First the dog I am traveling with does not get food or water the morning of the flight. We don't know if the plane/traveling will upset their stomach so having nothing in there helps nothing come up or out.
I usually get to the airport about 2 hours before my flight. I used to do that to give me plenty of time to get up to the counter to check in and get a bulk head seat (if you are traveling with a service dog, you have the right to request a bulkhead and the airline has to try to honor that request). I have learned, especially with United, to just check in online with whatever seat I have, print my boarding pass and go straight to the gate and request a bulkhead seat there. So now I get to the airport 2 hours early so I can be one of the first at the gate so I am most likely to get a bulkhead seat.
With Ice I had to plan out how long I thought he could hold going to the bathroom. Being just 4 months old, his bladder isn't very big and I have never asked him to hold it for longer than 3 or 4 hours. After Ice went "busy" we made our way to security. Sometimes a TSA agent will pull us to a special line and sometimes we have to go through the line like everyone else. This was one of those times. It was a great way for me to teach Ice how to handle crowds and lines. He got really good at moving a few feet, chilling for awhile then moving a few more feet. Eventually we made it up to the security checkpoint.
To get through security, I put my dog in a sit-stay and walk through the metal detector. I then call my dog to me. The dog's collar and leash always sets the metal detector off but TSA cannot ask you to remove anything from your dog. Because of this, I always tell the agent that the collar and leash will set of the detector and that they are more than welcome to pat down the dog. I have found that smiling, talking to, and explaining to the TSA agent that I am cool with them checking my dog makes them very happy and feel much better because you can see they usually aren't sure what to do about a dog setting off the detector. I have had a variety of security checks on the dog. Serena has had a full pat down, a glance at while I lift up her collar and her vest and a couple of TSA agents who ask to just pet her. The new thing I am finding is they pull me aside with my dog and do a bomb residue swipe on my hands. This is what happened with me and Ice. I asked the nice lady if she would like to also pat down Ice and she was like "oh no sweetie, he is working, I don't want to distract him!" So cute.
After passing my bomb residue test, Ice and I headed to our gate. I was able to get bulkhead very easily. Then we sat and waited. Some airports have service dog pee areas behind security, O'hare does not. If they did I would have taken Ice out again but alas he had to sit there. I had him do a "go-in" under the chair so he was out of the way of the super crowded waiting area. Half the people there didn't even know I had a dog. What a good little man!
|Ice waiting to board the plane|
With a service dog, you are the first to board. This is great because it gives me time to get me, my dog, and all my stuff on the flight and settled before people come on. The biggest question I get while traveling on a plane is "where does the dog sit?" Ice will gladly demonstrate:
|The cutest carry-on luggage a girl can have|
They sit at my feet, which is why getting bulkhead is the best thing! Ice really couldn't have been a better floor sharing buddy. He basically slept like the above picture the whole time, giving me plenty of room and not bothering the person sitting next to me. He wasn't bothered by the take off or landing and waited patiently during the commotion of everyone getting up to leave.
Another benefit of being in bulkhead, is that you are WAY closer to the front of the plane so you can get off pretty much right away. The minute we get off the plane, I book it to outside. In Orlando airport you have to ride a tram to get from the terminals to the exit. This makes getting outside as fast as possible a little challenging but it is what it is. Ice did great! We ran outside to Orlando's lovely flower pots, where Serena gladly pees. Ice thought we were there to eat the mulch. After about 5 minutes of pulling mulch out of his mouth, I gave up trying to get him to go busy there and quickly ran to the bathroom so I could pee. Then we made our way to the ground level and the grass. Ice held it all the way until then. I couldn't believe it! He is awesome. Then we made our way back upstairs and Val picked us up. Our flight home went pretty much the same way, with him now sleeping through take off and landing. Ice blew me away with how he handled the airport, planes and crowds!