of 4” x 4” 8 foot long, pre-treated boards. I am guessing they used two 4’ x 8’ plywood sheets underneath to support the sod that was laid neatly on top.

Perhaps the best part of this grassy relief area was the red, wood fire hydrant that had been crafted and placed in the middle of the relief area. Also in the immediate vicinity was a stand that housed plastic bags for disposing of waste, paper towels, and a bottle of hand sanitizer. The hotel had indeed solved the problem and provided a safer, discreet, and much more readily accessible venue for assistance dogs and other canine guests to safely toilet. They had also strategically placed the structure in an area that allowed for both adequate wheelchair access around the structure and easy access to the structure from the garage elevators. This was a win, win situation for everyone involved and it gave me another story to share with my friends about the adventures of traveling with a service dog.


4 Responses to “Traveling with a Service Dog”

  1. Team Logan on October 20th, 2009 6:46 am

    I had a similar experience of lack of service dog relief areas while staying in downtown Chicago. Any potential areas that we found around trees were fenced off with ornamental spiked fencing and planted with flowers. We had to travel quite a distance (also through questionable areas) to find a spot.

    Kudos to this hotel, I am very impressed! Would you mind sharing their name? If we ever travel to Denver we’d like to stay there.

    Team Logan

  2. Colorado Dogs For Service on October 27th, 2009 7:10 am

    […] Traveling with a Service Dog […]

  3. Morgan on December 16th, 2009 3:20 pm

    i recently had to travel with my husband to L.A. and after much troulbled planning I decided to board my service dog instead of putting her through a 9 hour flight connecting through 2 airrports without knowing if there would be an area where she could “go” between flights. I was glad we didn’t take her!!! It may have been easier for me to have her, but she would have been miserable for just this reason. No place to potty at the airports, no place at the hotel! What innsanity!!!!

    It’s bad enough that most places think just putting in a few side rails in the bathroom makes it “handicap accessible”, but to have to put my service dog through this is just wrong.

  4. Noddy Brothers on April 7th, 2010 11:12 am

    I travel a lot and stay in hotels about 10 times a year, so I applaud this hotel for their ingenuity on solving a problem we always face. I’m luckier than most because my dog is a hearing dog and not a larger mobility dog. That means he’s small. More importantly, that means he can and will use those potty training pads when nothing else is available. He doesn’t *like* them, but he’ll use them. I always pack a handful for him when we are staying someplace that doesn’t have convenient toileting facilities for service animals.

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