Service animals provide incredibly valuable services to their owners, from guiding persons who are blind, to giving visual and other cues to people who are deaf or hearing impaired.
A dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas. Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily. A therapy dog's primary job is to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with it and to enjoy that contact. Children in particular enjoy hugging animals; adults usually enjoy simply petting the dog. The dog might need to be lifted onto, or climb onto, an individual's lap or bed and sit or lie comfortably there.
The return of Frijole from training at the American Canine Academy finds him prepared to serve my husband Tom as a hearing assistant dog, and we are very pleased. Tom has been taking Frijole with him to various places as he pursues his daily activities, with some different levels of acceptance of Frijole along the way.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been law in America for more than two decades now.
Businesses across this nation have become increasingly aware of the need to observe ADA laws in relation to service animals. Here in Colorado Springs, two of the stops at businesses Tom has made since Frijole completed his training found those businesses following ADA laws. One; however, presented a rather discriminating attitude due to the demeanor of a disgruntled counter clerk unfortunately.
The walls in our home need painting rather badly, and I sent Tom to Home Depot to get some paint. He stopped at the door of the Home Depot on Woodmen Ave. and asked the person if his hearing assistant dog was allowed inside. The person working for Home Depot said, 'Of Course!,' while looking around for the dog. Frijole is a Mini-pin/Chihuahua mix; hearing assistant dogs come in all sizes and breeds - they do not have to be large dogs.
Tom explained this to the Home Depot employee who was curious more than anything. We have ordered a vest for Frijole, but he doesn't have one yet. Tom said, 'Sit!,' while giving Frijole the hand signal for the command and Frijole promptly complied. The Home Depot employee was clearly pleased, and smiled. A Home Depot store is quite a test for a fresh graduate like Frijole - so many people; so many large carts with things like lumber and sheetrock... He did exceptionally well, and apparently Tom did too.
Another stop Tom made was at my place of work.
I am a nurse and provide care for seniors who experience Alzheimer's at a facility in town. The people I am there for experience difficulties with remembering things such as the time of year, and have trouble performing activities of daily living.
When Tom came through the door with Frijole the staff member at the front door promptly smiled; Frijole has the same effect on all of the staff members. His admission into the building isn't even in question; he is a trained hearing assistant dog and the paperwork associated with him from his first shots onward are also filed here. The effect Frijole has on the people who live here is nothing short of wondrous.
People living at the place I work at smile, call him cute, and want to pet him. Frijole sniffs at their hand, sits down, and lets them pet him. He provides people with a chance to be with a pet again - something many of them do not otherwise have the opportunity to do. One of the people who lived here liked to fall asleep with Frijole in a recliner when he was still a puppy. I have even had a couple of people try to claim him as their own... I have to explain to them that Frijole is my puppy dog, but they can visit with him anytime I bring him with me.
On Friday; however, Tom and I went to the FedEx depot at 1315 Garden of the Gods Rd. here in Colorado Springs with Frijole. After three attempts to deliver a package to our home, FedEx took my package to this FedEx site for us to pick up. When we went to this FedEx site to get the package, the person behind the counter at the store where everyone from the public is allowed to enter denied Frijole access, despite Tom telling him that Frijole is indeed a hearing assistant dog.
The person behind the counter was a white male about 5'9" tall, with thinning hair, and weighed around 265 pounds. He sneered at Frijole and said, 'Um yeah - unfortunately your dog can't be in the store.' When Tom stated that Frijole is a hearing assistant dog, the clerk told Tom that Frijole was supposed to be wearing a vest or some other kind of identifying marker. Tom told the clerk that according to federal law, Frijole did not. The clerk told Tom that according to everything FedEx had, he did; Tom took Frijole and left the store.
Interestingly, after Tom and Frijole went outside this clerk gave me a hard time about getting my package, despite the fact that I had a FedEx ticket with the ID number of the package itself. He asked my name several times, said he did not have a package under my name, diddled about, and was generally rude. After another customer came into the store he was suddenly able to find my package. Thank goodness for UPS.
So - two very positive experiences with businesses in relation to our little hearing assistant dog, and one bad. According to ADA law, businesses that serve the public are prohibited from discriminating against people with disabilities. They are required to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in areas where other customers are allowed.
Not every service animal wears a special collar or harness, or has identification papers. Businesses cannot insist on proof or state certification before permitting a service animal to accompany a person with a disability onto the property. Perhaps FedEx is unaware of ADA law in this regards, or perhaps the clerk at this particular FedEx site was just being nasty.
Where the Home Depot store is concerned, we have found their services to be exceptional for the most part. The store hires veterans with disabilities, has been more than willing to accommodate us in regards to our hearing assistant dog, and has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help us with anything we need.
We look forward to many years of assistance from Frijole. Tom's hearing is something that will not improve, and Frijole provides very valuable assistance for him. We are also very thankful to the businesses that follow ADA laws in relation to hearing assistant dogs.