I wasn’t going to post about this until everything was said and done, but the more I think about it the more upset I get and the more I realize I shouldn’t have to stay quiet about it. A small handful of people are aware of all of this already and those who follow me on Twitter know a goodly amount as well, but here’s the scoop: I had a complaint reported to Fidelco about me.
Now many of you may note that this isn’t the first complaint I’ve received. Interesting fact, the person who sent this complaint begins by stating that she is the same person who originally reported me for having a dog in such an “emaciated condition.” And while she did give her name this time, she remains a complete stranger to me. The complainer goes on to question “why is this dog still serving this person if it is sick and if she is treating it like this?” The complaint outlines this questioned treatment by alleging that I have been observed to be mean and angry towards Yara on several occassions. She states that she has repeatedly seen me hit the dog. And on the particular date of the complaint — last Friday — she witnessed me being especially short with the dog for “crying” in the elevator and then not allowing her to relieve.
My own opinions on this are all over the map, but first I want to say that I reigned in my feelings about the initial complaint because I convinced myself they came from a good place, a place of concern for my dog. But that fact that she has the gaul to question whether Yara is healthy enough to work just infuriates me to no end. Granted I don’t know her, but even if she’s the most skilled vet in existence I’m positive that casual observation is not enough to confirm whether a dog is too sick to work in harness! I find it hard to not find the rest of the complaint hard to swallow because of this.
The response by those who have learned of this complaint, Fidelco included, has been unanimously on my side. Everyone believes it’s a bunch of lies. And for this I am thankful. Though, for argument’s sake I will admit that so far as the events of last Friday, she is not entirely inventing facts. Yara did whine on the elevator and I did reprimand her verbally to quiet. In the lobby, Yara started to drag me to the door and I gave her a leash correction to come to heel. As I was doing this, the complainer who was on the elevator with me came around from behind and sharply commented that I was “very rude to [my] dog.” I gaped at her for a beat, thinking how much I detest hearing from total strangers how to treat my dog, and then before I said something nasty, I went outside. Immediately upon exiting the front door I realized I’d forgotten my gloves and by the time I got to the corner with Yara I knew I wouldn’t be able to go the day without them. So I turned around and went back in, with a bit of protest from Yara who expected us to turn at the corner and not go back the way we came. When I came back out, with gloved hands, I just let Yara take her pee on a snowbank rather than our usual routine of walking around and/or through the park. And she did certainly have to pee quite a bit, even though she’d been out not even an hour and a half before, because she’s on steroids!
I’m beside myself about the whole thing. As I said, Fidelco was very firm in explaining that they had no worries about Yara’s health and well being. But in that same breath also stated that they will have to come out to investigate the matter. Rationally, I understand this. Especially given that the complainer also states that she expects action to be taken or she will contact other animal authorities about the issue. She goes so far as to throw Buster’s Law into the mix, which is absolutely not applicable to this situation. But still, I’m personally insulted. I can’t help but feel that I’m constantly defending my own skills as a handler. Throughout the working life of our dogs, handlers are constantly faced with the need to defend our competence with our guides. It’s a rare day that goes by that someone doesn’t make a passing remark that you are too harsh with your dog or that your dog should/shouldn’t be doing something or other. Many times these same people are those that catch you five seconds after your dog has walked you face first into a telephone pole; they see you hauling your dog’s front feet off the ground but they didn’t notice you nearly getting a concussion. I’m certainly used to that. In fact, before Fidelco had called me that evening, I thought last Friday’s encounter was just that: some stranger commenting on the correction of my dog. But as time has gone on I feel more and more personally attacked. Between certain members of my family to work and now some tenant in my building I couldn’t pick out of a crowd if I were paid to; when does it end?
Everyone keeps telling me it’s really nothing — and I don’t deny that it is basically superficial — yet the more I think about it the more I feel that I’m drowning in a sea of faults that I can’t attempt to correct. I can’t help but feel that if so many people keep seeing things that are wrong how there can’t possibly be something I could be doing better or at least differently. Maybe it’s just my own shaky confidence after last week’s debacle at breakfast, I don’t know. I just keep reminding myself that I can’t be all that horrible if Yara is this happy and confident both in and out of harness.
I really just want to cry.