Get Out!

Today we had a really discouraging experience. We were asked to leave a shop because of Casper. We knew this would happen eventually, but that does not ease the emotional blow this dealt. In fact, we are surprised by the magnitude of emotions that this caused and disheartened because we know this is only the first time.

Before I get into the details, though, we want to share a positive experience from today. It happened first so we will tell it first.

We went to Mystic, CT today. It is one of our favorite spots and the weather was so beautiful we really wanted to get out. I have a lot of homework (3 online classes this semester) and there is cleaning to be done, but we decided to go anyway and do all of that tonight.

Our first stop was at the Old Mystic Village shops, right next to Mystic Aquarium. We love to walk around and window shop and there are a few stores we regularly patronize. One of the first shops we went into is called “Raining Cats and Dogs.” As you might have guessed it is a shop with all pet things, not a pet shop, but has a lot of knickknacks of all kinds of breeds on hats, banners, mugs, etc… The woman at the counter told us she used to have an all black Dane named Razor who had passed away. She wanted to meet Casper, who we were calling Thor today, and we had to let her since she was a Dane lover. As she was getting to know him a woman walked in with her son, probably about age 4. He was immediately taken with the “big doggie” and his mom was telling him how the dog was working. They moved in closer and we could tell the boy really wanted to meet Casper so we said he could come pet him it he wanted.

Let me explain something. Casper LOVES kids. He loves them so much he can, if we let him, jump on them or even lunge at their faces, though just for a kiss. So when we let him meet kids we always have him under control with a firm grip and the correction collar in one hand. With a few reminders he is always a gentleman pup.

The little boy pet him and let Casper sniff at him. Then the boy leaned down and hugged Capser around the neck. He was a perfect little guy; he did not rest his weight on him or hug too tight. It was this sweet gentle show of affection. And when he stopped Casper nuzzled the boy in the neck, making him giggle. It was perfect. Perfect! We told Casper how good he was with his manners and we thanked the little boy for having such good manners with a dog.

We left the store feeling high on the lovely day. We stopped at a few more shops. We let Casper look at some ducks through a fence. We ran in to a couple of elderly ladies still sitting on the bench were we saw them when we got there. They, of course, were also IN LOVE with our boy. Then we went into our favorite shop. We have been known to go to Mystic (an hour away) JUST to visit this shop.

The shop is named Mystical Elements. It is a Wiccan based shop, but is really lovely for anyone. (Don’t worry Mom, I have not converted to Wicca.) Dan has gone there for years and we have gone there together many times to buy candles, books, jewelry, and other items. The girls love these little beaded “wish” bracelets they sell and want one every time we go. We have even had to buy the bracelets for their American Girl dolls. So, we have been good customers and usually the people there recognize Dan.

Today I had a few things in mind that I needed. I especially wanted to buy lavender to make a calming spray to help our oldest daughter sleep. (I don’t want one from a store with all the chemicals in it.) I had just grabbed some lavender and noticed someone had a dachshund in the store. Dan had just stepped up beside me so I warned, “Dog.”

Casper has very few kinks we have to work out, but the biggest one is meeting dogs. He gets very excited and can pull Dan, or can step on the dog trying to play. We have worked it out pretty well so far, but he still has more to learn. For now, though, he can be within a few yards of a dog and, although he is excited and slightly distracted, he will not pull  or bark. If the dog gets closer he might start to pull but Dan usually is one step ahead of him and if need be I can also take hold of the harness, but lately that is not necessary.

At this time Dan was in a situation where he would have to go forward to turn around to leave and was thinking this might be best, but the girl (who was in her teens or young 20s) stepped closer and blocked the escape. Dan told her that our dog was not very good at introductions. She did not seem deterred so I said I was afraid our dog would get excited and step on hers. She said, “It’s ok, mine just barks.” In retrospect I should have been more forward. I should have very nicely asked if she would mind taking her dog out because it was distracting him from his job. Or at the very least I could have asked her to back up so he could move out of the store.

We waited to long and her dog inched closer than lunged forward. In that split second Casper took a half step forward, but Dan caught him and he stopped. He was very alert and wanting to play, but he was totally in control. That step, though, set the other dog off growling and barking. Casper let out on very low small “woof” and that was it. I don’t think anyone else could have even heard it.

She snatched her dog up. The girl’s mother turned around, worried. I said, by habit, “He was just saying hello.” Then I stepped in front of Casper to break his gaze. Dan told him to lay down and he was in a down-stay by the time (this all took maybe 30 seconds) the woman in the shop came around the corner and across the small store shouted for the dogs to get out.

