Trip Report (with service dog)

BethCPTSD

Mouseketeer
Joined
Mar 4, 2016
Hello everyone,
I thought I would post a little trip report based upon our two weeks spent at Disney World May 31, 2022 to May 14th 2022. Up until right before we left I had not posted in several years. However, I used to post more frequently and gave a background on myself around 2017 or so if you'd like to visit my history.

I am a 44 year old woman, married and use a task trained service dogs to mitigate my disabilities. I used to have severe POTS as well and spent three years in a wheelchair, but it is in remission, and I proudly walked through all the parks this year. My primary disabilities are serious mental illnesses, including Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This was the third trip to WDW I have been on with my service dog Harrison. He is now 6 years old and has a lot more experience and is much more bonded to me than on our first trip (which was only 6 months after I'd gotten him from his program.) Last year he went through intensive refresher training and did a wonderful job on this trip.

My comments here mostly pertain to working him on this trip in the parks. I am used to getting comments everywhere I go with him even at home like "look there's a dog!" or "beautiful dog!" just walking through the mall. This year for some reason (and spending two weeks again) the comments were driving me a little batty by the end of our trip. In case you go with your service dog, be prepared. We could not walk two feet without people squealing, screaming and gasping "look it's a dog!" or "AAH! That dog is wearing shoes!!!!" The shoe comments especially were non-stop. Thankfully, most people were very understanding and kind, and simply enjoyed seeing a working dog. But after two weeks of it, it was sort of getting harder for me to deal with because it felt like the only thing I heard all day long and it was sort of distracting to trying to enjoy our trip.
(By the way, I get that this is just a part of the deal when you are a partner to a service dog, but the reality for me, is that it can cause some issues after awhile with being able to cope.)

Another thing that happens everywhere but because of how many people are at Disney World it happened more frequently, were the invasive questions like "what's wrong with you?" or "what's your service dog for?" It has taken me decades of intense trauma therapy to learn to be able to set even basic personal boundaries with people, and questions like this on our trip gave me a lot of practice. I will gladly say, I successfully stuck to my guns and answered only as I felt comfortable with people no matter how much they tried to get me to talk about my private medical information. With one woman, my service dog and I were a captive audience, as she and I were standing virtually face to face on a resort bus to Epcot where there was standing room only and we barely got on. The first things she said to me was, "Beautiful service dog! What's he for?" This question is the one that causes me the most anxiety because I don't want to talk to everyone in public about what my disabilities are and I'm also afraid of people getting mad at me. So I answered, "he's for my disabilities." At the end of this sentence, I purposely dropped my tone as if to say, "that's the end of this topic." She didn't take the hint and said, "And your disabilities are?" To which I responded, "private."

I thought she got the message, but a few minutes later she brought it up again saying, "I only asked you about your disabilities because my daughter is diabetic." This felt like another fishing attempt, so I just said, "I'm not diabetic. But there are diabetic alert service dogs if you're interested." This caused to to talk more about her own situation and leave my disabilities alone -- but please don't ever be afraid to stick to your boundaries with people if you wish to keep your business private. I was still kind to her and had a nice conversation, just not all about me. :)

One thing I noticed about being at Disney with him this time that felt different than past trips in 2017 and 18, was this inconsistency among Disney staff regarding accommodations. First of all, I'd made quite a few ADR's and did an online chat with a Disney representative before we left, requesting he note on our ADR's that we would be dining along with my service dog, so that they would accommodate us with a big enough table for him to lie under. Pretty basic service dog accommodation. The rep came back and said he had done so, and we were all set. Turns out when we went to our ADR's he had actually requested an accommodation that was marked "other: allergy" and nothing about my service dog at all. Everywhere we went we had to explain we had no allergies. Also, even when specifically pointing out to the host at each restaurant that we needed a table or booth that seated at least 4, we were constantly given a two person table that did not accommodate Harrison under the table. Then they would have to reseat us, which shouldn't have been necessary.

We faced similar issues on service dog friendly rides. The accommodations were very inconsistent. For example, we went on Haunted Mansion several times. One time, we were automatically directed to skip the hallway queue so that they could stop/slow down the ride for Harrison to get on. Other times, we would have to ask not to go through the queue (service dogs are easily stepped on in wall to wall people) and cast members acted like we were asking for something very strange or unnecessary. But after rushing to get on HM at one point with Harrison and almost getting his paws crushed when the bar came down, we asked each time after that to have more time to get on the ride (and make sure he was out of the way of the bar) regardless of how unnecessary some of them thought it was.

