Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing

Travel

Air Travel Guide Dog Style

by Ann Chiappetta

One of the most gratifying pastimes I’ve continued to enjoy since becoming a guide dog handler is the increased freedom while traveling. Being able to navigate effortlessly through crowds in the airport or a train station is still amazing even after 15 years of being a guide dog user.

It’s not all peaches and cupcakes, though. Just like with anyone else pulling the suitcase and trying to find the front of the check-in line, there is a point when the harness handle is dropped and I seek out human assistance. Here are a few scenarios and yes, these are true stories with the bare minimum of necessary editorial embellishment.

After being directed through the metal detector, the TSA agent swept the wand over my dog and asked,

“What’s in the bag?”

I was confused; didn’t my bags already go through the x-ray?

“What bag?” I asked.

She sounded annoyed, “This one.”

“Which one?” I said, exchanging her equally annoyed tone with my own. “I am blind. I can’t tell what you are pointing at.”

She didn’t talk. Maybe she left?

“Hello?”

Finally she spoke. “I mean the red bag on the back of the dog’s back.”

“You mean the harness?” I asked, pointing to my dog.

“Yes,” she answered, sounding unsure.

“Oh, that,” I said, “that’s for the poop bags,”

“Oh,” she said, sounding a little grossed out. I almost burst out laughing. She stepped away and let me through. A thought came to me: maybe she thought that’s where I kept the actual poop not just the bag dispenser.

On the return flight, things went in a different direction. I stood at the check-in counter, almost finished, listening to the reservationist typing like the fast and furious meets the six-fingered woman on the keyboard. The typing stopped.

“Oh, you have a service animal?”

“Yes, a guide dog.”

“I see… just a sec.” The tornado typing started again, then, “I see you also requested assistance to the gate, I’ll call for someone,” she said, then handed me the boarding pass and checked my bags.

“And here’s your escort,” she said.

I turned and heard, “I take you, no dog.”

“Are you speaking to me?”

“Yes. You sit, I take you, not dog.”

“The dog comes with me and I don’t need the wheelchair, I will walk, follow you.”

“No chair, I don’t take,” he said and I heard him walk away.

The reservationist sounded irritated when I told her what happened. I reminded her of the assist and the access laws for people with disabilities. She called her supervisor, who thankfully swept aside her irritation and personally escorted me to my gate and was a very nice young man. Once I was seated in the waiting area, he asked if he could say hello to my dog. I said yes, thinking at least someone had manners and knew how to help.

About the Author

Ann Chiappetta M.S. is an author and poet, making meaningful connections with others through writing. Ann’s nonfiction essays have been printed in Dialogue magazine, among others. Her poems are often featured in Poesis, The Pangolin Review, and Magnets and Ladders. Her poetry is also included in Breath and Shadow’s 2016 debut anthology, Dozen: The Best of Breath and Shadow. Her books—a poetry collection Upwelling: Poems, a memoir Follow Your Dog a Story of Love and Trust, Words of Life: Poems and Essays, and a short story collection A String of Stories From the Heart to the Future—are available in both e book and print formats from Amazon. Visit her site http://www.annchiappetta.com/ to

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Recovering The Self is a forum for people to tell their stories. Individual contributors accept complete responsibility for the veracity, accuracy, and non-infringement of their reporting.
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