The woman did not see this altercation at all and probably did not even notice Casper’s vest from where she was. I stepped forward and said that he was a service dog and was allowed to be here. She asked for papers to prove it and I told her we didn’t have to show papers. I pointed out his vest was on.  Then she said something that turned me into the protective momma bear.  She said that he was disruptive in the store and that he was “vicious” and growling! Yep. VICIOUS.

It really makes us angry that because he is the bigger dog he is automatically assumed to be the aggressor. I can guarantee that a person is far more likely to have gotten bitten by that other dog than by Casper. And disruptive? Did you guys read our post about going into Salem? We regularly get compliments about how well-behaved he is in shops, even tiny ones that are hard to navigate.

Now, Dan had already stepped out at this point and I wanted to just follow, but I could not let that go. You just don’t mess with my family. I told her that he had not growled at all. I told her the other dog caused the whole problem and that ours was perfectly under control. Her answer was that she also made the other dog leave so it didn’t matter. I told her we were regular patrons and she had lost our business, put the lavender down on the counter and turned to go. I also reiterated that he was most certainly not vicious and that she was violating our rights. She said, as I was walking out, that she would like to see it in writing. Ok, lady, done. l said to go online and read the Americans with Disabilities Act. Then Dan pulled out these handy-dandy cards we carry in Casper’s vest which state the service dog rights under the ADA.

I walked back in, card in hand. I told her that I was particularly offended by her saying our dog was vicious because the other dog was the one causing the problem. She told me that if it was up to her no dogs would ever be allowed in shops because of people who are afraid of them. I explained that he HELPS DAN WALK. I mean, he is not just there for show. She then tried to hand the ADA card back, but I asked her to keep it and read it. I told her that she should learn the law because the shop could get sued for things like this. THEN, she said that he could come back in. No apology, no thank you, just an invitation back because I said the magic word, “sue.”

No thank you, lady. We won’t sue you, but we also won’t be coming back. And that is a real shame. If she had taken the time to learn something at the beginning of this situation, apologized, maybe thanked us for educating her, we might have considered just letting it go. We like that store. A lot. Now, though, the energy of that place is tainted and we know we won’t be back.

We spent the rest of this afternoon in a sulk. We didn’t go down Mystic Main Street because we didn’t have the energy to deal with anyone else like this. And we told ourselves, and each other, to get over it. We shouldn’t let her ruin our whole day, but we did, and I think I know why.

We are having this deep emotional reaction, not only because we liked this place and never expected this kind of treatment, but because we know that it didn’t affect her at all. Not really. She will lose our business, and maybe business from some friends, but not enough to make a difference. She might tell the story a couple of times about that big “vicious” service dog and his crazy family. Then it will be gone. Her reaction to me handing her that card showed me how little she cared to even learn what rights we have. Likely, she threw it in the trash.

I plan to email this blog post to the shop so that they might know how it effected us. Really, that is what I want from all of this, and why I hope our readers share this: for people to see how their reactions to our service dog either makes our lives fuller or makes it harder. That little boy today, and the one we met in Salem, made us so happy. It made the day actually seem brighter. Then we were treated badly and our day was done. Casper is not our pet. He is our family but more importantly he is Dan’s service dog. He helps Dan walk. Without Casper Dan would likely have taken a tumble in that shop and broken a few dozen items. Even with his cane he was less steady than he is now with his Dane. When you tell the dog to leave you are essentially saying that Dan is not allowed to shop in your store.  And that means that I won’t shop there either and I encourage others not to patronize your shop. I hope others will read this as well and think about how their actions and reactions always have an effect on other people.


written by LJS

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

30 thoughts on “Get Out!

  1. Laura Fahey Hron September 8, 2013 at 9:45 pm Reply

    I hope that you also copy the blog to the city attorney of Mystic and maybe the Chamber of Commerce because my guess is that a majority of the town revenue is from those shops and if those shopkeepers do not know the ada laws that will hurt them in the wallet. I do not know how you kept as much composure as you did Lauri. You are a better woman than I. I also am so proud of Casper for not eating the little dog. I have never understood why people automatically think Danes will attack. About the only they would attack is a bowl of food, a treat, or the couch. Am so sorry all this happed. I guess what they say really is true — bad things happen to good people.

