World Accessibility Day
It was a hot sticky day in Sydney as I walked along the leafy suburban Roseville Street with my first guide dog Jordie. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, so put my phone and keys in the little backpack she wears — it’s usually filled with plastic bags for when I go on poop patrol.
As I walked past an outdoor cafe my phone rang.
“Hey Jordie,” I said “your phone’s ringing,” as I stopped to unzip the backpack and take the call.
I laughed out loud when I heard one of the latte sippers say to another —
“Oh look, that guide dog has its own mobile phone.”
Guide dogs often draw attention to the user. This can sometimes be positive — I understand they are an excellent “chick magnet” — but sometimes the attention is not preferred. And sometimes the questions asked range from funny to bizarre.
Here are some I have experienced. I am sure there are many others.
1. As I arrive (usually from a female)
“Awww, isn’t he cute!?
“Thanks, and the dog’s not bad looking either.”
2. As I get off the train, from an amazed schoolboy:
“Wow, how does the dog know which station to get off?”
“She listens to the announcements, just like I do.”
3. Question to me
“Is this the first time you have been here? How did the dog know the way?”
“I let her borrow my GPS.”
4. I walk into the supermarket, and ask for some assistance to locate the items I need.
“But can’t the dog find them for you?”
5. As I get into a taxi:
“Does your dog bite??
“Only when she’s hungry. That reminds me, I haven’t fed her today.”
6. As I walk into a lift on the 32nd floor I ask the man who joins me if he could press the button for ground, please.
After my third repetition of the question, he replies –
“Oh, are you talking to me? I thought you were asking the guide dog.”
7. In a restaurant
“Shall I give the menu to your dog so that she can read it to you?”
I had no words.
8. As I try to walk into a crowded pub, from the security guard –
“You can’t bring your guide dog in here. It is a security risk.”
“In what way,” I ask.
“I don’t know, but I’m sure it is,” He replies.
His manager didn’t share his view.
9. From a restaurant patron
“I can’t finish my steak. Can I give it to your dog?”
I firmly reply no, explaining that she is not allowed to eat on the job.
“Ok,” he says, “I’ll put it in a doggy bag.” And laughs loudly.
It’s good to see people entertaining themselves.
10. I was once refused entry to a restaurant because of my guide dog.
When I explained to the proprietor that it was against the law to refuse us entry, he put the matter to a vote amongst his patrons, going from table-to-table counting responses. She won with an overwhelming majority.