Thursday, May 23, 2013

Taking a service dog on Megabus

We took our service dog on Megabus from Knoxville to Washington, D. C. This was his first big bus trip and I was fairly anxious about how the drivers and other passengers might react. ADA laws stipulate that service dogs will have access to everywhere their humans will go. The fact is that some people are hostile when it comes to a service dog. I'm happy to say that, our Megabus ride was problem free.

Tomlin the service dog on Megabus
Keep in mind that this was the first Megabus trip for both Tomlin and Hubby. I was pretty sure that Tomlin would do well, but not sure about Hubby. Going for us is that the route from Knoxville to D.C. uses double-decker buses.

Two RV-style tables on the bottom floor that have cup holders and easy to reach electrical outlets for charging phones, MP3 players etc. We were able to get one of these seats which gave us more room and made for a more comfortable journey for all of us.

The Megabus bus driver saw us with Tomlin, our service dog, and had us board first. He was wonderful! The extra few minutes gave Hubby time to spread a sheet over the seat for Tomlin and get him settled. None of the passengers said anything about having a service dog, but I did get some hard looks. Oh well.

A service dog needs to stand and move just like humans do. Megabus from Knoxville to D.C. makes two - three stops on the route and we took advantage of all of them. There is sometimes a five minute break just after you come into Virginia from Tennessee. Then the bus stops for lunch before other passengers board at Christiansburg. 

We took the overnight Megabus to D.C.

He never whined or complained on either bus ride and seemed to enjoy it. I'm not 100% convinced that taking the night bus from Knoxville made travel easier for our service dog. Taking that particular bus was more a matter of our schedule than anything. Several people told us that he would probably get settled and sleep for most of the trip. That didn't happen. In fact, he stayed on the job and kept nudging me for me to tell me it was time for bed, just like he does at home.  We actually both got some rest after I settled down.
When not actively helping me out, Tomlin is trained to sit underneath a table to get out of the way. There wasn't room for that on the Megabus so he consoled himself by curling up in the seat next to me. He also laid on the full length of the table top and enjoyed the view.

Here are a few tips that we learned about taking a service dog on Megabus.

1. Buy your service dog a ticket.
Megabus is a discount bus carrier so the cost for three round-trip tickets from Knoxville to D.C. came to less than $110. At these prices, there isn't any reason to skimp by not buying a ticket. Both of you deserve to be comfortable.

2. Cover the Megabus seat
Someone will sit in the seat after you leave who may not appreciate dog fur. Take a minute to cover the Megabus seat well with a sheet or towel. It only takes a minute to get it done. My service dog sat in the aisle while I got this done and the driver even helped.

3. Bring a water bowl, treats and toys
Always, always, always do this.  I figure that he may not eat or drink, but offering it means that we're doing our job.

4. Tip the driver (or at least say a meaningful thank you)
The goodwill helps pave the way for the next person who rides brings a service dog on Megabus.

Service dogs are allowed to go most of the places that humans go. However, that's the law and the reality can be different. The law doesn't stop people from being rude or otherwise obnoxious and it doesn't mean that those who accept a dog and handler will do so cheerfully. This driver was cheerful and I appreciated it.

Having Tomlin with us means that I will have help if I fall, drop something that I can't pick up or have a seizure. It also means that I will have help carrying something if Hubby isn't available to help and that I'll have an easier time boarding the bus. He makes my life easier and helps me be more independent. The positive Megabus ride also eliminates the worry that Hubby has about me and Tomlin driving to D.C. by ourselves. 

You may want to read my article Have car, will travel... by bus. It explains why we decided to take the bus instead of our vehicle. After the experience we had with taking a service dog on Megabus, I may use the bus line more frequently.