I’m always a little bit nervous about taking a service dog someplace new, and my trip to Universal Studios was no exception. I worry that whomever is in charge will say no, or question me, or generally make me feel as though it’s a hassle that I brought a service dog along.
Through experience, and to ease my own anxiety, I now make sure to do the following things before I visit a new place with a service dog:
- Talk to someone who’s been to the location, even if they haven’t taken a dog.
- Put my dog, in this case Sherlock, in a red service vest.
- Bring along a badge with my dog’s name and a recent photo.
Sherlock and I made it through the metal detector at Universal Studios without issue. While waiting in line to enter the park, we were flagged by the staff and escorted to Guest Services. Everyone was very nice, but they didn’t explain to me why I was there or what they needed from me. This is the type of thing that stresses me out! Why did we need to be pulled from our group? Would we be allowed inside the park?
When we reached the front of the line inside Guest Services, the customer relations person asked me a couple of questions to confirm that Sherlock was a service dog. I’ve found this is typical, whether we’re flying on an airplane or staying in a hotel. Companies want some way to verify I’m bringing an actual service dog, not a therapy dog and not a pet, into a place that does not allow dogs. Usually, just saying that he’s a service dog is enough. Occasionally, I get a request for an ID badge. At Universal Studios, the customer service person simply needed my name and a description of Sherlock. He made a note of it in a three ring binder, and we were on our way.
Of course, the first thing we did was go see the Universal Animal Actor’s Show. Because I was there with a service dog, we were escorted in through the handicapped entrance, and seated in the front row. As we waited for the show to start, the head trainer came over and warned me that one of her dogs would leave the stage and run over to Sherlock. I was surprised, but told her that Sherlock would be fine and that he gets along well with other dogs.
The show began with birds, cat and dogs parading across the stage. A parrot flew into the audience and took a one dollar bill out of a guest’s hand. Then, out came the little white dog that the trainer had warned me about. That little dog left the stage three times to jump on top of Sherlock! Sherlock stayed next to me and didn’t react! Thank goodness! The trainer acted as though it was part of the show, and called the little dog back to her spot on stage each time. I’m still not sure if it was just for fun or if the dog was misbehaving! Whatever the case, it was exciting for both of us!
Next we went to check out the newest addition to Universal Studios, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There were a number of shops, two roller coasters that I couldn’t take Sherlock on and a cafeteria style restaurant. I bought a seven dollar cup of frozen Butterbeer, which tasted like butterscotch and was a bit too sweet for me! My favorite part? Adults visiting the park were dressed up in Hogwarts robes. If only it had been a bit colder, I’d have felt like a student at Hogwarts.
Next we headed down to the tram ride. Sherlock and I were escorted to the front of the line through the handicapped entrance. Front row seats again! There was plenty of room for him to lay down in front of me, and for my backpack, because a day trip with a dog requires extra supplies.
I expected a calm drive through the production studio, but I should’ve known the tram ride would be a bit more exciting when we received 3D glasses. At first it was simply a tour. We drove by the Psycho house, and some active production sets. About fifteen minutes in, we pulled into a warehouse. It got dark. The tram shook. Lots of loud sounds and lights—a simulated earthquake.
Sherlock stood up and wanted comfort. He wasn’t hysterical, but he gave me the, “Boy I’d like to be on your lap right now!” look. I patted his head, took hold of his collar and told him, “Down.” While I wanted him to know it was going to be just fine, I didn’t want to escalate his behavior. As a service dog, he has to deal with all kinds of unexpected situations and still work for his owner.
Finally, we went to see WaterWorld. We had to wait in a huge crowd for about fifteen minutes before we could enter the stadium. Sherlock stayed by my side, tail wagging gently at strangers. Once inside, he settled and went to sleep. None of the fights, explosions or flames bothered him in the least!
As my time with Sherlock draws to a close, days like these make me so proud! He handled a busy theme park with strangers that didn’t ask before petting him, an unfamiliar little dog jumping on top of him, a terrifying tram ride and a live action show with aplomb.
Finally, if you are considering going to Universal Studios with a service dog, I would highly recommend it! Every staff member was kind and helpful. They had accommodations in place for people with disabilities, and they did everything they could to ensure Sherlock and I felt comfortable!
Thank you to Universal Studios!