This happened other places too -- where we would be offered an accommodation by certain cast members, while others would seem put out when we requested it subsequent times.

All of this just seemed to me to be an issue with "rebuilding" since the pandemic, having a whole lot of new/under-trained/inexperienced cast members of every kind, and of course some misunderstanding that commonly happens with invisible disabilities. (Although I found myself almost just as misunderstood when I was a wheelchair user.)

This of course, really focuses on the "negatives" of the trip, but I want to say that overall we had a very enjoyable trip and will gladly go back in the future -- hopefully some of the kinks will be worked out!

I'll leave you with a few pictures from our trip and thank you very much for reading our report!

Beth and Harrison
 

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koncra

Mouseketeer
Joined
Sep 3, 2020
Thank you for being responsible and ensuring boots were worn by the pup! I get so sad when see animals walking around on 100 degree pavement all day, their poor feet must be so sore/burn. Even through the issues faced I'm glad you had a fun trip!

Also, I don't have a service dog but I LOVE picturing them on rides like haunted mansion. What a life they live!
 

lanejudy

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Oct 27, 2011
I’m glad to see you back and so happy you had a good trip! Harrison is adorable and I can see why you get comments, he’s rather unique.

One suggestion for dining - if you need a 4-person table, make the ADR for 4 people. You can show up with fewer, no penalty. I would not know a notation of “with service dog” means need for a larger table.
 

BethCPTSD

Mouseketeer
Joined
Mar 4, 2016
Thank you Koncra for your response! It's a major priority to take care of my service dog, especially since he takes care of me so well! I'm just glad we saved him some paw burn from the pavement!

Hi Lanejudy! Thank you so much! I think you're right about requesting a table for 4. I later saw the recommendation that you reserve a table with a "plus one" like you would if you had an infant, for a service dog. But either way, the way I did it definitely didn't get the message across! I will take your advice very seriously for our next trip! I just thought it was odd that even standing there in person, with my service dog next to me and explaining to the host that I needed a table for four, we often ended up with us still being lead to a table for two. It was like they ignored my request completely until we got to the table and I said, "sorry, we still won't fit here!" Maybe there was a learning curve going on for new castmembers!
 

SueM in MN

combining the teacups with a roller coaster
Moderator
Joined
Aug 23, 1999
Glad to hear you had a mostly good visit.
I remember your posts about your previous visits with your sweet dog. We never brought our daughter’s service dog to WDW, but we ran into some of the same kinds of unwanted attention when we were out shopping or other outings. We were never asked why she had him; I guess people assumed it was because she uses a wheelchair. But, some people do take seeing the wheelchair as an invitation to ask ‘what happened‘ to her
 

BethCPTSD

Mouseketeer
Joined
Mar 4, 2016
Hi SueM,
thank you so much for responding! I have no idea what makes people think they can ask strangers invasive questions like that! I'm so sorry your daughter has endured that too. And setting limits (at least for me) can be so hard! I'm always afraid of making someone mad at me. I hate confrontation, but I've been trying to "accept" that throughout life you just can't make everyone happy, and that's okay! They can cope! In most situations with Harrison, I just keep walking and indicate I'm not going to stop to discuss it! <3

Have a great weekend!
 

mamabunny

DIS Veteran
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Hi Beth! Hi Harrison! Just wanted to say I'm so glad to see you back here, and I hope you won't wait so long to join us again! 🙂

Also, I know how hard and stressful it can be in the moment, when it feels like things are falling apart around you, but just a thought to tuck away for next trip: If you ever find that your accommodations have been listed incorrectly by a CM, be sure to go to Guest Services (or find a blue umbrella) ASAP and ask to have the issue corrected for the rest of your stay. (Real Life Hint: You may have to go back more than once... but don't give up!)

I think you are absolutely correct; a lot of the issues we have seen on recent trips I attribute directly to the loss of so many seasoned, veteran CMs who would instinctively know how to deal with issues.

I will keep all my fingers and toes crossed that your next visit is easier, and that you continue to grow your newest awesome superpower: Coping Skills!

(((hugs)))
 

BethCPTSD

Mouseketeer
Joined
Mar 4, 2016
Haha! Thanks so much Mamabunny! (I loved your mention of my new superpower! You are right!)

I'm so glad you mentioned going to Guest Services to work that out in the future. I will definitely remember that! I don't know why I didn't think of it this time! :)

I too, am definitely hoping that it won't take very long for the new cast members to figure things out, especially when it comes to accessibility. It was really noticeable how the sense of being around "novice" cast members was ever present! They must have had to replace a ton of people! I'm sure as time goes on though, some normalcy will be restored! I hope!

