On Traveling With a Service Dog

I am Impaired!

There, I said it. It’s like beginning a 12 step program. The first step is to recognize and admit you have a problem.

I don’t have a problem with alcohol. I don’t have a drug issue. I am hearing impaired!

My impairment is not huge in the grand scheme of things, but it does make my life more challenging.

Why come out?

Why come out about my impairment? Because of my dog.

Liddy is a 40-pound black and white Australian Cattle Dog / Australian Shepherd mix dog with pointy ears and big teeth. She is very intelligent. You can see it in her eyes. They strike fear into sheep, cattle, and people who don’t know any better.

Liddy is my Service Dog. She goes everywhere with me. While I could live without her services, life is so much better with her. (Check the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Website for more information)

What changed?

I wrote the first draft of this essay while enjoying my morning coffee. I was sitting on the lanai of our condo in Kona. I was reflecting on several incidents that had occurred while preparing for and enjoying our vacation. Not much more than annoyances really.

Last year Liddy traveled with us to Orlando Florida. She proved to be a very capable traveler, sitting under my seat for the hours we sat in the airplanes.

This year we decided to vacation in Hawaii. Taking Liddy with us to Hawaii was not trivial. If you have traveled with your dog, you know some of the issues. And before you say “But she’s a Service Dog”, I will say that yes, fees are avoided. Other hassles remain.

Hawaii Quarantine

Let’s get this out of the way first it as was not the trigger.

Any dog can enter Hawaii without going through Quarantine provided you meet the requirements put in place to keep Hawaii rabies-free. Pay for a specific titer test and get your vet to sign off on the paperwork. Quarantine for Liddy in Honolulu was 15 minutes.


When you walk around town with a dog wearing a billboard blaring SERVICE DOG, you are announcing to the world that, in some way, you are different. You are disabled in some way. Stamp it on your forehead. You are gimped!

Here in the Northwest, this is not a big deal. We have lots of dogs, and a good number are honest service dogs. Most people know the rules and don’t say boo.

In Hawaii, I found this not to be the case. Probably because it’s such a hassle to get your dog to the Islands, to begin with. I suspect Service Dogs in the tourist areas are not that common.

Confirming and Making Reservations

The first incidents occurred before we arrived.

I am in the habit of making my hotel reservations and then calling ahead of arrival to let them know I am traveling with a Service Dog. One resort got their shorts in a knot and said they would have to check with their manager who escalated it to their security company. I received several callbacks from them. It was left with a demand that I present my papers on arrival at their resort.

The second incident occurred when I called a botanical garden to arrange an advertised guided tour. On mentioning that I travel with a Service Dog, the person taking the call escalated it again. A manager was supposed to call me back. It didn’t happen.

Sitting Down to Breakfast

The concierge service at our Honolulu hotel recommended a restaurant as a good place for breakfast. On arriving at the restaurant, we found it to be a smaller place with cafe seating. The cafe seating area was roped off and closed. We asked about a table and were told certainly. The waitress came back a few minutes later and explained that the upstairs dining room was crowded and we would be better served down in the cafe which they opened for us. Didn’t move some of the stuff that had been piled on adjoining tables mind you.

Perhaps this was the better place to enjoy breakfast. Trouble is we weren’t given the opportunity to find out. We were just provided with the cheap seats. Now I know how the blacks feel… Not nice!

Hawaii is Great

I love Hawaii. It is a fantastic place to visit. The people are great and even the incidents mentioned above can’t take away from that. It’s just that this is the first time I have had this kind of experience. Or at least the first time it has gotten under my skin.

Traveling with a dog puts constraints on the trip. traveling with a Service Dog is no different. Fees are waived, the reality isn’t. Going to the beach is great. You get to meet the nicest lifeguards (no pets). Going into the water as a group? Not without the dog. Good thing Liddy likes the water.

Will I do it again? Hell Yes! traveling with Liddy is easy. She is well behaved. She has trained us well. We work well as a team. Best of all, she strikes up conversations with total strangers that are quite enjoyable.

After all, as a clerk in Nordstrom said once, “She is a Full-Service Dog”.

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