Monday, November 11, 2013

My Friend Christina & her Service Dog Zoe

Service woes

I’m having a hard day. Having Zoe is supposed to make my life easier, and in a lot of ways, she does… But lately it’s been really hard dealing with the ignorance of people in public when they’re interacting with us as a service dog/handler team (or should be completely ignoring us).

Basically tonight, I went to Fatburger in North Hollywood to pick up a sandwich I called in and naturally, I had Zoe with me. At the counter, the girl says to me “there’s no animals allowed in here”. I say, “she’s a service dog”, and the girl says “ok but there’s no animals in here.” At this point, I just repeat and say “she’s not a pet, she’s a medical animal” to a blank stare. Then another CUSTOMER steps in and says something, to which the girl says “fine ok, as long as I don’t get in trouble”, with a tone and rolling her eyes like she doesn’t believe me. It might not sound like a huge deal, but believe me, I felt accosted, I felt people staring at me, and was made to feel like I was in the wrong… obviously if someone else had to come up and defend me. Even after I was leaving, I heard another employee say something about me having an animal, and the original girl saying “she said it’s a service dog”. So how many people there exactly are unaware what a vested service animal looks like?

It’s sad that I should almost expect this kind of ignorance from strangers, but I never thought I’d have to deal with it from employees of a corporate chain. You’d like a company would have some sort of training for their employees on what a service dog looks like.

It’s easy now to defend myself now, but in the moment, I feel on display, attacked and awkward… and all I want to do is flee and I freeze up. So naturally, I did and then just cried in the car afterwards.

When we’re out, I don’t want to talk about us, I don’t want to have to explain 100 times what she does… I just want to be ignored and treated like anyone else. Being called out constantly for having a disability animal with me is not helping me at all. I’ve had people yell across stores “is that your dog?”, “are you training her?” Or “look at the pretty doggy!”.

Some days are easier than others, and today’s just not one of them…