Take care!!
 

Betty Rohrer

DIS Veteran
Joined
May 19, 2010
Hi SueM,
thank you so much for responding! I have no idea what makes people think they can ask strangers invasive questions like that! I'm so sorry your daughter has endured that too. And setting limits (at least for me) can be so hard! I'm always afraid of making someone mad at me. I hate confrontation, but I've been trying to "accept" that throughout life you just can't make everyone happy, and that's okay! They can cope! In most situations with Harrison, I just keep walking and indicate I'm not going to stop to discuss it! <3

Have a great weekend!
not that they want your reason for a service dog but think some people wish they had a dog that looks as great as your helper. they just see a pet they would love. and yes even though I know the difference between a pet and a service dog but does not stop from wishing I had one that looks as great as that service dog
 

linco711

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jun 17, 2004
Thank you Koncra for your response! It's a major priority to take care of my service dog, especially since he takes care of me so well! I'm just glad we saved him some paw burn from the pavement!

Hi Lanejudy! Thank you so much! I think you're right about requesting a table for 4. I later saw the recommendation that you reserve a table with a "plus one" like you would if you had an infant, for a service dog. But either way, the way I did it definitely didn't get the message across! I will take your advice very seriously for our next trip! I just thought it was odd that even standing there in person, with my service dog next to me and explaining to the host that I needed a table for four, we often ended up with us still being lead to a table for two. It was like they ignored my request completely until we got to the table and I said, "sorry, we still won't fit here!" Maybe there was a learning curve going on for new castmembers!
Hello everyone,
I thought I would post a little trip report based upon our two weeks spent at Disney World May 31, 2022 to May 14th 2022. Up until right before we left I had not posted in several years. However, I used to post more frequently and gave a background on myself around 2017 or so if you'd like to visit my history.

I am a 44 year old woman, married and use a task trained service dogs to mitigate my disabilities. I used to have severe POTS as well and spent three years in a wheelchair, but it is in remission, and I proudly walked through all the parks this year. My primary disabilities are serious mental illnesses, including Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This was the third trip to WDW I have been on with my service dog Harrison. He is now 6 years old and has a lot more experience and is much more bonded to me than on our first trip (which was only 6 months after I'd gotten him from his program.) Last year he went through intensive refresher training and did a wonderful job on this trip.

My comments here mostly pertain to working him on this trip in the parks. I am used to getting comments everywhere I go with him even at home like "look there's a dog!" or "beautiful dog!" just walking through the mall. This year for some reason (and spending two weeks again) the comments were driving me a little batty by the end of our trip. In case you go with your service dog, be prepared. We could not walk two feet without people squealing, screaming and gasping "look it's a dog!" or "AAH! That dog is wearing shoes!!!!" The shoe comments especially were non-stop. Thankfully, most people were very understanding and kind, and simply enjoyed seeing a working dog. But after two weeks of it, it was sort of getting harder for me to deal with because it felt like the only thing I heard all day long and it was sort of distracting to trying to enjoy our trip.
(By the way, I get that this is just a part of the deal when you are a partner to a service dog, but the reality for me, is that it can cause some issues after awhile with being able to cope.)

Another thing that happens everywhere but because of how many people are at Disney World it happened more frequently, were the invasive questions like "what's wrong with you?" or "what's your service dog for?" It has taken me decades of intense trauma therapy to learn to be able to set even basic personal boundaries with people, and questions like this on our trip gave me a lot of practice. I will gladly say, I successfully stuck to my guns and answered only as I felt comfortable with people no matter how much they tried to get me to talk about my private medical information. With one woman, my service dog and I were a captive audience, as she and I were standing virtually face to face on a resort bus to Epcot where there was standing room only and we barely got on. The first things she said to me was, "Beautiful service dog! What's he for?" This question is the one that causes me the most anxiety because I don't want to talk to everyone in public about what my disabilities are and I'm also afraid of people getting mad at me. So I answered, "he's for my disabilities." At the end of this sentence, I purposely dropped my tone as if to say, "that's the end of this topic." She didn't take the hint and said, "And your disabilities are?" To which I responded, "private."

