Monday, December 26, 2011
Bianca Visits Our Soldiers Abroad
by Pamela Pospisil, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Class OR 195
My husband, Bill, and I decided to try Space-A travel with the military. "A" stands for "available”, which means we were going standby. Bill has a military retirement, and we are eligible to travel this way for free as long as there is room available. Because we are retirees, we are the lowest on the totem pole of people eligible to take the flight, so we have to be prepared to "hurry up and wait" for flights which we may or may not get on until the last minute. In October 2011 we wanted to try for a flight to Spain.
At the end of January 2011, Bianca, my Guide Dog, and I graduated from GDB at the Oregon campus. Bianca and I had done many things together, but this trip was to be our big adventure, and we didn't know exactly how it would work. Prior to the trip Bill and I made sure we had an international microchip put in Bianca and all papers in order. We were able to get on a C-17 cargo plane from McChord Air Force Base (AFB) in Tacoma, WA to Dover AFB in Delaware. We had a pad for Bianca to lie on, and I put cotton balls in her ears (which she left in during flight) because of the noise. She crawled up into a little ball and stayed that way the entire trip. She did this for every plane ride. We spent a great deal of time with the other passengers during this trip waiting for planes, flying, and seeing each other at the bases. Bianca made a huge impression on people with her great behavior, personality and general beauty. She had a calming effect on everyone around, and her presence was therapeutic. I got many many compliments on her.
The most touching thing was when soldiers came up to her and asked to just pet her. One soldier had come back from Afghanistan and was headed to Germany. He said he just needed to touch her and pet her. Coming back from Germany, our plane was full of soldiers who were just coming back from Iraq. Several of them came up and said they really wanted to pet her. They all said they missed their dogs at home. I heard a lot of comments of people talking about their dogs when they saw Bianca. When you think of the soldiers being away from home, you don't always think about how much they miss their pets.
It was obvious that the military people were not used to dealing with someone with a guide dog, but they treated us with a great deal of respect, and the trip was a huge success. That was mostly due to having Bianca with us, and what a great impression she made on everyone around her. By the way, we never made it to Spain, but Germany was great. The people there love their dogs and did not bat an eye about Bianca being in any public place.