Confetti takes her first airplane ride in June,
Here is a great story about the first owner-trained
Guide Horse to fly in the USA:
According to the link above, Cheryl and Confetti
have taken their first airplane ride. Cheryl visited the Guide
Horse Foundation in 2001 and met with me along with Dan Shaw with Cuddles.
Long-time horse lovers, Cheryl and her husband Chris
were saddened by the long waiting list at the GHF and decided to
pursue owner-trained guides, a right guaranteed by the Americans
with Disabilities Act.
Cheryl tells people that she had her eyes removed
after a life-threatening eye infection and that she wanted a
super-reliable replacement for her aging Seeing Eye dog "Delta", who
passed away at the age of 12 recently after nearly a decade of
Cheryl obtained enthusiastic approval and financial
support from her state Council
for the Blind and was given charitable funding to acquire Confetti
and the services of a professional horse trainer to assist Chris and
Cheryl in their self-training endeavors. Confetti has been
reported to be doing an exceptional job in keeping Cheryl safe
despite her total blindness and has recently earned her wings,
taking an grueling commercial flight.
"Confetti has earned her wings! We flew to
Boston, MA, last weekend on Delta Airlines for my youngest
daughter's high school graduation. Confetti flew in the cabin with
us and stood in the bulkhead seat area."
Cheryl has reported great success in
housebreaking Confetti, but like all responsible guide animal
owners, there were fully prepared for any eventuality:
"Confetti did really
well--better than I thought she would, and much better than Cheryl
thought she would. We developed a poo bag system for her in
anticipation of her being frightened having an accident on the
plane. She surprised us both by not having an accident. She has
become adept at emptying herself out when we are going in somewhere
and holding it until we get back to the van.
We took her to pee in
Atlanta, but she wasn't ready to poo there. She held it until we
got into Logan, and finally couldn't hold it any longer. It was
5-1/2 hours from the time we left the van in Jacksonville and the
time she let go in Logan. The poo bag system worked perfectly, and
everything went into the bag. I took it off, tied it and gave it to
a nearby cleaning person who gratefully disposed of it. No muss, no
fuss, and, most importantly, no embarrassment!"
Their first-time flying experience was
very similar to reports from Guide Horse Foundation Graduates on
their first commercial flights:
"On the plane, the
first takeoff was a bit scary for her, but she handled it very
well. The first landing also startled her a bit when the wheels
touched down, but she is an amazingly adaptable little girl, and she
took her cues from us. I talked soothingly to her on takeoff and
landing, and that seemed to help her handle it.
The second takeoff
was both easier and a bit more scary for her because she knew what
was coming. But instead of spooking, she leaned against the
bulkhead to brace herself! The second landing was no big deal at
all. This time she leaned against us, and, of course, we were
bracing for the engine reversal. She took it all in stride!"
Cheryl also reported that Confetti was quite adept
at traveling in a rented vehicle, and adapted quite well to foreign
time we returned that minivan, she was a pro! She really showed us
how much she both loves and trusts us and how much she enjoys being
a guide. Speaking of which, Confetti was a tremendous help guiding
Cheryl through the airports while I dealt with the luggage.. . .
She is an amazing little girl!"
Cheryl reports that Confetti has bladder
control on-par with their Seeing Eye dog and has able to "hold it"
for eleven hours:
"I can go on and on and on about her, but let me
end by saying that the return trip was 11 hours, and she waited
until we were in the parking lot in Jacksonville before she
unloaded. She didn't wait to get to the van, but she tried. I
forgot which parking lot I had parked in, and we ended up in the
wrong one. While I was trying to find the van, Confetti enjoyed a
salad we got for her in Atlanta."
The experience of Cheryl and Confetti has confirmed
what my experiment has indicated, that any blind person with the
assistance and guidance of a professional horse trainer can train a guide horse
to the same level as the professional guide dog schools. It
will be interesting to follow Cheryl and Confetti over the next two
decades to see how they keep getting better-and-better.