As any dog guide handler will tell you, some pet-relief areas at airports are simply a small patch of grass or a square or two of green Astroturf-like material. These places are often hard to find and force you to cross lanes of traffic before you can releive your guide.
A few airports around the country have created fully landscaped pooch-parks. The following are some of the country's most canine-friendly facilities.
In December 2004, Reno-Tahoe International Airport celebrated the opening of the Gate K-9 Bark Park. Paw prints stamped on the sidewalk outside the terminal lead to the enclosed Bark Park just north of the baggage claim area. The park is landscaped with trees and a canopy for shade and stocked with fresh drinking water and plastic mitts for quick clean-ups. They even have a fire hydrant for pet dogs who like to do their business the old-fashion way.
In Texas, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has a small park with a figure-eight-shaped dog walk located outside the lower level, just past the east end of the terminal. Landscaped and lighted at night, the park has stone benches, shade trees, grassy areas, a pet-level drinking fountain and plenty of mitts and trash receptacles for clean-ups.
The folks at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport maintain two park areas for pooches. The 2,000 square-foot Bone Yard is just outside the baggage claim level at the west end of Terminal 4, the airport's busiest terminal. This finced-in area is shaded in the day and lighted at night and has a bone-shaped patch in the center filled with kitty litter and surrounded by crushed gravel. Pet owners and dog guide teams can use the park's faucets and buckets to cool off and the plastic mitts to clean up.
The Phoenix airport's second pet-relief area, the Paw Pad, is located just west of Terminal 3 inside a framed archway and a fence decorated with paw prints. This pet-relief area offers pet owners and working teams the same amenities as the Bone Yard, but instead of gravel and kitty litter, the Paw Pad has grass.
While pet-relief areas are a welcome amenity for pet owners and dog guide handlers in transit, pet rest areas at airports are also a boon for the increasing number of narcotics and explosive-sniffing dogs that also work at airports.
While the airports in Reno, Austin and Phoenix offer some of the country's nicest pet rest areas, airports in Seattle; Portland; Denver; San Diego; Columbus, Ohio; and elsewhere also offer pets and guides "a place to go." To find a rest stop for your pet or guide on your next plane trip, consult the list of pet-friendly airports on the www.PetFriendlyTravel.com website or call the information desk at the airports on your itinerary.
If there's no official pet-relief area, don't give up. You may be able to locate an "unofficial" on-site relief spot or a pet-friendly park nearby.
Have you found a great pet-relief area at an airport or have some tips to share about taking your guide on an airplane? Share your comments by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.