The story of a boy living with Type 1 and his family's journey to raise and train a diabetic alert dog.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Video: Bo's First Time Flying

Pre-boarding the plane.
This week  Austin, Helen and I took Bo on his first commercial airline flights. The two flights we took were non stop and nearly four hours in duration. We spent three weeks before our trip training for the experience. We practiced working in an airport, passing through a metal detector and loading up and riding in small spaces. Our overall goal with this highly focused training was to set Bo up for a successful first flight.

Our whirlwind trip began in the early morning hours of May 18.  I awoke at 2 am to shower and get myself ready. At 3 am I woke Bo and exercised him for 50 minutes. We walked/jogged up and down our street and played games of chase (and tug) with our lunge whip. The idea was to exercise him enough to tire him but not make him hot, thirsty or hungry.

Walking to the gate.
At 4 am we departed for the airport and by 5 am we met Helen in the terminal. Our plan was for Austin to handle Bo, for Helen to support Austin and monitor Bo for signs of stress, and for me to carry the bags and document the trip. We each knew our roles and carried them out just as planned.

Bo and Austin worked through the security checkpoint, navigated the busy gate area, and boarded the aircraft with ease and confidence. On the plane Bo settled at our feet and slept for most of the flight. Early in our first flight, he alerted to a low of 82 and then later in the flight he alerted to a low of 78. On the flight home, he alerted to highs of 215 and 255. I was able to capture video of his alert on the 255.

I didn't expect him to alert on the plane because we had not done scent training on one, plus the environmental distractions were new and strong. The fact that he did alert demonstrated his ability to "generalize" or learn to perform a behavior in any given situation or environment. It also demonstrated his willingness to do the job we've trained him to do. 

Asleep during the flight.
I worried a lot about flying with Bo and it turned out none of the scenarios I worried about happened. Sure there were challenges but nothing we couldn't work our way through. For example, there were a few people who tried to pet Bo but Helen intercepted each of them. There were plenty of people who stared at and talked to Bo but Austin was able to re-gain Bo's focus by a simple call of his name. At the very end of our whirlwind trip, as the three of us stood alone waiting for an elevator to the parking garage, Bo got spooked by a man pulling luggage on wheels. The man came around a corner suddenly and Bo reacted with barking but Austin reset him and he recovered quickly. 
Settled at our feet.

While Bo was very visible as we walked through the airport terminal and as we waited at our gate, on the plane he was inconspicuous.  He settled at our feet and slept for the majority of the flight. In fact, he was so quiet and out of sight that he went completely unnoticed by a passenger sitting across from us. She only noticed him when we were getting off the plane. She came up to me and said, "I didn't even know you had a dog with you." I smiled at her knowing we had achieved success.

Waiting to board our flight.

In line to board.

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