Whew! We have been back from our Road Trip for a full week now and things are (very) slowly getting back to normal. Well, at least as normal as they can be when family is visiting. Now that I can take a little breath -- I have actually caught up with my course grading and have nothing outstanding to return to students -- I have time to contemplate our trip from a 'person and service dog partnership' perspective. A few thoughts come to mind.
First, this was an authentic 'Road Trip' because we traveled by car going from New Mexico up to Omaha, Nebraska then back down to Hays, Kansas and back to New Mexico. It was 'girls only' -- myself, mom, Cura and Skye -- spending a week together filled with driving in the car, living in hotels, and strange environments for the dogs.
Amazingly enough, Cura did a wonderful job of reminding us to stop on a regular basis to take a break, stretch and get the blood flowing after sitting in the car. About every two hours, she would get restless and give a little whine. If we didn't stop within about 5-10 minutes, she would whine again. Never anything overwhelming -- just a little noise that seemed to say 'Hey, we need to stop soon.' Funnily enough, when we stopped and got out, she didn't always need to relieve herself, sometimes she just walked around for a bit. Whether she intended her actions to benefit mom and I or not, the result was that every few hours we stopped and walked around for a bit. When we got into North Platte that first night after 13 hours on the road, both of us were much better off than I would have expected. I was amazed at my condition. To be honest, I had anticipated having a disturbing sleep that night brought about by overexertion since one of the things that complicates my condition is staying in one position for too long at a single stretch or too frequently throughout the day. Instead, I slept surprisingly well and awoke fairly refreshed the next day. If we had not been traveling with Cura, I don't think we would have stopped as regularly and the trip would have ultimately been more physically difficult.
One thing that I didn't expect was to have a difficult time getting the dogs to eat! We ended up bringing home half of the food that we took on the trip and we had portioned out the food so that we took only what was needed, plus a cushion of two meals just in case. They averaged one meal a day, but in actuality, there were times that they didn't eat for 24+ hours. Try as we might, sometimes Cura was just not comfortable enough to eat. I am sure that there were a number of factors that played into this and it was probably a different issue or combination of issues each time. I am sure the weather had a role in it because there were times when it was at least threatening if not actually stormy. Also, the fact that she was in a strange place and was being asked to eat in a different place than she was used to (she always eats in the same place at home) and she didn't want to be left behind (not that she ever is, but then again if one thing is different, maybe other things will be too!). There were times when she planted herself in front of the hotel room door so that she would know if anyone left. On the few occasions that I left the room to get something like ice or something to drink, if I didn't take her with me she was sitting right in front of the door waiting for me when I came back even though mom and Skye were in the room with her. Definitely a disconcerting thing for her.
I realize that this installment is starting to get on the long side but I want to share one final thing before signing off. We were in Nebraska and went to breakfast at the hotel. Cura was, of course, with me. Immediately upon seating myself in the breakfast room while I was still getting Cura settled, I was approached by a member of staff and informed dogs were not allowed in that area of the hotel. I explained that Cura was a service dog and when they insisted that Nebraska Law forbade dogs in any area where food was served I replied that I did not know what the relevant laws were for Nebraska, but Federal Law dictated that service dogs did have access to any area that was open to the public and to my knowledge no state had the authority to ignore Federal Law. She went away a bit flustered, but came back a few minutes later apologizing SEVERAL times.
I tried to reassure her that it was not a problem. Even having a service dog for as short a time as I have, I have been challenged directly on a number of occasions. If I got upset every time it happened I would be wasting a lot of energy! She went away, but came back again after a few minutes still apologizing and then started to strike up a conversation. Now, this would have been fine except that in her desire to be out of the breakfast traffic, she chose to stand very close to the spot that I had tucked Cura in so that she was out of the way. What do you suppose happened??? Yep -- she stepped on Cura's tail!!! KNOWING that the dog was there, she managed to step on her! It was not a light step either because Cura yelped and jumped up. The good thing is that she didn't do anything else but lean up against me -- so a desirable reaction, given the alternatives. But the whole situation was a bit infuriating because this prompted yet another shower of apologies! Please -- apologize if you must, it is greatly appreciated. BUT, only a single sincere apology is necessary! And, for goodness sake -- don't step on the service dog!