Service Dog Cruise - Guide Dog Cruise
Purpose: We started Service Dog Cruises because so many people with Service Dogs are leery of traveling. We felt that if we could show people that they can travel with their Service Dog or Guide Dog, that they would enjoy traveling and travel more.
The question was, how to do that. The answer was to offer people a full support team while they traveled. The support team had to consist of a Veterinarian, Professional Handlers, a Trainer and experienced Travel Consultants.
Our Veterinarian, Dr. Jack Herring, agreed to be a part of the support team as did Diane Brown and Robin Myers. Diane is a Physical Therapist and Professional Handler. Robin is a Vet Tech and Professional Handler. Now the hard part, a Trainer. We never thought that we would be fortunate enough to have a "World Renowned" Trainer as part of our support team.
Dr. Bonnie Bergin of the Assistance Dog Institute in California agreed to be part of the support team. Dr. Bergin is known worldwide for her training abilities. She has traveled the world lecturing about Service Animals and Training. Dr. Bergin is the one person who is responsible for the Assistance Service Dog today. During the days at sea, Dr. Bergin conducts training sessions onboard the ship which have been just unbelievable. My Service Dog Buddy even learned to read!
So, that is how the Service Dog Cruises started in 2002. The first Service Dog Cruise was March 29, 2003 onboard Holland America's Zuiderdam. Naturally were concerned about how other guests onboard the Ship would feel about having so many Service Dogs onboard with them. That concern was absolutely a non-issue. Everyone welcomed the Service Dogs and many sent letters to Holland America about how wonderful it was to have the Service Dogs aboard the ship.
Plans were made to have a second Service Dog Cruise which was aboard Holland America's Volendam October 29, 2003. There were 17 Service Dogs and 57 people in that group. One again, everyone had a marvelous time and all the Service Dogs were outstanding. The Ship enjoyed having them so much, that they requested us to coordinate a presentation for all the guests onboard the ship - demonstrating the services that the Service Dogs perform. Some of the Service Dogs were for mobility impaired individuals and they showed the guests onboard the ship how they help to remove a sweater, pick up something that was dropped, pull a wheelchair and unzip a jacket. There were Guide Dogs with us and they demonstrated "Intelligent Disobedience" for the safety of their partner. Some of the Service Dogs showed the audience how they could "read" their commands from a card shown to them. There were Emotional Support and Seizure Alert Service Dogs as well.
Our plan worked. Many of the people that had not traveled before found that they could do it and even though they had a full support team on their cruise, they found that they can now travel alone.