Art & Stuff

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be more consistent with updating and at the risk of sounding like a broken record I made a few decisions that should help with that and I’m really excited about. Specifically, I’m going to utilize the different domains I have that are basically dormant and focus my posting. However, I also just started a new job and so presently most of my time has been spent either working or sleeping with occasional eating thrown in to keep me from keeling over unconscious. So, despite my enthusiasm to do so I’m opting not to fiddle around with websites for the time being.1

Instead, I wanted to share this wonderful drawing Dany Gonzalez did of me and the girls:

Graphic artwork of me practicing yoga with Yara, Uschi and Dolly playfully surrounding me

Honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect piece of art to print and hang on my living room wall. The more I look at it the more things I notice. I really dig Dany’s style and I’m impressed by how faithfully each of the girls have been captured. But since this was a collaboration, there’s also a lot of history that’s showcased here from the girls’ reactions to me practicing yoga to Dolly stealing my harness.

  1. Except, of course, the few changes I already have made around here.

Service Dogs and Public Access

I don’t often cross-post things, but I recently replied to a Tumblr “rant” about service dogs in restaurants and I really wanted to share it here. Plus, it’s International Assistance Dog Week!

The original post, titled “A disservice to service dogs” begins:

Look, I get it. People around here love their dogs, more than children it seems. But do you know what? I do not enjoy dining where your furry friends have been joining you at the table. I mean it’s different if they’re chilling on the ground in the patio being well behaved, that’s different.

Just the other day I answered an ask that is very appropriate to this poster’s feelings about dogs in restaurants. It was about the time I got thrown out of a liquor store because, essentially, the owner didn’t want a dog in his shop despite my rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As I noted in my response on Tumblr, the personal feelings of whether or not a service dog should be in a public place are entirely irrelevant. In my original reply, I used the comparison example of having to share space on public transportation with others who perhaps don’t bathe themselves well enough. Unfortunately, I have to deal with it because they have just as much right to occupy space on a CDTA bus as I do.

The post continues:

Just the other day I was a popular San Clemente restaurant where dogs aren’t allowed, and all of a sudden I hear barking from several tables away! “That’s weird” we thought. The barking continued. We complained to the hostess. But because the dog had a “service dog” tag, they said they couldn’t do anything about it. First off, I could put a raccoon on a leash and it would be better trained than this dog. Second, what a tiny yorkie going to do for you? I  kinda get the idea of an emotional support animal but on a cool morning you could probably take your buddy out to the car if it’s acting up.

The 2010 revision of the ADA included a new definition for “service animals” and it is very clear on public access rights. Service animals are permitted wherever the public is and that includes inside restaurants. However, it is expected that the animal be under control of the handler at all times. Anyone who has ever eaten with me at a restaurant knows that my absolute favorite thing is when we get up to leave and I recall my guide dog from under the table to the surprise of staff and patrons. Why? Because that’s exactly what should happen; it proves she was doing her job the whole time and remained entirely unnoticed by everyone but me.

The service dog referenced was obviously not behaving properly and was causing a disruption to the other patrons. The hostess was incorrect in saying that the staff had to ignore the issues because it was a service dog and in fact they could and should have requested the handler leave.1

The rant continues:

Who am I kidding here; you and I both know this was no service dog. For just 79 dollars you can register any animal as a service animal and get to take your buddy anywhere you want, and those mean people who hate dogs can’t do anything about it. If you don’t want to “register” your dog, you can just buy a service dog ID on Amazon for $15.  It’s stuff like this that gives real service animals a bad name. This is what’s going to get the government to regulate service animals, making life difficult for people who really need them.  Knock it off people.

Actually, what makes it difficult for service animal handlers is misinformation about the law. There is no mandatory registration! And there is also no legal need to have an ID or other certification that your partner is in fact a service animal. Yes, that opens the door for people to waltz fake service animals through the doors of any public place, but if that dog is behaving itself like a real service animal then it’s hardly causing an issue for future handlers.

Additionally, there are many types of disabilities that are not readily apparent to the casual observer. Even as a blind person, which you might think would be terribly obvious to the public, I am constantly queried about what my guide dog does and how she specifically aids me. Likewise there are also many different tasks that service dogs perform. Perhaps this dog was trained to alert to an epileptic seizure or diabetic shock.

