The morning we left for the airport, Verona and I were both excited. I was traveling alone once again, this time from New York to Kentucky to attend a National conference. She guided me expertly through the crowd, around the line markers to the ticket agent, and waited patiently during the check-in. The agent then informed me that the departure gate was one terminal away and my Delta escort, Anthony, guided us through security and then onto a bus. Verona hopped on and off the bus, lead me up the ramp platform, and into the departure area with a little help from Anthony.
When we boarded, the flight attendant asked if we need help and I declined–Verona was already whisking me into the jet way. We played a little seat shuffle, then we were finally given a seat with room for both of us. Verona settled in and only sat up briefly during takeoff and landing.
The connecting flight was uneventful and once we stepped onto the jet way in Louisville, we were met by an airport volunteer named Deacon Tim. He helped find my bag and showed us to the relief area, which Verona and the other guide dogs used liberally.
On our return to New York, we landed and the 50 seat mini jet staff informed us we had to disembark using steps. We went down slowly and carefully together and I was so proud of her because she had been such an excellent guide during our stay in Louisville.
She is the best mobility tool and that’s because I can depend on her to remember where we are going and how to get back to our point of departure. I used the click and treat training I learned at Guiding Eyes and trained Verona to help me with many tasks. When we are at a conference, it sure does come in handy. For instance, Verona knows how to find our room, the elevator buttons, the trash cans, the escalator, and a chair during lunch and dinner. She also knows how to find a bathroom. When inside a public restroom, she will go to an open door, knows the command to find the sink and trash and sometimes indicates the paper towel dispenser, though not all the time. Once in a hotel, she will find the places I like to frequent and indicate them to me as we walk. Meeting rooms, stairs, elevators, and even the coffee shop. I am amazed at her ability to memorize our routes and take on large, confusing conference centers in just a few hours when it takes me days to build a mental map of a hotel and feel confident about where I’m going. Hundreds of dogs were at the conference and we all managed to be successful and I think this is the most empowering piece about it.
We will be going to Mystic, Connecticut in a few months for work-related training–our second trip there. I’m sure she will remember the hotel and downtown Mystic. I wonder if she will be able to find the door to the pizza restaurant and the ice cream shop. Only time will tell.