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Guide Dog Travel

In September of 2000, I married the man of my dreams, Gary Metzler. We first started "seeing" each other a year earlier and this was my first "blind date." Gary has been legally blind his entire life and totally blind for over 20 years. I was the "driving force" in our relationship, however, I soon found out that I was not fit to be a sighted guide. Our paces were too much different and even though it was cute and romantic to hold hands with the man you love, it became very painful. I jokingly told him "dog or divorce." Five years later, we are still happily married and have an awesome yellow lab guide dog, Dr. John, as an important part of our family.

Dr. John has earned the nickname Dr. Travel due to our extensive traveling for business, pleasure and advocational endeavors. We have learned a great deal and continue to learn every day.

When we stay at any hotel, inn, resort or other accommodation in the USA we are not assessed a pet deposit for Dr. John because he is not a pet. This is a right that the Americans with Disabilities Act has given to us. We are not to be charged any additional fees and he (and any other service animal) is not to be prohibited from the premises. However, if the dog damages any property, this may result in a repair fee. If a dog soils a carpet or chews furniture, the handler is responsible for the cleaning fee and or repair, providing that it is a reasonable and legitimate assessment.

A service animal can travel with its handler on any mode of public transportation. They are never to be separated. The animal should not occupy a space or seat that could be used by a revenue passenger. When going through security checkpoints, the harness is not to be removed from the animal and the handler is to have total control at all times. We always request a manual scan because the harness and its hardware will sound the alarm and this sound can distract an animal. The security person is allowed to pat the animal down and pass the security wand over his body. While scanning the handler, it is important for the security person to verbalize exactly what the traveler is supposed to do. Hand gesturing is totally inappropriate since a blind traveling is unable to see the gestures.

Service animals can go just about anywhere his handler can, however, their safety is number one. We go to amusement parks quite often. Dr. John loves the little boat rides, the stationary areas on a carousel and other attractions that will accommodate him without any chance of endangerment. Common sense will dictate that a roller coaster is not going to be a safe adventure and should therefore be avoided.

The Americans with Disabilities Act has afforded us many rights. However, as with any right, they should not be abused. A service animal and their handler should not pose a danger or threat to their surroundings. A handler is totally responsible for the sanitary disposal of litter. The team should remain respectful of their rights and not abuse them. In the same token, the general public, the hospitality providers and any others who have contact should also be aware of their roles as members of society. A working dog has a very important job to do and should not be distracted in any way. If you are inclined to assist someone, please identify yourself and ask if the person needs any help. In the same token, it may seem like a good gesture to offer the "puppy" a treat but please refrain from doing so. These animals are on a very regular diet to help them work at their very best. They are very much loved and well taken care of.

When making reservations, as a courtesy, we like to advise the provider that we will be traveling with Dr. John. This will eliminate any element of shock when we arrive and are made to feel welcome. To paraphrase Lee Greenwood, "I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free" - to travel around this wonderful land - a right the ADA has given me.