The guide Dog handler Who Cried Wolf

This is the first time I’ve been in the paper and not looked forward to seeing it go to print. Tell me something. If you click the link to the story, do I look decent in the picture? I left the house only intending to run a couple of errands. I was not thinking about having my damn picture taken for the news.

I have to say that the people at the Mercury who covered the story did a fine job. the only booboo was how they explained Cory’s vision. she isn’t anywhere close to almost completely blind. she’s legally blind, but she can still read the print on the bus signs and stuff. You wanna see almost completely blind? meet me, who can mistake a large woman in a green dress for a garbage bin. That’s almost completely blind…oh yeah, and also embarrassing.

Here’s the link to the story. I’ll quote it below, just because newspaper stories have a tendancy to float away into the internet void of death. then I’ll explain how I got embroiled in this mess and why I feel that way. I’ll say again that the paper did a fine job of being cool about it all, but I just feel I have to apologize for getting involved in this pile of hui.

Woman and guide dog asked to leave store

Police call incident a misunderstanding

February 07, 2009

Charlotte Prong Parkhill

A Guelph woman is upset after being asked to take her guide dog out of a store in the Old Quebec Street mall.

Cory Chisholm, who is almost completely blind, said a Save Mart employee told her on Wednesday that store owner Chaudahry Khan wanted her to leave and not come back because her dog was in the way of other customers.

Chisholm returned to the store Thursday and spoke to Khan’s grandson, who also works in the store.

“He said he didn’t want the dog in there,” she said. “So I tried to explain it, that it’s a service dog. . . . But he didn’t care.”

Khan said Chisholm is a frequent visitor to his dollar store, and she is welcome to continue shopping there.

“I know it is a guide dog,” he said.

“She was here for half an hour, talking to someone at the cash register. Many customers complained to me that the dog is blocking the way.”

Khan said Chisholm’s dog, Dagwood, was lying on the floor in the narrow space between the cash register and the aisles, and customers were going to the back of the store and around the aisle to work their way back to the till.

Chisholm said she can’t see if she is in the way of other customers.

“If the dog is blocking the way, you could just say ‘excuse me’ and I’ll move him,” she said.

Chisholm and her friend, Carin Headrick, were at the mall again yesterday when they called Guelph Police and asked them to intervene.

Denying access to a person with a service dog is against the law, but after speaking to the store manager, the officer was satisfied the incident was a misunderstanding.

Chisholm carries Dagwood’s service dog identification with her everywhere she goes. During the eight years she has had a guide dog, she’s only been asked
to leave a store once before.

It’s something Headrick and her dog, Trixie, have never experienced.

“I was surprised to hear that it happened,” she said. “So I thought we should nip it in the bud.”

Even though Khan said Chisholm and her dog are welcome in his store, she said she will probably never go back.

“I just don’t want this to happen to someone else,” she said.

Ok. Now I wanna explain what the hell happened. I was coming downtown to grab a couple of things when I ran into Cory. It was kind of funny because both our dogs acted out at the same time, so there we were telling our dogs to sit the hell down and behave. It was then that she said “Don’t go into the dollar store in the mall. You’ll get kicked out because of your dog. I just did.” Surprised because I’ve never had a problem in my almost two years of having Trix, I asked her if she’d tried to explain it and she kept saying “He didn’t care, he didn’t care. He told me to leave because of my dog.

At this point I need to slap myself vigorously for not following my gut. it spoke, quietly, as if it were a little birdy. It said, “I need to go shopping at the dollar store. I didn’t before, but I do now. I should tell corry to sit and wait and I should go in there and see what happens.” But thenI got scared. I didn’t know if I had enough resolve that day to deal with someone telling me to get out get out get out now now now. So, at the intersecting paths of smart and stupid, I took the road to stupid.

I asked her if she was going to do something about it. I said if he doesn’t understand the law and he’s not willing to listen, then maybe someone with a bit of authority needs to explain it to him. Then a friend of hers chirped up and said “Call the media too!” She jumped on this idea. I told her that maybe we should move in logical steps like rational beings, first the cops, then maybe another visit to the store, and if crap continues, *then* the media. . but all she kept saying was “No. If we call the papers, he’ll know we mean business.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, but I’ve never faced a denial of access before, and she said that she had faced 8 of them. So I sat down beside her and waited.

the paper showed up first, and that made me feel ill, because I knew she had also phoned the police. the reporter was cool and took down all the info, looking at this little law book that cory carries with her, …and that’s when Cory told the full story and I realized I had been lied to. the story now was “I came a few days ago and got booted, I came back to speak to the manager, and she went to check with the owner and I got frustrated and left. Then today I figured I’d come back and deal with it, but I didn’t want to go in there and deal with him alone again. I figured I’d call the cops.”

What? What? Whaaat? At this point I wanted a vortex to open up and suck me down into somewhere where I could hide from view. This isn’t PR, this is reverse Pr. Oh I wanted to disappear.

The cop showed up and was a good dude. He listened to her and said he’d go talk to the store guy. And that’s when more of the truth came out. apparently while she was in the store, she has been known to leave her dog in a down stay at the front of the store, in anarrow place, while she went back in the aisles that she felt were too cluttered with boxes to navigate if she took the dog with her. She has enough vision that she can do this. People were afraid they were going to step on the dog while they were trying to pay for stuff. Uh, yeah, that’s reasonable. I would never, ever, ever leave Trix alone up at the front of a store. I’m sure someone would step on her. People have thought she was a duffle bag when I’m on Greyhound. People don’t expect to have to step over a dog lying on the floor. Plus, well, I don’t trust her to stay that long alone. Remember my first-aid fun? I know every dog is different, but I think it’s too much risk to leave the dog where it could be stepped on. If the aisles were too narrow, I would just ask the person working the store to go get what I needed. apparently there was an initial misunderstanding where the store owner didn’t realize the dog was a guide dog, and asked her to take the dog out of the store, but once it was explained to him, he was fine as long as she didn’t leave the dog in the way to be tripped over.

And then, at the end of it all, when Cory said she wouldn’t shop there again, I was mortified. when it appears to have been all a big misunderstanding, the least she could have done was given him a chance. To go out of her way to snub him is disgraceful for all of us.

So, this whole mess could have been avoided if Cory had just used a bit of reason and not been so jumpy. I’m ashamed to be entangled in it. I think next week I’ll have to go buy some things at the dollar store down there just to support the guy and show him that we’re not all wingnuts.

So to everyone else with a guide or service dog, don’t fall into the trap I did. If a fellow dog-handler tells you a story like this, if you really want to help them, ask a whole heap of questions before you make your decision, or do what I initially planned to do. go down there yourself and see what happens. I hear myself saying this and keep thinking “This isn’t brain surgery. You should have known better. the way you acted was the way achild acts when they’re still in primary school.” I was stupid, and I will regret it for a long time.

So that’s my story. Hopefully I can redeem myself somehow.

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