I mentioned in my last
that I was doing something with Sibyl that I’ve never done with a guide dog before. Two weeks ago, Nicky and I went on a ten day holiday to Spain with my whole family, and Sibyl came too.
Before I write about the holiday itself, I think it’s important to mention that taking a dog on holiday requires a bit of extra planning and preparation, and the pet passport takes a bit of work to get sorted before you go. It’s not something I’d recommend for every dog, and I really thought carefully about taking Sibyl before we went. I’ve only had her for three and a half months which isn’t long at all. Her trainer or Irish Guide Dogs staff may have been very surprised if they’d known I was taking her so soon. But I know her well enough to know that nothing really phases her, and she’s the kind of dog you could take almost anywhere.
Two days before we left for Spain, I had to have Sibyl checked by the vet to ensure that she was fit for travel. He stamped her passport and gave her some medication which she needed before entering a new country. The department of agriculture checked her passport at the George Best airport in Belfast before we checked in. She was the first dog they’d had traveling outside the UK, so they were very excited! Special assistance in Belfast and Malliga airports were fantastic, as were the air hostesses on the plane. Sibyl didn’t react at all during the flight, and I think we were all shocked by how calm she was.
The holiday was great fun. We spent a week in a town called Salobrena, where we rented a house ten minutes walk from the beach. The area was lovely, but the streets were steep and narrow, with steps everywhere, and a steep walk to and from the beach. The weather was too hot to take Sibyl out during the day, and it would have been impossible for me to learn my way around. As a result we were quite restricted, but she had a cool place to lie in the house, and it didn’t bother her at all. I brought food with me, which the airline let me carry in my hand luggage. As long as she had that, water and company, she seemed happy enough.
After a week in Salobrena, we moved to a house in a town called Otura, near Granada city, which was cooler and much easier to get around. I wish I had more time there, because Sibyl definitely could have learned some routes, particularly the walk to the restaurant and golf course, which was straightforward. At times I wondered if bringing her was a good idea, but when she was able to work, I had great freedom. I was able to walk with my small nephews, follow everybody in the airport, and follow them to restaurants if we went out to eat. A particular highlight was when we drove 2000 Meters up the Sierra Nevada mountains where people go skiing in the winter. There was a nice breeze, perfect weather for a dog, and I was able to walk around with her guiding, and she did some great work.
Before leaving Spain, I had to have Sibyl checked and wormed by the vet there. Depending on the country, this has to be done within a certain timeframe, so we went three days before coming home to Ireland. We had spent some time with friends from Spain who lived near where we were staying. Their sons were Spanish students who stayed with my parents for a year, so we got to know the family quite well. The father booked the appointment with the vet and brought me there, so it was great to have somebody who could translate anything if necessary. When they see the passport they know what to do, so it’s straightforward enough. They loved Sibyl, and gave her a couple of treats and cuddles after she was wormed. Spanish people in general seem to love dogs, and they were everywhere. Our neighbours had seven! We weren’t in a tourist area so people spoke little English. They probably didn’t see many guide dogs in that area because they would mostly live in the cities, so even though they stared a bit, we had no access issues at all during the ten days.
Nicky and I traveled home together, as the rest of the family are staying longer. Again the assistance at both airports was fantastic, and Sibyl was her usual chilled out happy self. We flew into Dublin so I had a four hour bus journey to do when we landed. I think we were both glad to get into our own beds that night. Sibyl seems happy to be home, and she’s got Dougal and O.J here for the next two weeks to keep her company. I might need another holiday after that!
I couldn’t have been happier with how well our holiday went, and how easy it was to travel with Sibyl. This doesn’t mean I’ll take her on every holiday from now on, and there’ll probably be lots I won’t bring her on. I was lucky that my family planned things well, were there to help if necessary, and were able to help me to get around when I couldn’t bring the dog.
I know I’m going to do lots of fun things with Sibyl and take her to lots of interesting places. I love how adaptable and confident she is, and I think she will give me more confidence as a guide dog handler in the future. Our holiday in Spain definitely showed me what great work she is capable of.