Road Trip with Service Dog

After three months of feeling miserable, my doctors changed some of my medications and the clouds parted. After three years in seminary, my husband graduated with a M.A. in Counseling. An even bigger surprise was discovering Hubby was scheduled off an entire weekend without asking for it. We decided these events required some celebrating and R & R. Road-trip!

We decided to stay somewhat close to home since we want to spend our time doing things neither of us have ever done before, somewhere neither of us have ever been before. Oklahoma City, OK fit the bill. We checked Expedia and got a great hotel and rental car combo deal. We packed one suitcase for us, an insulated lunch bag with snacks for the road, and a small bag for Gizmo. If you are one of the many interested in how travel works with a Service Dog, here’s our experience…

  • Go Bag for Gizmo: If you’ve been following this blog, you already know Gizmo is part Gypsy and happily travels by car, bus, train, and plane. He G in back seathas an orange beach towel and a beige throw that he associates with the BED command. We put the beach towel across the back seat of the car and that’s his home while in motion. In the bag is his dual purpose food/water bowl, the beige blanket, a retractable leash, a ball, a chew toy, and a couple ziplock bags with his food pre-measured for quick mealtimes. I keep treats in another ziplock bag in my purse. He wears his harness when in public, but we take it off in the car. When we get settled in the hotel, wherever I spread his beige throw is his bed and personal space.
  • Hotel: We stayed in a Comfort Inn this time out. I prefer to stay at places that do not allow pets, and this is one of them. Remember, a service dog (SD) is not a pet, so he can stay wherever I can in the United States thanks to the ADA regulations. We have found that pets are distracting for Gizmo, and that hotels that allow pets tend to treat him like a pet rather than a working dog. It’s just easier for all of us this way. I always keep a copy of the ADA handout for hospitality services in Gizmo’s vest pocket just in case the staff isn’t fully trained regarding SDs. At this location, guest services was fabulous. They knew not to distract Gizmo, and kindly and discreetly asked if there was anything else I might need for him or for my disability.
  • Exercise: Labrador Retrievers require a lot of exercise, not just a walk to the grass to relieve themselves. Gizmo is very sociable and loves time out of uniform to play with other dogs and people. I always try to find a safe place for him to have some fun and expend that crazy energy before we start our activities. While eating breakfast, Hubby looked through local brochures and did a quick internet search. He found the most perfect of dog parks. The OKC Paw Park is what every city should model their dog parks on. Gizmo had a great time with canines and humans alike. And the regulars there were very welcoming to us, and happy to share information about their city.

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  • Tourist Events: With Gizmo’s energy level now more closely matching mine, we headed into the downtown area to discover the Red Earth Festival, Bricktown and the Canal, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The Read Earth Festival was wonderful, but the venue did not do it justice. Gizmo was fine with the drums, costumes, and crowds, but they were not prepared for so many people and it was hard for us to make sure no one stepped on him. The convention center was handicap accessible, but the festival seating was not. We ended up leaving earlier than anticipated because it was too hard on me and Gizmo. We walked downtown and through the Bricktown Canal area during the heat of the day, wishing we had planned better. We found a wonderful restaurant mid-afternoon where we were able to rest, relax, and enjoy the marvelous food at Zio’s Italian Kitchen. They put us in a back corner so Gizmo could stretch out, and were very accommodating of my vegan requests. Say “hi” to Heather for us if you visit there. Once we got our second wind, we walked back to the Memorial. At this point we realized a big mistake–the various walking surfaces were all different temperatures, and all the cross-walks were asphalt. We kept to the shade as much as possible, but the dark surface at the memorial was too hot for Gizmo and we cut this short for his comfort. Next time we plan an outing like this, we will have proper paw-wear for Gizmo. At this point I checked my pedometer and realized we’d already walked over 10,000 steps/5.6 miles. We were all tired and decided it was time to head home.

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  • Water: I overheard a few nasty comments about not giving that poor working dog any water while I was sipping a cold drink. I promise, he was fully hydrated. After four years, we have a system. Gizmo thinks ice cubes are a treat, so in restaurants it’s pretty common for me to slip him some out of my water. When leaving a restaurant, if they offer a to-go cup we always take it, and then once outside we remove the lid and straw and let Gizmo drink. He also does great with sport-tops on water bottles, and so we can both get a cold drink and I don’t have to carry it around, I usually drink the first half, and then let him finish it. Whenever we stop for snacks, beverages, or potty breaks, rest assured Gizmo is included.

If you have any suggestions or questions about traveling with a SD, please leave a comment.

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