Phil and I are routine bus riders, and we’ve seen a lot when it comes to people’s reactions to our Seeing Eye dogs. Most reactions are positive, and we’ve had more than a few negative too. There have been people who won’t go past us, others who cry and scream, and a few with baby strollers, walkers and wheel chairs who either almost or do run over the dogs, They don’t communicate with us about needing more space to get through the aisle. I’ve had a lady stomp on my foot in what felt like heels, after I put it in front of my dogs paws to protect her. She was so upset that she — a black woman — had to fold her stroller, while I — a white woman — had my dog who “got to” lie down. Then she made various disparaging remarks about me and my dog for the rest of the trip. These experiences with my dog in the aisle have taught me to get a wheelchair sseat for longer trips to keep conflict to a minimum.
Another time a driver let me and my dog off the bus for an emergency relieving and waited for us despite my encouragement to continue the route, I would have caught the next bus. The driver chose to wait. There were a few caustic comments about having to wait for a dumb dog to go to the bathroom.
Easter Sunday on the way home from a restaurant, Phil and I experienced something for the first time. Phil and his German Shepherd Garron got on before me and my Black Lab Zane. We find it’s easier when they enter first, because they are faster movers. I gave Phil time to scan his card listening for the beep before Zane and I climbed the stairs.
for a few moments I was busy getting my card scanned, so I trust Phils memory. A lady asked him to keep his dog away from her, and he obliged. The lady was roughly across the aisle from Phil and Garron, and Garron is a pretty long dog. Phil remembers feeling him turn around and sit down. And apparently in that quick motion, Garron must have sniffed her leg. As I was settling in the front seat beside Phil with Zane at my feet, I heard the lady call out and tell the driver that “his dog practically attacked me”. My first reaction was incredulity. If Garron attacked her, wouldn’t she be crying or screaming. I’ve never seen Garron attack anyone, and her voice had such a flat affect that I knew something must be wrong with her mentally.
My second reaction was, “uh-oh! It’s her word against his. How’s this going to go down.
Phil’s first reaction was to call that statement “bullshit”. He and a couple of other passengers simultaneously said that perhaps the dog sniffed her. She stuck to her story though. As we continued a ride, Phil and I began conversing with other passengers about the dogs. They told us they were big animal lovers and not to worry about what just happened. I generally leave Garron alone in harness, but I put my face down near his, so he could show what a teddy bear he was by licking it.
, the woman was due to get off the bus, and we were met by a transit officer. We heard the woman quietly talking to the officer and the driver at the front saying something about the dog touching her leg. Phil went to the front of the bus to join the conversation. He was understandably angry and tried to tell his side of the story using more colorful language. Phil told me later that the woman never backed up, so there didn’t seem to be any fear. Other passengers were starting to get unhappy about being held up from arriving at their places for Easter plans. Finally either the driver or the officer said that since there were no injuries, the woman should get off the bus. Phil went back to his seat, and I heard the officer’s voice as he passed us and the dogs to the back of the bus just before we started moving again.
I had to wonder if the officer was testing the dogs’ reactions to him going by., and of course they stayed still.
We never know how we’re going to react in a situation like this. I shamefully admit that some of the incidents I highlighted at the beginning of this piece made me cry. Sometimes I wish I was more like Phil and could just get mad and not let anyone say these kinds of things without a fight. One advantage to getting mad and moving on is that one doesn’t simmer, as I tend to do. But as I lived through this experience and reflected later, I wondered what reaction might be best. I gently chided Phil about the swearing and asked whether swearing and physically going up front helped the situation. With the unhappy passengers, I thought perhaps it might just be adding to the drama. Phil’s perspective is that he wasn’t going to let anyone tell lies about his dog without defending the dog and himself. . Perhaps it helped get this woman off the bus and from continuing her complaining while we all waited. We’ll never really know.
I do know how hard it is to remain calm while others are making disparaging remarks about my dog. It’s a difficult relationship to explain to those who haven’t experienced it. The best I can do is that part of the gratitude for all that my dogs do is to be their protector. In Phil’s case he is their defender.
Still, life goes on. There have been plenty of jokes this week about Garron the vicious attacked dog.
Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dogs)