Hanni’s staying home with friends.
I actually did consider having Hanni go with us and guide me through Poland. It’s true that guide dogs cannot travel with their blind partners into the United Kingdom and Ireland without being quarantined, but from what I gather we would be allowed in Poland.
At least I think so.
A list of European countries and their guide dog regulations called “Guide Dog Access to Public Places and Facilities in Europe” is available at the European Blind Union web site. Trouble is, Poland wasn’t’ even included in the list of countries.
Other countries were missing from the list, too, and the European Blind Union’s Commission on Mobility and Guide Dogs site was hardly reassuring. “Generally,” the web site says, “the presence of a guide dog is tolerated.”
Truth is, the access situation for guide dogs in some European countries can be pretty complicated. There is no “Europeans with Disabilities Act” like the “Americans with Disabilities Act” we have in the US. In one same country the access rules can change from city to city, region to region. In some countries, there are simply no regulations at all.
Across the board, access for guide dogs in Europe pretty much depends on the good will and support of well-informed staff. This means there is always the possibility of a guide dog user being denied access to, say, a hotel, or a cinema, or a wedding reception.
And then there’s LOT Polish Airlines. Mike and I are flying LOT nonstop from Chicago to Warsaw. While they do allow guide dogs on board, LOT Polish Airlines regulations State that “a blind person’s guide dog should wear a muzzle and an appropriate harness during the whole flight.”
A muzzle? During the whole flight? A ten hour flight would be hard enough on Hanni. A muzzle would be downright cruel.
Hanni and I have been together 6 years. I’ve only been without her once, when I went to Belfast. Mike stayed home and took care of her that time. But Mike is coming along on this trip.
I started putting together a list of friends I could ask to take care of Hanni while we were away. The first person on my list said yes. I’ll miss Hanni while we’re gone, and Mike will have to do all the leading – I’m pretty hopeless with a white cane. Hanni will be a little confused, and I know she’ll miss us. But who knows – maybe she’ll enjoy the time off work. Who wouldn’t? Our generous friends Carol and Pat love dogs and have a great place for Hanni: a Michigan Avenue highrise, beautiful lake view, and…right across the street from Grant Park.