Wednesday, April 24, 2019

We're Number One!

Quick, click on this link:

And scroll down a couple of pages.

The University of Illinois Press's fall 2019 catalog is out, and guess what book occupies the coveted No. 1 spot?

Traveling with Service Animals, of course.


Because dogs.

The actual subject matter may not sound crowd-pleasing in the extreme, but everybody loves dogs, and so we think it's a smart marketing move to lead off a roster of mostly very scholarly books with something that just might send turnstiles clicking in bookstores (if bookstores have turnstiles).

That golden retriever is irresistible, isn't it?

We have hope.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

At last, the jacket

The hardcover dust jacket and paperback cover for Traveling with Service Animals is at last done. It's by Jennifer Fisher, one of the crackerjack design artists at the University of Illinois Press, and Chris and I think it's a handsome beast indeed.

Note that the golden retriever, perhaps the most popular dog in the United States, is looking directly at the camera, making eye contact with potential readers. Note that the colors of both dog and book title are the same, a clever bit of creative marketing.

The four international travel icons across the top are also a nice touch, and Jennifer is planning to tie them into the interior design.

Soon we'll see a few examples of that, and not long afterward the page proofs.

On August 15 the book will officially be published.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Service dog emojis are here

As a longtime word worker I haven’t been using emojis in my social-media communications, although some of this visual shorthand is often cute when it's not being trite. Smiley faces, for instance, have become so commonplace that many of us hardly notice them anymore.
Other kinds can be useful if one wants to issue a quick and unmistakable opinion on something. For many of us the turd emoji 💩would be the perfect reaction to last night’s State of the Union speech.
For those who like to use emojis, fresh new ones are needed. Yesterday the emoji people issued a whole new bunch, many dealing with disabilities and including several depicting service dogs.
Maybe I’ll use one of those now and then.

Monday, February 4, 2019

'Traveling with Service Animals' hits a milestone

Publishing a book with a university press has a gestation period almost as long as that of an elephant. It takes about a year from acceptance of a manuscript to issuance of a finished book. (Nine months is normal with a commercial publisher, less if it's a book on a hot topic.)

Five and a half months after it was accepted at the University of Illinois Press, Traveling with Service Animals—written with coauthor Chris Goodier—has reached the end of copyediting and has gone into the jacket and interior design stages. Recently the press shared with us the proposed jacket and catalog copy, and here it is:

"This book is one of a kind. Detailed, easy to read, and well researched."
--Toni Ann Eames, cofounder and president of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners

"Traveling with Service Animals prepares those traveling with service animals to answer the call with confidence when far off horizons beckon. These well-traveled authors share their experiences, best practices, travel tips and in depth travel information to assure every journey with a Service Animal becomes a stress free, pleasurable experience. This book is a must to have to get there!"
--Sheila O’Brien, President of the North American Region of Assistance Dogs International (ADI)

“The boom in trained service animal use and access has transformed the lives of travelers with disabilities. As a result, tens of thousands of people in the United States and Canada enjoy travel options that were difficult or impossible just a few years ago.

“Henry Kisor and Christine Goodier provide a narrative guidebook full of essential information and salted with personal, hands-on stories of life on the road with service dogs and miniature horses. As the travel-savvy human companions of Trooper (Kisor's miniature schnauzer/poodle cross) and Raylene (Goodier's black Labrador), the authors share experiences from packing for your animal partner to widely varying legal protections to the animal-friendly rides at Disneyland. Chapters cover the specifics of air, rail, road, and cruise ship travel, while appendixes offer checklists, primers on import regulations and corporate policies, advice for emergencies, and a route-by-route guide to finding relief walks during North American train trips.

“Practical and long overdue, Traveling with Service Animals provides any human-animal partnership with a horizon-to-horizon handbook for exploring the world.

“Henry Kisor is a retired book review editor and literary columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. His books include What's That Pig Outdoors? A Memoir of Deafness and Zephyr: Tracking a Dream across America. Christine Goodier is a freelance travel writer.”

Those two jacket "blurbs" from two of the most prominent people in the service dog field are heartening to us.

Now we’re eagerly awaiting the cover design.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

My 31st (I think) trip on the California Zephyr

Debby consults with attendant Michelle on the best places to pee Trooper.
I am just back from a fascinating week’s round trip on the California Zephyr from Chicago to Emeryville, Calif.

One purpose was to gather information for the upcoming 25th anniversary edition of Zephyr: Tracking a Dream Across America and also scout out the best stops to relieve a service dog for Traveling with Service Animals: By Air, Road, Rail and Ship Across North America, to be published next August by the University of Illinois Press.

Another purpose was just to have fun. I’m a rail buff, after all.

My takeaway: Not much has changed aboard the train since the 2015 edition of Zephyr. Crews are almost uniformly good. Diner cuisine—quick-frozen sous-vide dishes reheated in the galley—has actually improved, although as always some desirable entrees on the menu can be unavailable. Timekeeping has fallen behind, partly because of heavy freight traffic, partly because of awful weather, and partly because locomotives and cars are getting long in the tooth and sometimes unreliable.

I wrote “almost uniformly good” because, as always in a service industry, there can be exceptions. The one on this trip was an officious and unsmiling conductor who apparently did not like dogs. She appeared in the doorway of our bedroom and fixed a gimlet stare at my service dog Trooper. Such gazes can make dogs uncomfortable, and Trooper whined in protest.

Trooper in the lounge car.
“You cannot bring that dog to the dining car!” she said. “He’s grouchy. You’ll have to eat in your room.”

Then she added: “People don’t like dogs in the dining car.”

That last was a blatant violation of the rules of the Americans with Disabilities Act. One cannot deny a service dog access to a public venue just because someone might object to its presence.

I did not demur. Conductors can throw you off the train if they think you're being disruptive. “Okay,” I said. “You’re the boss.”

Afterward, my sleeper attendant—a dog lover to whom Trooper took an immediate shine—seemed appalled by the incident. “He’s just fine,” she said.

After the conductor left the train at the next crew change stop, the dining car crew warmly welcomed our presence at all meals and even treated us—me, Debby, and Trooper—as a party of three, giving him plenty of room under the table.

On the trip back, another conductor knocked on our door early in the morning. “We’ll be at Green River (Utah) several extra minutes,” she said. (We were actually running ahead of time.) “Would you like to take your dog off for a potty break there?”

We said no, but with thanks. We’d already peed Trooper at Salt Lake City not long before, and planned to take him off a couple of hours later at Grand Junction, Colo.

“That’s fine,” said the conductor with a bright smile, and she went on her way, leaving us feeling further gratified that Amtrak personnel were watching out for us.

Back in 2015, female engineers, conductors and on-board service crew already were old hat—but we noticed that on this round trip they seemed to make up at least half the Amtrakers we encountered aboard the train. Our national passenger railroad is nothing if not diverse.

Another big change since 2015 is the refurbished Denver Union Station, which has become the place to be for millennials who work downtown. The swooping canopy over the arrival and departure tracks is a sight to behold.

As for the best places to relieve a service dog enroute, we found the choicest were Galesburg, Ottumwa, Omaha, Fort Morgan, Denver, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Salt Lake City, Winnemucca, Reno and Sacramento—mostly crew change or smoke stops. We did not have to ask once for the train to stop and wait at a remote station while Trooper transacted his business.

A very late eastbound Zephyr meets an on-time westbound Zephyr.

Not all these places have grass, which young service dogs generally prefer for their toilette. Trooper, however, is now four years old and has learned that sometimes he has no choice. So long as a sturdy post is available for a target, he’s fine.

Both trains were very late. The westbound trip arrived in Emeryville 7 1/2 hours behind schedule, thanks largely to the plow on the lead locomotive being knocked out of alignment early in the trip. It took Amtrak several hours to work out what to do, and the decision was to cut the locomotive off and make the trip with just one unit to Denver, where we picked up a second engine for the pull over the Rockies and Sierras.

Oddly, the westbound Zephyr of the day before had suffered the same plow problem in almost the same spot, and was also late getting into Emeryville.

Our eastbound return went swimmingly until Denver, where we were late leaving because the locomotive computer had to be reset, causing us to run into freight traffic just outside town and stop for an hour. The oncoming polar vortex resulted in some slow running thereafter, and we were just a couple of hours late into Omaha.

Then—you guessed it—it happened again. Just east of Mendota the train stopped. The lead locomotive’s plow had been knocked out of alignment. (Things apparently do happen in threes.)

Almost two hours passed before the train, minus its original lead locomotive, started up again—and stopped scarcely half a mile later. A freight train in front of us, the conductor said, had struck a car that slid on the ice through a crossing, and there were injuries. Another two hours passed while the ambulance arrived and the authorities cleared the wreckage and allowed the railroad to open again.

Debby catches up on her needlepoint in the lounge car.

Meanwhile, the vicious polar vortex of January 2019 had shouldered its way south and by the time the Zephyr tied up at Chicago Union Station 4 1/2 hours late, the temperature outside had dropped to minus 5 degrees with a biting wind chill of 20 below. Late as we were, I was almost sorry to leave our snug sleeper room.

A splendidly warm Uber met us just outside the station and had us home in half an hour.

Monday, September 24, 2018

At my advanced age, I'm still doin' writeups for the news papers

This article appeared in the September 18 issue of the Ontonagon Herald, an Upper Michigan weekly with a circulation of about 2,000. The photo shows Trooper jumping up on me as Debby (behind the camera) calls my name.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Genuine service dog or not?

This morning I had the following message from a friend who runs a major musical venue:

"I have done much research and followed your postings about service dogs and feel that I have a good understanding of the laws and the need and importance that the dogs have in people's lives.  On the other hand, we have many people wanting to bring their dogs [into the venue], and in the back of my mind I am often skeptical when I see people with dogs, wondering if they are just sneaking them in.  

"There was a man at the venue with a large dog in a harness, and he was walking with him all over the grounds.  At times the man was drinking.  I had convinced myself he had probably snuck the dog in, but accepted that there was nothing I could do about it except to obey the law. It nagged at me every time he walked by.  On Friday I saw the dog lie down by a child, and I could see the man talking to the child and a parent and I thought they were petting the dog.   

" 'Service dog, my ass,' I was thinking again. Then, on Saturday evening when our headliner was on,  I saw the man walk by with the dog and a beer in hand. I leaned over to the security volunteer next to me and said to him sarcastically what I had been thinking all weekend: 'Yeah, that's a service dog. Sure it is.'  

"This I will never forget. The security volunteer looks at me and says, 'Diabetes. The dog is trained to detect low blood sugar. Did you hear what happened?'

"To which I said, no I had not. He went on: 'The guy was walking by a child and it performed its service dog task. [Presumably the dog smelled a chemical change in the child's breath and nudged with his nose.] The man asked the parents, "Does your child have diabetes?" To which they replied, "Yes.'" He told the parents, "Give him something. His sugar is low." Sure enough, it was.'

"Shame on me for my thoughts and snarky comment. This was a real eye-opener and one I will share with my staff when we have our next meeting. 

"That is exactly the reason we are only able to ask the permitted questions ["Is that a service dog?" and "What task does he do for you?"] and not make our own judgments.  I was ashamed of my negative thinking and will never do it again. Big lesson learned.”

Yup. It's nearly impossible to tell a genuine service dog from a fake, especially on first sight. Some disabilities are invisible. Best thing to do is just go along and assume the dog is kosher.