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Friday, October 14, 2011

Traveling with a service dog is not as easy as it should be

While returning home from a vacation in Texas, Terri and I recently checked into the LaQuinta Inn  located in Covington, LA 70433. I had no problems checking in with my service dog because they allow dogs. The night desk clerk was a young, friendly gal who welcomed us with a smile and greeted my service dog, Strudel, like she was an old friend.  She told us LaQuinta was a dog friendly hotel but she especially liked the service dogs because they were always so well trained.

The following morning, Terri and I went downstairs to enjoy the free breakfast that LaQuinta offers.  Of course, I had Strudel with me and she was "vested up" all nice and proper.  There was no mistaking that she was a service dog.  Just as we sat down to eat our breakfast, the front desk clerk, "Corliss", came in and and told me my dog had to leave because they weren't allowed in the breakfast area. I pointed out to her that my dog was a service dog, NOT a "pet" and that I'm a 100% disabled veteran. She didn't care. She repeated again that my dog had to leave. I refused to leave and she walked out and never came back.  This was NOT the same clerk who had checked us in the night before.  This was someone who didn't have a clue.  Terri and I finished our breakfast, Strudel under the table where she was supposed to be, just as quiet and invisible as I've taught her to be in a restaurant.

After breakfast, Terri and I couldn't get out of there fast enough.  I'd eaten my breakfast in silence, horribly embarrassed by the interaction with the front desk clerk, Corliss.  I don't do well in crowds at all which is one of the reasons I have a service dog with me at all times.  To make matters worse, the breakfast room was almost fully occupied.  At a long table perpendicular to ours sat a dozen Veterans from the 1st Air Cavalry Division.  They were there for a reunion; celebrating their 45th anniversary.  They sat and watched the entire exchange.  Talk about total humiliation!

Finally, time to check out.  I had to deal with Corliss again.  I asked her if she was familiar with ADA laws regarding service dogs. She said that she was.  If she was, then why did she try to kick me out of the breakfast area?  I asked her that question.  My intent was to educate her and not belittle her. She said she'd spoken to the manager and the manager had told her it was okay for me and my dog to be in there. So then I asked to speak with the manager.  I was told the manager doesn't work on the weekends.  I felt I was due an apology from Corliss.  What I got was attitude.

LaQuinta is a major hotel chain.  How in the world can they NOT have a manager on duty on the weekends to handle difficult issues?  

When I returned home, I wrote an email to LaQuinta and it was forwarded to the manager of the hotel we stayed in. Her name is Meghan Lee and her email address is She apologized and said she would handle the matter, but nothing was said about educating the rest of the staff.  Allegedly, Corliss claimed she didn't know that Strudel was a service dog.  How could she not know?  Strudel and I walked around the "buffet" to pick out our breakfast before we sat down.  Strudel always wears her vest.  Corliss had to have seen us walking around in there from the front desk.  Once we sat down, it was impossible to see us from the front desk.  I told her, not once, but twice, that Strudel was a working service dog and not a "pet".  How hard is it to understand that concept?

The hospitality industry just doesn't get it, my friends.  More and more of us are out there traveling with service dogs.  And guess what?  We spend money, too.  We are a viable part of society.  Our dogs turn our "disabilities" into "abilities" and what once seemed like a cold, cruel, world for many of us is now becoming more accessible thanks to our four-legged friends.  I can't tell you what a difference my two dogs, Rocco and Strudel, have made in my life.  

The next time you're out there with your service dog, my friends, and an employee gives you a hard time about it, let me know.  I'll blog about it.  If you have a cell phone with you and can access Facebook, post your troubles to Facebook immediately.  I'm sure your Facebook friends will take up the fight for you instantly.  I've seen it happen before.  In retrospect, I wish I had done that but I was too upset to think that fast.  That's one of the reasons I have a service dog .... I get rattled quickly when confronted in a crowd.  My service dogs react to my anxiety and they know just how to respond to calm me and remove me from the situation.  Since I wasn't about to leave, Strudel responded by putting her head in my lap.  We were in a restaurant and she's trained, as most service dogs are (or should be) to lay quietly under the table.  Most times in a restaurant, no one even realizes I have a service dog with me until I get up to leave.  My dogs are that well trained and in tune to my needs.

I must mention that I wasn't alone.  My wife, Terri, was with me.  I don't go anywhere without her.  My service dogs are well trained but Terri can be a Pit Bull when she believes someone has done me wrong.  She was furious at how I was treated and I have no doubt things would've gotten ugly if Terri had gotten her way.  One of these days my loving wife is going to knock the piss out of someone for discriminating against us.  I love my wife.  She's the strength that keeps me going every hour of every day.

That's it for today, my friends.  Remember to stand up for yourself and your service dog as best you can.  Report those who discriminate against you.  Tell me about it.  I'll spread the word here.  Post the facts to Facebook.  Report it to the corporate offices of the offender.  Talk to the media if you have to.  This kind of illegal discrimination has to stop.

As for me ... well, it's October 14, 2011.  I'm going to sit here and wait for UPS to deliver my new iPhone 4s.  Yep, I'm a sucker.  I pre-ordered one as soon as I found out my service provider was going to start carrying them.  I've held off until now because I'm a diehard Sprint customer and have been for the last 11 years.  Now that Sprint is carrying the iPhone, I have no more excuses.  Hurry up, UPS!

The other thing I'm waiting for is our son to call us and tell us he's been sworn into the Army as a "Future Soldier"... what us oldtimers used to call the "Delayed Entry Program".  Terri and I have been texting back and forth all morning to see if the other has heard from him.  We're both very proud of him.

Until the next time.....

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