It's been a long time since a business has tried to deny us access. Today, to make up for it, we were challenged twice in one day...at the same place!
We were at the post office getting ready to mail a package and as we waited in line, a postal employee came out and announced loudly: "Miss, you'll have to take your dog outside." I politely pointed out that he was a guide dog in training, and the guy just sort of went back to wherever he came from, not bothering to reply. I went on with my business and the folks at the counter were courteous as usual...after all, Alfie was in his work uniform and I've been taking various pups in training to the post office for a long time now!
As it turned out, we had to go back again later on in the afternoon. This time a different man told me firmly that dogs were not allowed inside. Again keeping my tone polite and cheerful as possible (despite the knot in my stomach -- I hate confrontation!), I pointed out that he was a guide dog in training. The postal employee replied, "Well, are you blind?" I responded that no, I wasn't blind, but I was his trainer and then offered to show him my ID badge and a copy of the Texas state law which grants access to service dogs in training (it's actually printed on the reverse of my badge and boy, was I happy I had it!) Again, he just sort of grunted and went on with his business, never answering me. Sigh!! I was allowed to stay, but I admit it gave me an unpleasant feeling.
As I waited, though, a nice gentleman in front of me in line turned around and gave me an explanation for what was happening. He said that he'd been in the post office last week when a man brought in a dog and claimed it to be his service dog. Some kind of incident ensued, and the customer said the dog's handler wound up angry and cursing everyone, making a huge scene. It probably didn't help that the dog in question was a large pit bull...I really wasn't sure if the dog was behaving badly, or just his master! At any rate, it has my local post office turned against me. Rats!
That really made me sad, and illustrates how the poor behavior of one dog and/or its handler can have such a negative effect on those of us who have a legitimate reason for bringing a well-behaved service dog (working or training!) into a public area. It's such an important part of a puppy's training to get used to all kinds of surroundings and all kinds of people, and this is something you can only do (in my opinion, and the opinion of our school) by working the dog in public environments. At the same time, it's a huge responsibility not only to train the dog, but to make sure it is well-behaved and not an annoyance to people in public...a responsibility I take seriously!
How did Alfie take all this? He behaved perfectly, following every command. But I could tell he felt my tension. He scarcely took his eyes off me. After all that, we ended the day on an "up" note with a trip to the library, which is like visiting the Alfie Fan Club. Hooray for friendly faces!