I went on vacation, just me and my service dog. My husband is hoarding his remaining vacation days for important events coming later, so he took me to the New Orleans Airport and off we went.
My flights were on time and went well with very nice and extremely helpful flight crews. I think the only thing I could complain about was the price of a bottle of water at the airport: $5, really?
Honestly, everything went well. No fights, nothing requiring me to advocate for myself, no turning purple with frustration. Unknown to me, caring gate agents upgraded my seat on one flight to first class, free drinks and all! I declined and gave it to someone else. Why? Because I had more room for my dog sitting directly behind first class and we were comfortable.
Nobody got nervous about putting my dog in a rental car. In fact the agent on duty helped me cover the black leather back seat with a sheet I’d brought so my beautiful cream colored dog wouldn’t leave fur all over. Then the gentleman took time to explain how things in the car worked.
The hotel staff greeted me and my dog sincerely and warmly. I was surprised with a room upgrade; we now had a great suite complete with small refrigerator, small sink and microwave and more room for my dog.
Housekeepers were friendly to both me and my dog. If they saw me in the hall they never failed to greet me and ask me 1) did I need anything and 2) how was I enjoying my visit? The woman in the breakfast room saw me struggling to juggle food, a leashed dog and my dog’s floor mat. She came over to ask if a cafeteria tray would be helpful. She took the initiative to come up with a solution to a problem she saw I was having. She did not wait for me to drop something and make a mess or for me to complain about something. She did it because she is a caring professional and a nice person.
Each time he saw me walk through the lobby, one of the front desk guys smiled shyly and said, “I love your dog” or “I want your dog” or “Can I have your dog?” One morning he spent almost 20 minutes helping me find different kinds of things to do in the community.
I had friendly chats with the maintenance crew. I gabbed for an hour with the general manager about his hotel, dogs, about the community, family, just about anything. It was a friendly hotel.
Not one business employee gasped in shock when I walked in with my dog. Some businesses even had signs welcoming dogs and cats.
Restaurant staff stopped by to tell me how beautiful my dog is, not to tell me we weren’t welcome.
It was a wonderful and very relaxing vacation. As I sat in the airport waiting to fly home I got on Twitter and sent a tweet to the city I’d been in for a week. I told them I had a great time and was sad to leave. The next day I received a tweet from that city inviting me to return soon.
This is odd. How often does a person with a disability, a person working with a service dog say, “I took a trip and it went incredibly well”?
I suppose I could get picky and talk about the fact that TSA screeners still don’t really understand what to do with service dogs, but to be fair I would have to say the screeners I encountered were quite nice and very reasonable.
Maybe, finally, things are starting to change. Perhaps the business and hospitality world is beginning to realize that people with disabilities are consumers, people who spend their money just the same as anyone else. Perhaps they realize that being friendly and welcoming is good for business.
Whatever is going on, whether it is just this one town or a movement about to sweep the country, I am all for it.