I’m About Ready To Bite That Lady… And The Manager

, , , , | Working | December 6, 2020

I am a dog trainer at a large chain store. I have a young German Shepherd mix that I bring to class with me to use during demonstrations. One of the class options we offer is a private one-hour session for people who don’t want to do group classes. A woman enrolls in this class with her two-year-old hound.

The day of the class, she is ten minutes late, so I am working on patience exercises with my puppy when she barges in without her dog. This on its own is weird, because we tell people they need to bring their dogs to class to demonstrate as we go.

Woman: “Are you [My Name]?”

Me: “Yes, I am. Are you—”

Woman: *Gesturing to my dog* “Who is that? I paid for a private lesson!”

Me: “Oh, this is [My Dog]; I use him for demonstrations. Where is [Her Dog]?”

Woman: *Sneering* “Is that one of those fighting dogs?”

Me: “No, he’s not a fighting dog. I’m actually training him to be a diabetic response dog.”

Woman: “You’re diabetic?”

Me: “I am.”

Woman: “You’re not fat.”

Me: “I’m still diabetic, ma’am. Should we get started?”

She edges toward my dog, putting out a hand and quickly pulling away.

Woman: “Does it bite?”

Me: “Anything with a mouth has the potential to bite you, but he doesn’t unless provoked.”

She sucks on her teeth.

Woman: “So he does bite.”

Me: *Sigh* “He can go in his crate if you’re concerned. Where is [Her Dog]?”

Woman: “I didn’t want to bring her. Can I pet [My Dog]?”

Me: “Yeah, just don’t put your hand over his face.”

The woman sits down on the floor in front of my dog and uses that baby voice people use when they talk to animals. He starts walking toward her, wagging his tail so hard that his butt is wiggling back and forth. When he gets close enough, she puts her entire hand over his muzzle and shakes it back and forth, still using the baby voice. He paws at her hand over his muzzle and opens his mouth to yip at her.

The woman shrieks and falls backward, kicking at him. She connects with his face twice and my puppy runs back to his crate. I turn to check on my dog, but the woman grabs my ankle with both hands, preventing me from moving.

Me: “Ma’am, I—”

Woman: “He attacked me!”

Me: “He was responding to your voice and putting your hand in his face. Are you okay?”

Woman: “He bit me!”

She starts cradling the hand that wasn’t in my dog’s face.

Me: “Can I see it?”

I reach out. 

Woman: “No!”

She kicks at me and I back out of range.

Woman: “F*** you and f*** your dog!”

Me: “We can call an ambulance or have someone drive you to the hospital if you’re injured.”

She curls over her hands so I can’t see them.

Woman: “He broke my hand!”

I’m quite sure this is a lie since she just grabbed my ankle.

Me: “If your hand is broken, you should go to the ER at [Hospital a few blocks over]. [Store] will cover the costs if you have it checked out in the next forty-eight hours. Do you want to go?”

Woman: “I’m not going to the ER! I want a refund!”

Me: “Okay. [Store Manager] is on duty. We can go find her.”

I close the door on the dog crate and the woman and I go find the manager in the office. She is quiet during the walk to the office, but as soon as she sees the manager, she starts whimpering and covers her hand in her shirt, preventing us from seeing it.

Me: “[Store Manager], we—”

Woman: “Her f****** mutt bit me!”

Store Manager: *Alarmed* “What?!”

Me: “She put her hand in [My Dog]’s face and—”

Woman: “He lunged at me for no reason!”

Store Manager: “Ma’am, please sit down. I’m so sorry about this. [My Name], please go back to the arena and close the door on your way out.”

I leave, furious. I check on my dog and, thankfully, he isn’t seriously hurt, just scared. An hour later, I personally process the woman’s refund while she berates me about my “piss-poor training techniques.”

The store manager then tells me to not bring my dog in anymore, at least until he has attended classes with a trainer at another location. I am mad but I want to bring him back as soon as possible, so I agree. Over two months later, I am called into the office.

Store Manager: “Is [My Dog] still enrolled in training classes?”

Me: “Yeah, he goes to [Other Store] with [Trainer]. We’re about to finish the basic course and intermediate begins the week after.”

Store Manager: “And his behavior?”

Me: “He’s top of the class. [Trainer] uses him for demonstrations all the time.”

Store Manager: “I’ll be calling [Trainer] to verify that he’s still enrolled.”

Me: *Shrug* “Okay.”

She hands me a pen and paper.

Store Manager: “Please write down your side of what happened with [Woman] on [date]. Be as specific as possible.”

I recount the story in vivid detail; it takes several pages and my hand is sore by the end. The store manager reviews it and reads the woman’s side out loud.

By her account, I told her it wasn’t a big deal and that she shouldn’t go to the ER, and basically laughed at her and told her to suck it up. She ended her letter by saying that she had to get rid of her own dog because I had traumatized her so badly with my “calloused behavior,” and that she would sue the store if I wasn’t fired.

There was nothing about how she had acted, of course, and no mention of any medical professional checking out her hand to determine damage.

Store Manager: “This is pretty serious stuff, [My Name].”

Me: “It’s also a bunch of lies.”

Store Manager: “Did you tell her not to go to the ER?”

Me: “I told her she should go and that we would cover the medical costs. She refused.”

Store Manager: *Nods* “I told her, too.”

Me: “So… what now? What about the cameras?”

Store Manager: “We caught some of it but nothing that would help you. She was facing away from the camera, so all we saw was her getting down, [My Dog] pawing at her, and her falling down. HR doesn’t want a lawsuit involving a dog bite and the trainer. I’m sorry, [My Name].”

She hands me another paper.

Store Manager: “We have no choice but to terminate you.”

Me: “What?!”

Store Manager: “I know. I’m sorry. My hands are tied.”

Me: “I’ve been here for ten years. How many customer complaints have I had?”

Store Manager: “Not many, but this is a serious one.”

Me: “She’s lying!”

Store Manager: “Please, [My Name], don’t make this any more difficult than it is. Maybe once this blows over, you can come back. For now—”

Me: *Laughs* “I’m not coming back if you’re going to fire me over some bulls*** lies.”

I left and immediately pulled my dog from the classes at the other store. I got an office job a few weeks after being fired, but I still trained dogs for free on weekends. Most of my first students after I was fired were people who had been enrolled in the class but quit and demanded their own refunds when they learned I was no longer employed there.

I asked how they knew what happened and every one of them directed me to a review left by the woman. She wrote a review on the store’s Facebook page, naming me and my dog specifically. She claimed that no one cared about her experience, that we called her a liar, refused to refund her, and wouldn’t allow her to seek medical help. She ended it by saying she was the reason I was no longer working there.

She’s not wrong, technically, but it didn’t hurt me nearly as much as it hurt the store. From what I’ve heard, a lot of people have stopped going to the store, either because they believe the woman’s review or because they believe me.

Oh, and my dog passed his service dog training with flying colors.

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