"Can I book a room on the first floor?" I asked the hotel reservationist, "I'm traveling with a blind dog."
There was a pause.
"I'm sorry but the best I can do is the second floor," she replied without having any actual sorrow in her voice.
"Fine," I agreed knowing I didn't have any choice in the matter.
Ray and I were getting a late start. We were headed to South Carolina to visit the parents and Ray's favorite cousin, Hannah, and as on our most recent previous trips, were splitting the drive into two days. The only difference was, this time we were flying solo, without the help of my sister, Kathy. I had already figured out how I was going to manage dinner and breakfast without a second person to babysit the dog, I wasn't quite prepared for the added complication of a second floor.
We arrived at the hotel just as it was getting dark and starting to rain. I checked in, ran up to the room and looked out the window to see where I should park to keep the car in view (the bed of the truck was loaded with stuff that was covered with a tarp. I figured I would check on it periodically to make sure it wasn't being messed with). This seemed a good idea at the time, but in retrospect maybe exhaustion from a 3 a.m. doggy pee-call, a hectic morning packing, and a 4 hour drive, was keeping me from thinking particularly clearly. The spot was as far from an entrance as I could possibly park.
I unloaded my suitcase and two other bags, one containing Ray's food, the other containing Christmas presents (if things were going to get stolen, at least I would still have presents), hooked Ray to his retractable leash and headed for the entrance I had chosen. Another bad idea I realized as soon as I got there. With my hands full of bags and dog, I couldn't hold the door open. This obviously had presented problems for people in the past. A large oblong rock the size of a football was nearby. I rolled it with my foot to prop open the door, let Ray in first, and then dragged in my bags. This led us to the bottom of the stairwell, two flights of 10 stairs each. I had briefly toyed with the idea of trying out the elevator but decided I'd stick with something that the blind dog knows how to handle before introducing him to the unknown.
"C'mon, Ray," I said as I started up the stairs dragging all my luggage behind me. "Step up, step up, step up."
I made it to the landing and looked back to see Ray's progress. He was still at the foot of the stairs, sitting back on his haunches. As soon as I gave his leash a little tug, he lay down. The immovable object.
I stashed all my luggage in the corner of the stairwell and went back down.
"C'mon, Ray, you can do it," I encouraged the hound. "Step up."
Ray stood. With trembling legs, he crawled up the first stair.
"Step up," I said again and again as Ray, a quivering but brave mass, went up the nine remaining stairs.
As soon as he made it to the landing, Ray once again sat back on his haunches. I moved my luggage to the top of the second flight and turned back to lead him up the remaining steps. It took awhile but Ray's trembling legs finally took him where I wanted him.
I deposited our belongings in the room to the sound of Ray's whining. He wasn't happy about the room and wanted to complain to the management. I clipped the leash to him again and headed back to the stairs.
"Step DOWN, Ray. Step DOWN," I said to the hound. Once again the haunches were brought into play and the quivering mass returned. Eventually, however, we made it to the bottom, and outside to the dog walk area.
After a few more trips up and down the stairs and around the hotel, Ray was ready to try a different means of egress. He led me to the elevator and was sniffing around.
"You want to try it?" I said to my amazing blind dog, pushing the down button. The door slid open. Ray cringed back a bit. I walked on as if nothing untoward had happened.
"C'mon, Ray," I said giving the leash the lightest of tugs.
Ray walked onto the elevator. The doors closed and it started to move. Ray hit the floor. We went down one floor and the doors opened. Ray didn't budge. After a bit of tugging on the leash and additional verbal encouragement, Ray was still in the same place. I moved behind him and nudged him with my legs. Ray gingerly crawled forward. We exited the elevator, Ray headed to the lobby and out the front door for another trip around the hotel, then back to the elevator. We went up. Ray's reaction did not improve. On the third try, Ray had had enough. No amount of encouragement was going to get him onto that elevator. He headed for the stairs and took them as if he went up and down two flights of stairs in strange hotels every day of his life.