    • casperthedane September 8, 2013 at 9:49 pm Reply

      I think everyone is giving me too much credit for keeping my cool. I did raise my voice a couple times. I was pretty forceful with my point. Dan should get the praise. He calmly walked out, as asked, and allowed me to get all momma bear. Had the place been less crowded he would have been the one standing up for us, but it was best this way since I could get over to her much more easily.
      The biggest danger the little dog was in was from slobber. (Though, his feet are pretty big and he is not always careful where he steps!)

  2. Ann September 8, 2013 at 5:40 pm Reply

    Dan, Laurie, family and of course Casper.

    I am so sorry to hear about your experience with this store’s staff person. I think what the issue is people are unfamiliar with Danes being Service Dogs when in fact so many breeds are now being used as “working dogs.” It’s no longer a German Shepherd, Golden or Labrador world as many rescues are fitting right into being trained as “Working Dogs, Emotional, Service and Therapeutic. It’s great to see all breeds being trained and certified as such. Exposure and education are the only way to get people thinking in these terms.

    I have watched Casper from Day 1 and he’s such an intelligent, laid back boy and having anyone call him “Vicious” totally blows my mind!!
    I don’t pay attention to dog owners that tells me right off “Oh don’t worry my dog is fine with other dogs”. I am watching both dogs body language and my first question to the dog owner is “Has your dog been schooled”? I get very upset with owners whose dogs are not leashed and have never been trained. Because they may get along with other dogs they live with, socialize with, but that doesn’t mean a thing if for some reason neither dog doesn’t like how the other one smells or their body language!

    I wouldn’t have been very calm had that been me with Casper and yes, you have every right to refuse going to that shop, regardless of the “apology”. I feel for both Dan and Casper as these 2 are dependant on one another, a bond like no other. Casper is Dan’s wing man, and has his back. From observing Dan with Casper on and your FB and Web page I’d say they were a perfect union, and they are still bonding and working out the little “hiccups”.
    Today I watched Casper at SDP visit the 2 Danes that were in the pond area. He went up to the fence, they said “Hi” and immediately they began running back and forth beside the fence, and did so several times. Than I watched him prance back down to the T-tent with his tongue hanging out, he glanced at you and Dan, and ran past on his way towards the tee-pee! He is quite the dog and I am so happy for all the support you received with the contest.
    All the Best!

  3. N September 8, 2013 at 9:20 am Reply

    I had to read the post a few times because I was in disbelief on how you were treated. There are no words that I can write other than appalled by the store owners actions. Unless you see something first hand how can you make a judgment call such as she did. Dan’s goal is to educate people on ADA along with how a service dog can change your life. Obviously his calling is accurate. Myself, I would never question a service dogs validity even though there are some out there that use false vests and use it for their convenience. Like the owner of Big I’s in MA that did that to a vet. Look at all the publicity for him which was negative but the vet with his service dog made headlines and awareness of this same issue. The woman of the store had the audacity of commenting like she did was unprofessional and insensitive. I admire what you said and did and you are absolutely correct in do not mess with my family. There are many people out there that lack common sense and human interaction but the majority of business’ are learning and will need to keep being educated. Go Casper and Dan. Let them hear your story and make it right for all who have a disability. The Casper Family ROCKS!!!!!!!!

  4. William September 8, 2013 at 8:07 am Reply

    If your dog lunges at children’s faces and gets distracted by other dogs, you may want to trade him in on a real service dog. A dog is legally considered property and is not afforded the same rights as a human being. Isn’t it sad how the ADA law protects the rights of a few while trampling on the rights of many.

    • casperthedane September 8, 2013 at 11:20 am Reply

      I think you are misinterpreting what Casper does. He goes to KISS children. We stop him because we know that not everyone appreciates this. Casper is young and is still learning a few things, but is much better behaved than most children, including our own. As to being distracted by other dogs. This is a problem many service dogs have no matter how well they are trained and for how long. Service dogs are distracted. That is why people are not supposed to talk to or pet a working dog.
      Casper does not bark or growl at other dogs in public, unlike the dog we encountered.
      I think the ADA is protecting people who have been trampled upon for centuries. In the past Dan would have been left to die, if he had survived birth at all. Was it ok that his rights as a human being were ignored because his muscles work differently?
      You have the right to your opinion, but as far as I am concerned your opinion is based on ignorance and prejudice. I feel that anyone with half heart would disagree you.
      We presented both sides of the story so that we could educate people. You obviously missed the point.

