I spend a lot of time writing about people who don’t understand the Americans with Disabilities Act and in particular the section on service animals. These stories need to be told and people who violate the law need to be educated and sometimes prosecuted.
Fortunately, for every person who tries to refuse us access to a public place, who embarrasses me with loud comments, who asks inappropriate and very personal questions, for every person who is a thorn in my side there are many more people who are decent and even exceptionally kind. In fact sometimes because of my dog I have met people who became very good friends.
There is the bank teller who offered my dog a biscuit inside the bank. Yes, people are now accustomed to tellers offering biscuits at the drive-through window, but how many people take their dogs inside?
There was the waitress at a Cincinnati Skyline Chili parlor who, when she saw my dog lying politely under the table, asked me, “Would your dog like a dog?” It took me a moment to realize she was asking if my dog would like a coney, a hot dog.
There was the Indian restaurateur who was so used to having my dog in his place he always saved us the spot with the most space around the table for her.
There was the frozen foods guy at the grocery store who, because of his honest and legitimate questions about me and my dog, became a friend. I later discovered he would run interference when he feared other customers or their children were going to bother my dog.
There were the librarians who made sure to greet my dog each time we arrived. They, like me, almost believed my dog could help me find good books to read.
There was the airline gate agent on a stormy day when my connecting flight kept getting delayed. She oohed and aahed over Dog, declaring herself to be the ultimate dog lover and him* to be absolutely gorgeous. Then she personally took me onto the plane when it was finally available. It was only after she left that I realized she’d seated us in first class.
There are the many places we go where I feel as if we’ve been dropped onto the set of the old TV show Cheers. Instead of everyone yelling “Norm!” when a favorite character enters, people yell “Hi Dog!” when my dog and I enter. Sometimes they then acknowledge me with a hello, but it is obvious which one of us is the favorite.
There are the museum employees and executives. When I called to explain how the button for their automatic door opener was in a terribly awkward place and was not built so a service dog could use it, they immediately made changes. From that point on, every time my dog opened the door for me somehow they were there watching, ready to smile and even applaud when the task was successfully completed. If only they knew how easy it was for her! Because of that button I made friends at the museum.
There are the people who deem my dog so handsome they ask to take his picture. Maybe one day I’ll get smart and charge them $5 for the pleasure. It’s money that will go to his retirement fund, I promise.
Then there are the hundreds of people, including notables such as former Governor (and reality show star) Edwin Edwards and restaurateur and cookbook author John Besh who tell me my dog is surely one of the most beautiful they’ve ever seen. I believe them.
Thanks to my two brilliant and amazing service dog I live a very good life and get to meet some very good people.
*You might notice I have changed the gender of the dog. That’s because I have had two service dogs: the first a wonderful female black Labrador retriever; the second a marvelous male yellow Labrador retriever. The name “Dog” is a pseudonym.