Snooty concierge side-eyeing a dog on a leash held by a woman trying to check in to the hotel.

Hotel Stays With My Narcolepsy Service Dog

I recently traveled across the country with my narcolepsy service dog. I require her constant presence due to her ability to detect my sleep attacks before they onset fully. Here’s what I learned about staying in hotels with a service dog.

1. Expect to get push-back from staff

Pet dogs are not the same as service dogs

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people that commit service animal fraud. Hotels are one of the places where people claim that their pets are service animals in order to avoid accruing additional pet fees, or to simply be able to bring their pet in public. This makes it more difficult for me when bringing my service dog anywhere, for multiple reasons.

For one, pet dogs are not as well-trained as other service dogs. Pet dogs wanting to play with my service dog or barking at her can distract her from her important medical tasks. Service dogs are not machines.

My disability legally warrants a service dog

Businesses are required to accommodate service dogs, but I’ve had plenty of experiences of being denied services due to having a service dog while not appearing traditionally disabled. I’ve found that large-company hotel chains tend to have a better attitude towards service dogs than smaller venues.

For example, when staying at a small bed and breakfast, I was awakened by the host at 8 PM and informed that I would have to pay a pet fee due to having a dog with me. I explained that that wasn’t legal, and she responded with, “Well, can you legally prove that you need a service dog?” I answered yes in a confident manner and saw her demeanor change immediately. She then apologized, stating that she remembered me mentioning my service dog over the phone when I booked the reservation. I was confused at her mistake, but I left the moment proud of myself for my personal advocacy. It can be exhausting to advocate for my needs as a person with severe narcolepsy, especially with a service dog.

2. Ask for a room near a hotel exit

My service dog needs to be taken outside about three times a day to relieve herself. This can get tedious in hotels, especially when our room is far away from an exit. I quickly realized that the closer we are located to a door, the shorter our potty breaks end up being.

When staying at a hybrid hotel-casino, for example, I had to walk so much to get my dog outside that I ended up with an incredible number of blisters on my feet.

3. Treat yourself... and your pup

Traveling can be stressful, especially with a disability like narcolepsy. Pets can find traveling stressful as well.

I find it is helpful to comfort myself and my dog as much as I can when resting in our hotel. I like to wind down with a nice shower or bath and a comforting movie or show. I notice that when I am relaxed, my service dog is, too.

I make sure to show my appreciation to my service dog by getting her a treat after a particularly stressful day of travel. She appreciates it, I can tell!

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