Monday, January 24, 2011

Great things about being blind. Air travel. The pilot story.

It is an absolutely freezing day outside today. A good day to fly off to somewhere warm. As promised several times, here finally is the pilot story. This did really happen too. When I got my first guide dog (black lab Gwenny) we were living in Vancouver British Columbia. I had gone out there to study Music Therapy and stayed for several years before moving back East. Richard's parents live in Halifax Nova Scotia and we were visiting them one time. We ended up having to fly straight back to Vancouver from Halifax which was about seven hours or so. There was a brief stop but not a long one. This is quite a long time for a dog to last without going to the bathroom. It can be done and has been done but I thought I would ask the flight attendents if there was any possibility for Gwenny to go out on our brief stop over. The flight attendent said that she would ask the captain. She then came back to tell me that the stop over was too short for me to go through security and come back but that the captain would be happy to take Gwenny onto the tarmac if this was all right with me. I agreed to this gratefully. I usually don't make a habit of getting other people to take my dogs out without me, but this was a special case. When we landed for the stop over, we were told that we could get off briefly if we wished. Richard decided to get off. I thought I would just wait for Gwenny to come back. The pilot came. Of course all dressed up in his pilot's uniform. I had taken Gwenny's working harness off but suggested he carry it on his shoulder in case anyone wanted to know what a dog was doing on the tarmac. He said that was a good idea. So he put the harness over his shoulder and Gwenny pranced off with him to explore the airport tarmac. I thought they would be gone for about five minutes. But time passed and time passed. I was a little worried but figured they would be back. After all, the pilot had to fly us on to Vancouver. Richard returned to sit with me. Still no Gwenny. Finally, after about twenty-five minutes, they returned. The pilot was laughing and Gwenny was wagging and happy. He told me they had walked all over the tarmac, that she had gone, that he hadn't given her water as we had a long flight ahead, and then he said, "I had the most fun ever." He walked all over the place. On the tarmac and then a little inside the airport and when people would stare at them, he would say, "What's the matter. Haven't you seen a blind pilot with his guide dog before?" He was still laughing when he headed back to the flight deck. Every little while as the flight continued, one of the crew from the flight deck would come back to see the famous dog. They all asked if I were going to take any more long distance flights across Canada. I'll bet they were hopeful. Since then, a few pilots have told me that they are pretty sure that blind people could fly the airline planes as it is mostly done by computers now. When I came home recently with Tulia, we also had a long flight. When I landed after the first leg of the flight, I asked if someone could take her to the tarmac. One of the baggage handlers did it but they were only gone for about two minutes.
On another note, I'm still collecting tales for what is awesome about having a friend who is blind. Come on sighted folks. Be creative!

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