Service Animals
Things the Disability Guide
Doesn't Tell You!

We asked Donna to share with us "What do you wish you knew prior to your first trip with your Service Animal?"

Where all the "potty stop" places are in the parks!

You should give the dog PLENTY of rest stops because most Cast Members don't know where the places are. Take your dog and ask, then sit and wait for them to find someone who knows. We've found most of the places by now, but you should still ask someone first. It's never a good idea to go potty without asking!

It's amazing how many people don't know where to take their dogs to go to the bathroom. But you should always find out...ALWAYS. We always take Gracie to potty BEFORE we get to the parks. Then she's got a pretty good reserve built up when we get there, so we don't have to rush to find a place right away. But you never know for sure. (You ever had to go twice in an hour? Not very comfortable, is it?)

To be honest, we've read nearly every guide book that's been written about WDW, I think, so we're pretty up to date on all the places, but we always check with the local cast member to make sure. We often times have to tell them what we've read and where the spots are, and 99% of them are very good about taking you there and making sure everything is okay. I love WDW Cast Members!

Don't forget your plastic bags! You MUST clean up after your dog! ALWAYS clean up after your dog! (That's not a Disney thing, it's a doggie thing. You should always, ALWAYS clean up after the dog.) It's very difficult to find plastic bags in the parks, so take them with you!

Animal Kingdom is the worst place to take a dog to. It's really a wonderful place to go, but the rules are very stringent for people, let alone for dogs! Gracie loves it, but you really have to be careful in there! You need to clean up Everything you leave, all the time. It's perfectly understandable with all the animals in there and I'm not complaining, but it IS hard to get the dog ready to go there, and it's hard when you are there to follow all the rules (but we always try to!)...

The guides don't always tell you what attractions you're supposed to be on and which ones you're not. And they don't tell you about going into restaurants.

Gracie's always been treated like a queen in all of the WDW eateries, even in the Brown Derby! We had Lunch with an Imagineer there and everyone said she was great! She's been to restaurants in the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Disney/MGM. She really seems to like the Sci-Fi theater at MGM, and the cast members like her. That's a tough place to take her, however, because she can't lay under the table! The tables are all raised and have very little space around them. She has to lay beside the seat, but there's enough room around the "car" that she can stay out of the way pretty well. She's been to the Brown Derby too. And she's been to Pecos Bill's and the Land Grill and Tusker House. She's been to many restaurants.

People will want to pet your dog.

With Gracie, it's usually okay. I mean, it's tough when we're moving somewhere and she's suddenly stopped by kids, but we've gotten through it every time. I've had trouble with that only TWICE since we're been taking her. The first time was at the Magic Kingdom. As she was taking me out the door of a store on Main Street, a lady was coming in the door. She was amazed and just let out a scream (and it was really a SCREAM. Gracie maintained, however. "A DOG! There's a dog here!" and she started petting Gracie. She never said "Hi" to me. She never even noticed me! She just stopped, screamed, and started petting Gracie.

People are getting more used to seeing service dogs working. Just last night a very young child was walking past Gracie as we were coming out of a movie. He wanted to pet her, but his mother said 'No! You shouldn't pet her! She's WORKING!" That was wonderful. And it's happening more and more often. So often, mothers and fathers used to say "No! Don't touch the dog! It'll bite you!" or "Stay away from that dog! It'll hurt you!" But people are learning about service dogs in lots of places these days, and you don't get parents warning their kids about the dogs any more. But you do get them telling the kids not to disturb the dog because she's working. If we're anyplace that I can manage it, I always thank the parents for that kind of warning.

Gracie knows she's supposed to let people pet her (she's also a Therapy Dog two days a week, since she was 10 weeks old--I LOVE having a cross-trained dog!), so she just stood still and let the lady pet her...all over...She looked at me like "Mom? What's going on?" but she stood still and let the lady pet her. She's an awfully good girl! But after about 5 minutes, the lady quit petting her, and left. She never even said "Hello" to me. It's like she didn't even notice I was there. I was trying to make my way to the wall so I could at least lean, but it was pretty bad. I finally knelt down on the floor. Gracie just stood there, very still and very good, and the lady never even noticed that I was standing there. That was the first time anything like that had ever happened to me. Fortunately, it has never happened again.

Staying at the Hotel

Another thing that you should do if you're taking the dog into a hotel (and all the Disney cast members have been super about having Gracie in the rooms! Some even leave little treasures for her just like they do for kids!). Make Sure You Vacuum before you leave. We always stay in the "Home away from home" resorts, so there's always a vacuum. There is occasionally a vacuum in a few hotel room type places, but they always have them in the home away from home resorts. We have to vacuum twice if we occasionally stay in a room more than a week. We always comb her out very well before we start out, but she's an Elkhound, and they shed all year long. But we always clean up the room. Vacuums are VERY important, because elkies leave a room with a "snowed on" look.

She NEVER gets on the bed or any of the furniture, and her food and water bowls are always placed in the bathroom or kitchen so the floor is easier to clean every time we have to do it. You have to clean up after every meal, because you don't want crumbs or leftovers stuck to the floor! And the water spots from the water bowl can be terrible. You have to remember to take extra care when you have a dog in the room, because it's such a special thing. Having your dog with you is a PRIVILEGE, and you have to do everything you can to take care of the place and let the cast members know that you realize it's a PRIVILEGE and you appreciate it. But it can be hard to remember to vacuum a room when you're used to having it vacuumed for you every time you go. But you MUST remember to do it, and not leave dog hair on the floor or furniture. It's hard enough getting a dog into a hotel room. You DON'T want to make them sorry you brought her! You want people to be GLAD that she's coming.

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