Phew! What a week it’s been. Helaine and I just returned to Washington State early yesterday morning after five days in the beautiful, warm and sunny state of Colorado. My beautiful baby cousin graduated from high school, and far before I even knew I was going to be a puppy raiser again, I made a promise to be there to support her. After Helaine arrived, I realized I had to make some decisions on whether or not she would travel with me. She is still so young, and I was really quite concerned about a number of things. My two biggest concerns were getting through airport security, and her hurrying in the middle of the aiport upon landing. I’m so so so proud to say that my fears were never realized. The trip was perfect. So, I have five days worth of stories and a bunch of pictures to share so buckle up and hold on, we’ll start from the beginning.
Last Wednesday I packed up my suitcase and Helaine’s back pack and loaded it into my car. We were heading to puppy class, but I knew I wasn’t coming home after. I was filled with nerves and excitement, and I think Helaine could feel it too. After class, we drove another 45 minutes to Renton where my dear friend Alicia lives. She is incredible! Our flight was at 5 am, which means I needed to be at the airport by 3:30 am at the latest. She had to work that morning, but she was so awesome and took us to the airport anyway. I didn’t fall asleep, instead I watched Dirty Dancing (one of my favorite movies of all time) while Helaine and Alicia snuggled and snoozed. My nerves started to build as we got closer to the airport, but they quickly subsided once we got through security. Helaine. Was. Awesome. We got to the security check point, and I put her in a Sit-Stay while I went through the metal detector. I then called her through. Of course, her Gentle Leader and leash set off the alarm so she had to have a pat down. She thought it was the best thing that ever happened to her. Once we were cleared I had to have my hands tested. Apparently when you fly with a dog, they test your hands for explosive chemicals. That was weird. We were given the Okay (like I had any doubts on that one) and away we went. I soon found out that our gate was miles away. Okay, so maybe not miles away, but it was a good 20 minute walk (or more.) It was on the complete opposite side from where the only open security check-point was. Helaine was pooped by the time we got to our gate, but at least she didn’t poop! 🙂
Her face looks so funny in this picture, but is one of the only ones I got prior to take-off
Once we got to the gate, I gave the Down command and she did instantly. There she stayed until it was time to board. I had several people asking me questions and taking her picture prior to boarding, and it was fun to get to talk about CCI. I did that A LOT while on this vacation and I loved every minute of it. When it was time to board, other passengers were very kind and gave us plenty of time and space to get our things in order. I requested bulk head seating a few weeks prior to our trip, and I’m so glad I did. There was plenty of room for her to lay down, and plenty of room for my feet too. We settled in next to two very delighted and interested passengers who were thrilled to share their foot space with My Girl. As reward for being so gracious, I allowed them to give Helaine some love prior to take off. They snapped some pictures of her too and then she settled in for her 2 hour and 25 minute nap.
Relieving any stress prior to take off
I was so happy to be leaving this wet, cold city
Helaine fell asleep while we were waiting for the other passengers to board. When we pulled away from the terminal and made our way to the runway, she didn’t even stir. When the engines were fully fired up and ready for take-off, she lifted her head to look at me, but didn’t show any concern or fear. Once air-borne, she placed her head on my feet and proceeded to sleep the entire flight. I’m glad she did, because I was able to finally get the first bit of sleep I had had in 24 hours. I awoke to the sound of the captain informing us of our final decent into Denver. Ten minutes later we were on the ground and a new adventure began.
Let me say one thing about Denver International Airport. It is CONFUSING. I was confused coming in, and I was confused flying out. It was a tangled mess of trains and long walks, and with Helaine, I had to find elevators which seem to be harder to find than the usual escalator. We took two of the subway type trains to get to the baggage claim, and Helaine put herself into a down-stay. I was okay with that, and she stayed there until I gave her the release command. I was one escalator away from my family and baggage claim and I couldn’t find an elevator to get us up there. I did what any desperate-to-see-her-family person would do in this situation…I picked Helaine up and took that escalator. I can do this now because My Girl is only 35 lbs. Next time, I’ll have to do some seriously elevator searching. In the airport alone, Helaine experienced 2 things for the first time, aside from the flight and the chaos and energy for a popular hub, she experienced elevators and the subway. She’s so solid. She’s gonna knock the socks off trainers at Santa Rosa in 2014!
After a 30 minute car ride, we arrived at my aunts house and settled down for an hour or two. I gave Helaine her breakfast and let her just relax and play. We had to get some things at the grocery store for the graduation party that was going to take place two days later, and I decided to let Helaine stay home in the crate and just decompress. I’m sure she was happy about that. For being in a new place, and a new home she was so good. She didn’t make a peep while I was gone. I’m sure my uncle was very happy about that. We went to bed fairly early that night, as my aunt had a busy day planned for us.
