Saturday, January 7, 2012

Life on Board with your Service Dog.


Life on board the cruise ship with your service dog should be delightful.  You and your dog can go anywhere and do anything together, but always be sensitive to your fellow shipmates and their concerns.  Under no circumstances should you feed your dog outside the room, and certainly not in the dining room.  One message board poster related the following:  A couple of years ago on the Statendam there was a small service dog in the main dining room, the guests even ordered a meal for the dog!!! The dog never got out of its pet carrier, but the carrier was placed on a seat and the owners fed it right at the table and "that did cause some raised eyebrows." While you and your service dog may be welcome, don’t abuse the privilege.
One way to help set expectations for your shipmates is to join a cruise message board (such as Cruise Critic) and join the Roll Call for your voyage.  You can let your shipmates know about your service dog coming aboard with you.  In my case, I received a warm welcome.

Many many passengers (and crew) will welcome you and your well-behaved dog.  People miss their own dogs at home or miss their dogs since passed away, and your dog my provide them some pleasure.  Expect lots of questions about how you were able to bring your dog on the ship (they may not understand she is a service dog), what kind of medical disability she serves (only say what you feel comfortable revealing), and where she goes potty!  We got these questions a lot!  Also, don't be surprised if one or two passengers look at your dog in disgust - with the view that dogs are not welcome: if needed, state firmly that she is a service dog and walk away.
While your service dog is a working dog, meaning, she has a dedicated job to perform for you at all times, do remember, she is a dog.  Even working dogs need some “down time.”  While you probably can’t play outside your room, you should be able to enjoy a walk together on deck, to smell the roses so-to-speak.

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