      • Kara September 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm

        You presented your side of the story and your interpretation of what happened. I’m sure the woman working at the store has her own version of what happened, just as any other customer in the store at the time has their own version. Everything we experience is colored by our past experiences and our beliefs, so I think it’s unfair for you to claim your version as the unadulterated truth. The fact that you have a public space in which to speak does not automatically qualify your thoughts and opinions as “education”, they are simply your thoughts an opinions. The post itself, as well as this response read more like personal vendettas in response to an unpleasant incident rather then an attempt to educate anyone about the actual ADA laws and requirements.

      • casperthedane September 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm

        You obviously have not read any other posts on this blog. Also, we never said it was the unadulterated truth. We said we have TRIED to show both sides. That is why we also shared her response which most people would not do. We have made it very clear that this is not about revenge. It is about people learning the law. And it is working. People like you obviously are not familiar with service dog rights.

    • Margaret Rosenquist September 8, 2013 at 5:16 pm Reply

      DUH! Read it again, it was the Dachsund who lunged, NOT the GREAT DANE service dog! Danes are remarkably non-aggressive dogs, their size says it all, they don’t have to be! And the Service dogs trained and provided by SDP are top in their class!

  5. carolynbueno September 8, 2013 at 8:06 am Reply

    Laurie- Excellent recount of events. I was just talking to a friend of mine who was good friends with a lady that used to do readings at the store. It sounds to me like the woman who kicked you out was the same gal that fired my friend’s Medium pal. After reading your entire blog, it occurred to me that you were probably used as “innocent truth bearers” in the Universe. We are in a time of uncovering deceit, bigotry, and prejudice among other disenchanting characteristics. You were simply being yourselves and this lady was being tested and called out! She revealed her true colors and now she has 2 choices, she can learn from it, change her ways and thereby transmute the bad karma, OR not. Plain and simple. When seemingly bad things happen to good people, there is always an underlying reason that ultimately brings you to higher ground. You handled this experience with a level head and without malice. When your intentions are aligned with Source, only goodness will prevail! Well done!

  6. Gayle September 7, 2013 at 11:51 pm Reply

    I couldn’t quickly find a way to CC Lauri, but this is the email I sent the store (when I copy/pasted it did not include bold nor underlined text, but hopefully you get the intent):

    “Experience ancient wisdom…

    Visit us and journey through our many avenues of learning. Come in open minded and leave with a new sense of understanding.”

    This is your statement on your home page. Really??????? I don’t know how you intend to do that when you won’t even open your own mind as to circumstances in your store today. YOUR LACK OF SELF-LEARNING TODAY in regards to a service dog is despicable (even when handed a card that would have educated you). I will try to give you the benefit of the doubt, but that’s really hard to do. How do you explain yourself? Frustrated, overworked, knee-jerk reaction or you just don’t care? I watched that SERVICE DOG as he was born into this world. The training that he has gone through, and following him through his new role in life…………that of a SERVICE DOG!!! I can only suggest that you “journey through THE many avenues of learning”, starting with yourself, as you certainly didn’t utilize “anyone’s” avenue of learning today. You have no idea how many people you have impressed today………in an extremely negative way. If it was not you but an employee, perhaps you should reconsider your staff. But please don’t try to “hide” behind someone else. It is, supposedly “your store”.

  7. Debbie Sorensen September 7, 2013 at 10:24 pm Reply

    So sorry Lauri, sounds like you handled it very well, other than having it ruin your day. Next time, when you walk away, just know we’ve all got your back and chuckle about how that “person” has NO IDEA what they just stepped into!!! Then it won’t ruin you day!! Hugs!

  8. Renee September 7, 2013 at 9:29 pm Reply

    Oh, I am so sorry you had such an experience. We all know Casper is the sweetest dog. I love dogs but have had problems with smaller dogs barking and nipping my large dog who never so much as growled or barked back. Casper is doing great and so are you. I wish all the world loved us but unfortunately there are always some people…
    Give each other hugs, know that you did the right thing, continue to educate as you are doing. We are all proud of Casper and his family.

  9. Amy from Texas September 7, 2013 at 9:15 pm Reply

    I, too, went to yelp and voted “usefull” for Lauri’s review. In addition, I emailed the lady!!!! I watched Casper enter the world, and I know what kind of training he has received at SDP. Plus, Casper has a wonderful family, and I thrilled at how well he is doing his job!!!

  10. Cheryl September 7, 2013 at 8:49 pm Reply

    Dan, Lauri and family (including Casper), I am so sorry that this happened to you. I think the store owner needs to WAIT and LISTEN. Casper can do that thanks to Carlene’s excellent training and your guidance. It’s too bad the shop owner can’t do that, too. She needs to become better educated about service dogs and not be so hurtful towards others.

