Traveling with a Service Dog
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.