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Service Dog Versus Customer Service

, , , , , , | Working | December 4, 2019

(I have two dogs: a cocker spaniel and a lab/pit mix. The lab/pit mix is also my service dog but isn’t wearing her vest at this time. My cocker spaniel isn’t my service dog but he reacts when I have low blood-sugar or am about to pass out. We have been driving to the beach and my cocker spaniel begins to alert me that my blood sugar is low. He starts with gentle nudges then goes to full-blown barks as I began to feel extremely faint. I pull into a parking lot. The restaurant is pet-friendly and I have brought my cocker spaniel here before. I sit down at the bottom patio near the door where it is empty. There are no other guests. The cocker spaniel is quiet at first, only occasionally pawing at me in a concerned way as my condition worsens. The waitress comes out to greet me.)

Waitress: “Hi, thanks for coming. I’ll get you a menu.”

Me: *feeling very faint and dizzy* “Yeah, thanks. Can I get a Coke?”

Waitress: “Sure!”

(She walks back inside and I hear her say something about my two dogs, but I am so dizzy I don’t understand. She comes back with a soda for me and water for the dogs which they graciously lap up.)

Me: “Thank you.”

(I guzzle down almost all of the soda at once knowing that the sugar in the soda should help a little. The waitress comes back and I order food. While waiting, the soda hasn’t really done anything and I am getting worse. My cocker spaniel begins barking frantically at anyone who passes by trying to alert them to the fact that I am beginning to pass out. I feel my body shaking but I keep trying to calm my dog down and tell him that I am okay. Finally, the waitress brings my food, and once I begin eating and finally my blood sugar begins to rise, my dog quiets down and just sits at the table, wagging his tail and keeping an eye on me. As I am eating, the owner comes out and looks disgusted at the small dog sitting across from me. This restaurant is advertised as being dog-friendly.)

Owner: “Ma’am, if you can’t control your dog he will have to leave.”

Me: *confused* “He isn’t aggressive. He’s just alerting me that I had low blood sug—”

Owner: “I don’t care about that. I have to think about the other guests and we’ve gotten complaints.”

Me: *looks around seeing no one but me and my two dogs* “Sir, there’s no one here.”

Owner: “Well, for one—“ *gestures to my small cocker spaniel who is now smiling and wagging his tail* “—this one won’t shut up and that one—” *points to my lab mix* “—scares the guests. We don’t allow aggressive dogs here.”

(I feel pretty offended at this point. I feel my bigger dog lean against me as she is sensing my anxiety going through the roof. I don’t like confrontation, especially with men. But anxiety be d***ed.)

Me: “She—” *gesturing to my lab mix* “—is my service dog; she not only helps with my anxiety but also helps me keep balance when I walk. And he—” *gestures to my cocker spaniel* “—was trying to alert anyone in earshot that I needed help.”

Owner: “You know there’s a hefty fine for lying about a service animal, correct? I’d suggest you take your mutts to the car before I call the police and say that your dogs tried attacking patrons.”

(He says this in a serious tone with a smug smile. I quickly whip out my lab’s identification card and registration.)

Me: “I would like my check, please, and if you say one more word about how I should put my dogs in a car where temperatures reach up to 113 degrees, I will call the police and call my lawyer. I’m sure both will have a field day with a restaurant discriminating against a disabled person.”

(The waitress came and handed me my check. I paid and left quickly before I lost my s***. Mind you, I had brought just my cocker spaniel here when it was busier and he had barked due to my low blood sugar, but no one complained. I found out later that it was more my lab/pit mix who was quietly laying next to me that was complained about. So, a couple of takeaways. If a dog is persistently barking, check with the owner, especially if the owner looks distressed; the dog may be trying to tell you that something’s wrong. Also, don’t judge a dog by their breed. Pit mixes are not inherently bad dogs. They make amazing loyal dogs and are excellent judges of character.)

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