Or maybe, just maybe, it was a fake service dog. It’s honestly difficult to prove. And the law is fairly specific as to what is considered an acceptable line of questioning. However, that said, in my personal experience as a handler I find we’re generally pretty tolerant of being asked about our partners. If you aren’t rude or accusatory, you’ll likely have similar results.

  1. The law also stipulates that in such cases, the same goods and services should be provided in the absence of the service animal.

Seventeen Years Ago

Portrait of Dolly in harness

On this day back in 1998 a little black Labrador retriever literally bounded right into my lap and totally changed my life! It’s been several years since Dolly passed and even more since we worked as a team, but in some ways she’ll always be missed.

Sit!

The question from the other day reminded me of another humorous story with Dolly that I thought I’d share here.

I can’t say for certain since I don’t have kids, but first working with a guide dog is a lot like dealing with a toddler. They don’t run shouting “no” at you constantly because wisely we don’t teach dogs how to speak, but the obstinate is there all the same.

One resounding memory I have from training school is the morning ride to our destination. It was filled with a chorus of “sit” as everyone battled their dogs in the ongoing fight against lying down. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with lying down in a vehicle — I’m always glad when my girls decide to because otherwise they’re just using me as a leaning post — it’s that there isn’t enough room for the whole group of dogs to lie down so no one gets to.

Dolly was one of the main offenders in this because she was just not a morning dog. And I think she took this demand to sit up on her own power as a personal affront because she was always a bit reluctant to do so when we were in public. One particular day I was in a restroom stall trying desperately to get her to sit because she was In The Way. She was having none of it despite my repeated and increasingly frustrated command to “sit!”

Her stubbornness made exiting the stall something of a production and was none too graceful. At the row of sinks a woman was watching us through the mirror and let out an audible sigh.

“This whole time I was wondering why you were telling me to sit,” she said. “I mean, I already was.”

Funniest Moment

“What is the funniest thing your guide dog has done?”

Well, Uschi is a almost constantly hamming it up, so picking the funniest is pretty much impossible. She stands on her head for goodness sake!

However, I do have a humorous memory of Dolly.

As you all probably know I was in college during most of the time I worked with Dolly. Since I transferred so many times I ended up having to fulfill general education requirements twice and at some point I took a mandatory History class. Like most gen-ed classes it was large enough to be given in a lecture hall. By this point I’d been working a guide dog long enough to have come to the conclusion it was best to sit farther back in a classroom. People were less likely to trip over her if we weren’t in the major flow of traffic and often they wouldn’t notice her at all in the back of the room.1

It was early enough in the semester that I hadn’t yet had the chance to introduce myself to the professor. It could well have been the first day of class. In any case, on this particular day he was droning about something or other. I found my mind wasn’t quite on the lecture because I was watching him pace back and forth at the front of the classroom. Now and then he would stop and glance up at us. It wasn’t exactly odd so much as it made it difficult for me to focus on what he was saying.

Meanwhile, Dolly was sprawled out at my feet. The classroom was routine for her by now. To her it was basically a cue to take a nap. I’m sure I’ve mentioned Dolly snored, though, I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten it across that she was loud. Really, I cannot stress this enough. I have some pretty epic snorers in my family and Dolly gave them quite good noise competition. Her puppy raiser told me that Dolly’s crate got moved to the hallway because even as a puppy she was obnoxiously loud. When I trained at GEB the girl on the opposite side of the room next door to mine, through a solid concrete wall, could hear Dolly snoring.

About midway through the class, her snoring got so bad I was starting to notice students rustling around, glancing back at my deeply sleeping dog. Her snores were to a point I was literally having trouble hearing the lecture. So, I lightly poked her with my foot, intending to get her to reposition herself and hopefully stop the lawnmower imitation she was doing in her sleep. Instead she woke with a loud snort, jumped up from the floor and noisily shook herself off. I’m sure every eye in the lecture hall was on us, including the professor’s.

“Oh!” He exclaimed as I tried to get Dolly back on the floor as inconspicuously as possible amid a classroom of gaping students. “That’s who was snoring.” I turned beat red on the spot, fully expecting him to have a fit about the disruption. “This entire time,” he continued, “I’ve been trying to figure out who would dare fall asleep in my class.”

There was a rather long beat, and then the professor just burst into hysterical laughter.


Do you have a question for me? Comment below, email me, or utilize any of the social links to the right.

  1. Students were often driven to distraction by the dog and it was incredibly unnerving to have them stare at us throughout the entire class.