BY STEPHEN STEPPENS
Recently, I went to Edinburgh. I took my guide dog Luke for the first time by plane. I am used to using trains, tubes and buses and even when I went to Blackpool, the Tram, on a plane with a guide dog was an interesting and new experience.
We had arranged to go to Gatwick Airport and come back via City airport; so on a Friday morning, my sister Caroline and I, went to Gatwick Airport. When we arrived, we took the escalator up to the Gatwick Express. I should explain here, that it is not standard practice to take a guide dog on an escalator but due to reductions in staff recently, and other issues, I found it necessary to train him to do so. It’s quite straightforward, you guide him on very carefully with somebody with you, he will then step onto the escalator, and go to the bottom or top of the escalator. Once at the bottom or top, you carefully guide him off, allowing him to jump slightly over the end of the escalator; you then take him to the side, and give him a treat; it’s worked for me.
The airport security made it great fun for Luke; scanning his lead, harness and himself, talking cheerfully to him. Getting to the plane was very straightforward; literally walking on ahead of everybody else. Usually, when going on a plane, they like you to go on and off first if you have a disability.
Once on the plane we were given three seats; one for each of us, and one for the guide dog Luke who sat between us, he was very well-behaved throughout the whole flight just sitting there. I took some videos of him with my iPhone.
Getting off at Edinburgh was also very straightforward. We walked out of the Airport and took the bus to the city of Edinburgh and had a very good weekend there; I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the royal march on Saturday and the "Rebus” book walk in the afternoon.
Coming back was fairly straightforward although we got on a smaller plane, as the previous plane had been cancelled, so it was very full, so this time there were only two seats for Caroline, myself and Luke, so he had to squeeze between us.
We got back to City Airport and found the experience to be a bit trying when going home. As usual, at weekends, usual services are disrupted for engineering work and that’s what happened to Docklands Light Railway, it was cancelled. So we had to get a bus, then a train, then the tube to Liverpool Street and then the Overground back to my home in Tottenham.