I thought she got the message, but a few minutes later she brought it up again saying, "I only asked you about your disabilities because my daughter is diabetic." This felt like another fishing attempt, so I just said, "I'm not diabetic. But there are diabetic alert service dogs if you're interested." This caused to to talk more about her own situation and leave my disabilities alone -- but please don't ever be afraid to stick to your boundaries with people if you wish to keep your business private. I was still kind to her and had a nice conversation, just not all about me. :)

One thing I noticed about being at Disney with him this time that felt different than past trips in 2017 and 18, was this inconsistency among Disney staff regarding accommodations. First of all, I'd made quite a few ADR's and did an online chat with a Disney representative before we left, requesting he note on our ADR's that we would be dining along with my service dog, so that they would accommodate us with a big enough table for him to lie under. Pretty basic service dog accommodation. The rep came back and said he had done so, and we were all set. Turns out when we went to our ADR's he had actually requested an accommodation that was marked "other: allergy" and nothing about my service dog at all. Everywhere we went we had to explain we had no allergies. Also, even when specifically pointing out to the host at each restaurant that we needed a table or booth that seated at least 4, we were constantly given a two person table that did not accommodate Harrison under the table. Then they would have to reseat us, which shouldn't have been necessary.

We faced similar issues on service dog friendly rides. The accommodations were very inconsistent. For example, we went on Haunted Mansion several times. One time, we were automatically directed to skip the hallway queue so that they could stop/slow down the ride for Harrison to get on. Other times, we would have to ask not to go through the queue (service dogs are easily stepped on in wall to wall people) and cast members acted like we were asking for something very strange or unnecessary. But after rushing to get on HM at one point with Harrison and almost getting his paws crushed when the bar came down, we asked each time after that to have more time to get on the ride (and make sure he was out of the way of the bar) regardless of how unnecessary some of them thought it was.

This happened other places too -- where we would be offered an accommodation by certain cast members, while others would seem put out when we requested it subsequent times.

All of this just seemed to me to be an issue with "rebuilding" since the pandemic, having a whole lot of new/under-trained/inexperienced cast members of every kind, and of course some misunderstanding that commonly happens with invisible disabilities. (Although I found myself almost just as misunderstood when I was a wheelchair user.)

This of course, really focuses on the "negatives" of the trip, but I want to say that overall we had a very enjoyable trip and will gladly go back in the future -- hopefully some of the kinks will be worked out!

I'll leave you with a few pictures from our trip and thank you very much for reading our report!

Beth and Harrison
We also travel with a therapy dog and get the same reactions. its like people have never seen a dog before. We get all these personal questions, and people let their children come running up to pet her. We constantly have to tell them no petting, and many are not happy with us for keeping them away. It’s very annoying. Please people, leave service animals alone.
 

bopper

Which way to the Hundred Acre Woods
Joined
Oct 22, 2004
"I'm sure you to don't mean to be asking about my private medical information. Excuse me, I need to go now."

I don't know if your dog has a "service dog" vest...I wonder if that would stop people from petting.

"Can I pet your dog"
"No, sorry, s/he's working right now."

There is nothing you can do about "Look a dog" because people love dogs. Translate it into "THey love dogs, They don't often see dogs at WDW. They are complimenting my dog."
 

BethCPTSD

Mouseketeer
Joined
Mar 4, 2016
Thank you, Betty for saying that Harrison is a good looking dog. That is a nice perspective to think people are thinking this! I actually know that people's feelings are often quite complimentary behind their shrieks, screams and shouts, but it also can be rather difficult after awhile just the same. I'm just kind of telling about the difficulties that one may face at Disney with a service dog. Even some good things can be a bit difficult after awhile, certainly in fact, depending on the type of disability you have.

Thank you Linco, for relating to my story! I hope the visits you do with your therapy dog are greatly beneficial to your local patients!

Bopper, yes, Harrison always has something on indicating he's a service dog, in several places. Usually that includes a vest, unless the weather is rain, or it's too hot, in which the vest is not an option and other gear is necessary. I always tell people "No, I'm sorry, he's working right now" and it usually works although some people become angry or entitled or outright defiant. I would also just add that what I said above to Betty remains true. Sometimes even things said or done with good intentions can be wearing or difficult to bear after awhile, particularly if it complicates your disability.

Thank you all for your supportive comments!
 

jo-jo

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 28, 2011
I think maybe people aren't trying to be rude , they are just dumb not realizing they are asking about private matters. When you see animals do what they do for people, they may be thinking , "isn't that amazing".

I was one of those people. A person had a service dog at animal kingdom and I asked if being around all the different animals cause problems. She told me, not a bit. And I was amazed.
 









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