Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mason Grounded

Well, I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last sent a tale about Mason. I went to PA to visit family for 3 weeks. The plan was for Mason to come with me for more training exposures. Heidi, a previous guide dog puppy flew 13 flights with us on four different airlines, so I didn't anticipate a problem.
Heidi flying United Airlines to Florida
But as Mason and I went to the gate to board the Southwest Airlines flight I was told that he was not allowed on board with me. Even with proper documentation and a health certificate he wasn't allowed to fly.

That was certainly a disappointment. How else can guide dogs get trained to fly with a person they will serve? Can you imagine how it would be for a visually impaired person to have to fly with a dog who has never been exposed to airplanes and flying? We were glad we had taken our Southeastern Guide Dog puppy on several flights. When she was matched, Jim, her new owner, flew to the facility in northern Florida and flew in a small commuter plane back to southern Florida. Heidi had already flown on a commuter plane on two flights. It was a relief for Jim to know that his new guide dog had flying experience and wouldn't be nervous on the flight home.

The four airlines (Continental, ExpressJet, United and U.S. Airways) we’d flown previously with a guide dog puppy were all very helpful. U.S. Airways was especially accommodating. They allowed our puppy raiser group in Charlotte, NC to visit a hanger and board an airplane so the puppies could get experience before they actually flew. U.S. Airways staff also arranged for our whole group to go through airport security at a non-busy time to give experience to puppies, raisers and security personnel. (Yes, this was post 9/11.) Several of the dogs also rode on the carts that transport passengers from one terminal to another. That could be very helpful to a visually impaired person and a guide dog.

The Charlotte Area SEGDI Puppy Raiser Group
When I got back I heard from Guide Dogs of Texas staff that they often need to transport guide dogs in training to meet with a person with whom the dog may be matched. Sometimes the best flight arrangements would be on Southwest Airlines, but they are not allowed to fly with the dog even though the dog is fully trained and ready to be placed with a person. So, my question is: What can we do about this? I’m not sure yet. Anyone have some suggestions?

I'll have more about Mason and how he did while I was away on my next blog.

No comments: