Wednesday, June 22, 2016

For a service dog, the smallest room on a ship . . .

A 2013 photo of a service dog relief station aboard Holland-America's Westerdam.
. . . is the little wooden enclosure, filled with turf or mulch of some kind, provided on an outside deck for his plumbing comfort.

After Googling the subject, I see that most dogs will not take to such a facility right away and will need to be trained in its use.

And so this weekend, after we return to our summer cabin, I will go to the lumber yard for a couple of 1x8s and the garden store for a bag of mulch or wood chips, and construct a 4 foot by 4 foot (the size used on Holland-America cruise ships and most others) comfort station.

Trooper's training in its use will begin forthwith.

Only four months remain before we stand out to sea from Fort Lauderdale for the Caribbean aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. I booked the trip today.

Going, we'll take the train (the Capitol Limited to Washington, then the Silver Meteor to Fort Lauderdale. Returning to Chicago, we'll fly. I'm seriously thinking about springing for a first-class seat on American so that Trooper will have room to lie down rather than ride all the way in my lap.

Sixteen pounds of restless terrier on one's legs for two and a half hours? No thanks.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Trooper's vacation

Last night Debby and I returned from two weeks touring Iceland and picked up Trooper at son Conan's house.

We couldn't take him along on the trip because Iceland, a country very careful about the critters it allows over its borders, said Trooper would have to spend 30 days in quarantine at Keflavik airport. His status as a service dog in the United States made no difference.

We'd arranged—and paid for—the trip well before Trooper came to live with us last December. Similarly, we'd also booked a week's trip last January on VIA Rail's Canadian from Vancouver to Toronto, but we canceled that one on the suggestion of his trainer. She said it was too soon in our budding partnership to subject the dog to the stresses of travel while at the same time he and I were learning how to work with each other.

So: Did Trooper forget his training? Did he bond with Conan's family and turn his furry back on Debby and me?

No and no.

When we picked him up he greeted me with the same exuberant Facebook-video joy a returning soldier gets from his beloved pooch.

This morning we tested him on his service-dog tasks, alerting me to various sounds and leading me to their sources, and he aced every one.

After six months, Trooper and I are at last a team.

This dog seems to be extraordinarily adaptable, taking new experiences in stride. We've taken him on train trips to the Southwest and East Coast. He now divides his time between suburban Evanston and wilderness Upper Michigan, switching easily between city dog and country dog.

Our next mutual adventure very likely will be a November flight to Florida, then a week's Caribbean cruise to see how he adapts to shipboard life. As Debby and I get deeper into our seventies, cruising may take up more of our travels.

Cruise lines accommodate service dogs with four-by-four, wood-chip-filled "comfort stations" built on an outside deck. It may take a little effort to get Trooper accustomed to transacting his business in such a strange contraption, but if his recent history is a guide, things will go well.