It’s a great experience in general. First of all, unlike many public places, the park is very accommodating toward working service dogs AND dogs in training. All the “cast members” (Disneyland employees) we encounter welcome us and go out of their way to make sure we have immediate escorted access to the handicapped entry and exit points on the attractions…yes, Lomax gets to go on the rides, and the rest of his party doesn’t have to stand in an hour-long line! Disneyland Guest Services does not have an official printed list of do’s and don’ts. They do recommend you not take dogs on rides that require safety restraints (no dogs on Space Mountain, for example), but for the most part, decisions are left to the puppy raiser’s discretion, since we’re the ones who know our dogs best.
A day at Disneyland is a “no touch” day, meaning that I don’t allow people to pet Lomax, no matter how nicely they ask. It’s just too overwhelming an environment, and it’s best to let a dog focus on the task of navigating the crowds without any additional distractions or stressors. The one exception I allow is a Disneyland cast member. If no one else is looking, I’ll let the employees greet Lomax as a gesture of our thanks — you see, not only are the park staffers accommodating, many of them also voluntarily contribute money from their paychecks to the Disneyland Cast Fund. The Fund has sponsored many a GDA puppy, each dog named after a Disney character (Lady, Ariel, etc.). I figure they’ve earned a little puppy love for their generosity!
The first time, we went with brother Liam and his puppy raisers, who (like my roommate and I) are also annual passholders. This makes it easy to hit the park and not feel like you’ve just wasted sixty dollars if your dog is tired and stressed and needs to leave a few hours into your day. Being a summer weekend, it was hot, humid, and crowded, but I was very proud of Lomax. He handled the crowds like a champ, with nary a sign of stress. He didn’t even pull on the leash until the very end of the day, when he was tuckered out and losing a little focus (which, after eight hours at Disneyland, happens to the best of us).
One of the things that got me interested in puppy raising was the fact that I was always seeing puppy raisers when I went to Disneyland. This day was no exception — as we were relieving Lomax and heading over to a cafe for lunch in the Grand Californian Hotel, we were stopped by a man and his son, who recognized Lomax’s yellow working jacket. Turns out, they have a GDA puppy as well, who since he is from the most recent “K” litter was too young to accompany them to the park. But isn’t it funny? Just like being in a foreign nation and recognizing someone from your native country, you feel a kinship with a total stranger and are compelled to say hello.
It’s hard to take photos on the actual rides, because in general, I prefer having both hands on the dog. 🙂 But there’s something amazing about Disneyland that enables you to get a good shot even of someone lying under a table at lunchtime.
And everyone’s excited to see these dogs. Toddlers (who are at DISNEYLAND, for cryin’ out loud!) completely look away from whatever they’re into to shout, “Doggie! Doggie!” Cast members ooh and ahh…including a costumed character overdue for her break who has waved bye-bye to a bunch of children clamoring for her to stay. Lilo was as excited as she could be without breaking the costumed character vow of silence, waving us over for a picture.
There are so many traditions involved in the “last hurrah” at the park: the stop at City Hall on Main Street for “Honorary Citizen” stickers, the purchasing of nametags, the requisite photo at Mickey’s house. He was a little freaked out by Mickey at first and didn’t want to sit still for a photo, so I had to step in and take the leash. Toon Town was fun, but I think Lomax decided that if Liam was driving, he wanted no part of the experience.
Between his two Disney excursions (one with Liam & company, and one with our roommate Amy), Lomax experienced several of the park’s attractions…
* It’s A Small World
* The Disneyland Express train ride around the park
* Haunted Mansion
* Jungle Cruise (he settled quickly after the initial surprise of the gunshot)
* Pirates of the Caribbean
…and a whole host of other unusual sights, sounds and smells throughout the day.
Like I said, I was very proud of him, as I have been frequently over the last several months. I wasn’t sure how he’d react to the craziness, but he was a pro, both times. I think he’s ready for formal training.