  11. BeausMom September 7, 2013 at 7:58 pm Reply

    I sent an email to the dog hater, said how ignorant can you be? I had never heard of this town or store, but now it has a bad reputation to me and I am sure to all the CP’s who live nearby. It will hurt her financially.

    As the owner of a CP dog I feel like she hurt my feelings, by association.

  12. Sharon September 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm Reply

    Lauri, I understand your anger because it set me off just reading about it. I hope your day improved. Poor Casper, just doing his job. Guess this was another learning experience for him. Pray you do not experience this kind of thing very often. Thankfully most people are kind and understanding.

  13. Linda Craig September 7, 2013 at 6:48 pm Reply

    I am so sorry this happened and ruined your day. Some people should think about what they are saying before they speak. The shop owner/worker was rude and inconsiderate. Perhaps she needs a conversation with Carlene to fully understand the importance and rights of a service dog. Casper is still a puppy but he is learning to be an excellent support for Dan. Don’t let these ignorant people get you down. Keep going out and about. Some people need to be educated and Dan and Casper are fine ambassadors for this.

  14. Diane B Stern September 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm Reply

    So very sorry your beautiful day was ruined. To call Casper vicious is funny. Hope the woman realizes her mistake. Like Nan Kan says, she will hear from your blog readers & SDP followers, all over the world.

  15. Cate B (@CateBlossom) September 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm Reply
    • casperthedane September 7, 2013 at 6:27 pm Reply

      Done. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Gayle September 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm Reply

      I went into yelp and voted “useful” for Lauri’s review. Hope it helps……….this is disheartening to hear, but you’re a strong family who will continue to thrive and educate the uneducated.

  16. Linda Dunne September 7, 2013 at 6:15 pm Reply

    I think you might do well by contacting the Better Business Bureau as well as the Chamber of Commerce…between the two it might knock sime of the ignorance out of the clerk/owner of that shop. They definitely aren’t practicing what they are preaching.

  17. Sheree September 7, 2013 at 6:04 pm Reply

    As the owner of 2 mini dachshunds, I can tell you they are barkers! Not vicious, but loud little dogs who hear grass growing and bark, hear a car door down the street and bark, THINK they hear something and bark! They also want to greet every person or dog in sight. I’m positive the dachshund in the store was the instigator of the noise and poor Casper got blamed by association. One of mine has had on a no-bark collar today. Has it stopped him? Not a bit. If he wants to bark, he’s going to bark. I’m goimg to have to try something else. Sorry this happened to you

  18. Hilda September 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm Reply

    It is such a shame that this “lady” ruined your whole afternoon. How do you educate an arrogant person who just doesn’t give a darn? You don’t have to sue her, but perhaps you should contact the town council and make them aware of what happened. Perhaps they can “educate” all of the stores/restaurants, etc., in town. I’m sure Casper sensed your sadness of the situation; he’s such a good boy and you are a wonderful family. I feel sad, too, and angry. I’m glad you did point out to that woman that you all have a right to be in the store. I really don’t know how that other girl got into the store with her dog. I know here in Canada, unless it is a pet shop, all dogs except for service dogs are not allowed inside a store, not even inside a mall. We are all with you. I’m sure Carlene will read this blog and she will definitely have something to say….stay strong; we all love you.

    • casperthedane September 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm Reply

      Most places here do not allow dogs. There are outdoor malls where some stores allow dogs. We frequent these a lot and that is why we have our routine down when we encounter a dog most days. This shop did not have a sign allowing dogs, and we have never seen one in there before. It was surprising.

  19. Nan Kan September 7, 2013 at 5:36 pm Reply

    Hey you guys, I am so sorry to hear you ran into a jerk shop owner / worker. Yes, it was bound to happen, and yes, it will happen again; but I think you handled it very well. I think, however, that the woman will learn a lesson simply because they will hear from your readers, here and the CPs over at SDP. It will be easier for you to find a store deserving of your business than for Mystic Elements to shake off the vocal supporters of Dan and Casper.

    • Bernadette September 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm Reply

      Oh yeah, she already got an email from me!

      • casperthedane September 7, 2013 at 6:27 pm

        Thank you!

      • Sandy September 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm

        I also emailed and know she has apologized but it does not totally cancel the actions she originally took towards Casper. I hope this store has learned a valuable lesson on how strong the media and FB response will be towards these type of actions. I hope your day got brighter and sorry you all were treated this way

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