We woke up at 7 am (6 am our time) and prepared for the day ahead of us. We went to two really awesome places down in Colorado Springs, which is about a 2 hour drive from my family’s home. Our first destination was Cave of the Winds. Seriously if you’ve never been there and you’re going to Colorado, make it a point to go. It was so beautiful and fun. We called ahead to make sure it was okay to bring Helaine and it was! We decided to take the cave tour, and I was initially really worried about how Helaine would handle it. I’m not sure why I ever worry about her. She’s a rock star. We did almost 200 flights of stairs (okay so I did over 200 flights of stairs, but one stairwell was really really steep like a ladder and there is no way Helaine was going up that on her own, so I carried her up) and we even experienced total cave darkness, narrow walk ways and interesting sights and sounds. She didn’t seem intimidated or worried at all, but I made sure to reward her with lots of praise and kibble. The tour guide said she would have a lot of respect for Helaine if she completes the tour. Guess what, she did!
Helaine on the looonnnngggg car ride to the caves, she loved invading my cousin’s foot space
The bear statue welcoming us to the park
One of several overlooks into the canyon below. Helaine walked right up to the edge and looked down. No fear!
My beautiful cousin, Helaine and I. It was pretty hot out (note Helaine’s face)
Not the best picture, but they’re hard to get when in a cave system
“Dreams of mountains as in their sleep, they brood on things eternal”
Once the 45 minute tour was done, we made our way back through the gift shop and out to the car and away we went to the next destination! After a short 15 minute drive, we arrived at Garden of the Gods, which is a beautiful park full of natural red rock formations. It was so neat driving through the valley to get to the visitor center. Once we got there, we spent a good amount of time exploring and taking in the view. Helaine even made some new friends!
She kept trying to get through the glass to get closer to this cougar
Just because I like humiliating my puppies
On our way out of the gift shop, I met a couple from the East Coast who raise guide dogs for Guiding Eyes. It was really neat to get to discuss the differences in schools and explain what each program does. We chatted for at least 15 minutes before parting ways. I love this volunteer gig, I really do!
On our way back home, we hit some major rush hour traffic which extended our already two our drive by an hour and a half. Helaine slept in the very back of my aunt’s crossover almost the entire way. She was absolutely exhausted. I wanted to curl up with her and take a nap myself. Maybe next time!
Saturday was graduation day. I decided that because grad was outside and it was supposed to be extra hot that day, that I would leave Helaine at home. I’m so glad I did. There was zero shade and it was ridiculously hot. She was the lucky one who got to hang out in the air conditioning. My grandma and I went to run some errands after Miranda walked acrossed the stage, and when we got back to the house everyone was there! My family is AWESOME and had already let Helaine outside to Hurry. She also had a pack of kids that kept her busy. It was so awesome to watch how sweet and gentle she was. She trotted along right beside them as they ran through the house. She didn’t play too roughly and she never knocked them over. My sweet little cousin Juniper was so smitten. It was by far one of the most precious friendships I’ve ever seen. Helaine did so well with people in and out of the house all day. She has never had that many people in a home setting before and she handled it with ease. She has a new addiction now, which was caused by me and solely me. She loves ice! And she knows the sound of the ice machine. When she hears it, she will run to the fridge and wait patiently for her treat!
Sunday was spent at home just relaxing for the most part, but we did take a small adventure to a nursery called The Tree Farm. It was so fun, but again it was hot! (Hey guys did you know it’s hot in Colorado?) We were looking at trees, and a man came by in a golf cart and drove us out to the bigger ones. Then he left us there to walk back. That was not awesome, but the golf cart was! Helaine thought it was neat and didn’t even seem to care.
Happy Dog liked the golf cart!
I have NEVER seen her pant this much!
Monday my family and I went out to The Wild Animal Sanctuary without Helaine, as she’s not allowed in zoo like settings. I’m glad I left her home this day as well because it was even hotter than Saturday! When I returned to the house, with much sadness in my heart I packed our belongings and it was time to head back to the airport. I hugged my aunt and my cousin and cried the entire confusing walk to security. Helaine knew I was upset and she kept voluntarily doing the Visit command. She is the sweetest and I know she’s going to make an awesome service dog some day.
She was just as sad to leave as I was
The flight home was easy and she did well. She slept, and I watched Dirty Dancing. Funny how I ended the trip the way I started it. The only thing I was peeved about was the man who sat on the aisle seat. Every time I wasn’t looking, he would poke Helaine with his foot to wake her up so he could make kissing noises at her. We had even had a conversation about how she’s working, and his partner told him that he couldn’t distract her. Once she fell asleep, he went right back to being obnoxious. Ohhhh well. Helaine looked at him like “really? Am I supposed to be amused?”
Needless to say, this trip was an awesome first experience for both Helaine and I. I had never flown with a dog until this trip, and I am proud to say that I will do it again, and am doing it again in August. As long as the heat isn’t too much, Helaine will travel with me again and I have no doubts that she will be awesome and earn her frequent flyer miles!