Disney with Special Needs: Filburt’s Triumphant Return! Maybe

If you have been following any of the Disney news recently then you know that Disney World has just started a trial program that allows guests to bring dogs to four of the resorts. I did a little digging and found out that this program is meant to last for one year after which they will make a final decision about whether to keep it going or to stop it.

So that’s great, right? Dogs are fabulous and people love dog friendly hotels, right?

Maybe.

As you may remember, I’m not a stranger to traveling with a dog to Disney World. Filburt, my now-retired service dog, used to jaunt around the Magic Kingdom with the best of them and I’m sure there are a few birds in Animal Kingdom that are still telling the tale of the dog that lunged at them from the safari vehicle (fully leashed to the floor, by the way). Traveling with a service dog has its own challenges, which we’ve talked about, and sometimes going to a dog-friendly hotel makes those issues less challenging. But is that always the case?

You might have noticed that I’m a little wishy-washy about how I feel about this. I’m really not. I think that letting dogs stay in the hotels, especially the cabins at Fort Wilderness, is an absolutely fabulous idea. So many families avoid staying at the resorts because they can’t have their dogs, and if they do stay at the resorts, they have to put their dogs in a kennel (or “camp” as we like to call it), which can be a traumatizing experience for both at worse, and expensive at best. We have had to do the camp thing and it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy away from our magical time. This is especially problematic now that Mr. Fil has reached the Golden Oldie stage. We have to sign waivers that say that we won’t blame the kennel if he dies while he’s there because he’s so old: that’s not a fun start to your trip.

So now that I know that I can bring him along with me again, I’m happier than I could possibly tell you. I can stay at a resort, enjoy all of the benefits, AND not have to worry about the pup that has literally saved my life and is my very heart. MAGIC.

So what could possibly be wrong with it? Unfortunately, I can see some issues. Here’s what’s been going through my mind since finding out this wonderful news:

Service dogs in dog areas? Are they going to put all of the service dogs in the areas with the “regular” dogs? Will that cause additional problems with people petting service dogs or other dogs attempting to play with or otherwise interact with service dogs?

Regular dogs in the park? Disney has already been very clear that ONLY the specified resorts are dog friendly. Dogs are still not allowed in the parks unless they are service dogs. That’s the way it should be but is this going to cause more trouble for people bringing service dogs into the parks? Are people with non-service dogs going to try to sneak their dogs in and cause issues for guests? I’m going to go with, yes. The only thing I can say is make sure your dog is wearing a vest or other identifying clothing and that you are prepared to defend yourself when entering the park. Remember that you don’t need “papers” and that it is your legal right to have your dog. Don’t back down and don’t be afraid to call out people you see that have dogs who are not behaving or who are clearly not service dogs. Having the dogs in the hotel is one thing, but having people try to bring their untrained dogs in among thousands of people is another

Fee skippers? There is a fee attached with having a dog in a Disney resort. It’s incredibly low, particularly compared to good dog camps, but it’s still an extra charge, which people tend to hate. Are people bringing their dogs going to try to fee-skip by claiming they have a service dog? Or are people with service dogs going to have to fight to not be charged, as is the law? I hope not. That is completely unfair and causes problems for everyone. I recommend anyone traveling with a service dog to be very clear at the time of making the reservation that they have a service dog. Specify that it is a service dog, not just a pet, and that they are not requesting dog-friendly accommodations, but want a note put on their reservation that they have a service dog. Check over your bill carefully and make sure that you were not charged the pet fee, and if you were, go talk to the manager of the resort. Do not back down, but do not be rude. You are standing up for your legal rights and representing a lot of other people. Be a good face

I can’t wait to go in the spring and let Filly see his beloved Disney again. Though he won’t be able to go to the park and he won’t do as much exploring, he will get to smell the smells and get the love, and I believe he will feel the energy and magic that he always adored. Our littlest dog, Moomoo, will also be with us and I know that she will be very appreciative of not having to be away from my mother for days at a time. That is always very hard on her, and this will make everyone so much happier and create better memories. I am even looking forward to visiting them during the day and taking walks with them rather than missing them all week.

Thank you, Disney! I hope this trial is a success and I have many years of puppies in Disney ahead of me!!

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Taryn was born and raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia. Neither she nor her husband ever had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World when they were children, but when their daughter Avalon came along, they decided she was not going to follow in their footsteps. They brought Avalon for the first time when she was 3 and have been hooked ever since. Now along with Taryn’s mother and equally Disney-loving older brother, they go “home” at least once a year, and by the time she is staring longingly at Cinderella Castle from the ferry on their last night, Taryn is well on her way to planning the next trip. As a group consisting of two adults with Asperger’s, including one who is also vegan, a very accommodating husband, an only child, a senior, and a service dog, they are a pretty special family, but Taryn is excited to show that the World really is The Most Magical Place on Earth and that there is a place there for everyone. When she isn’t thinking about her next Disney adventure and trying to come up with a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party costume that will beat her Oozma Kappa nerd look, she is a professional blogger and novelist, but Taryn also likes to indulge her Disney passion on her Etsy shop It’s Better in Vinyl.

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