I know, part 1 kinda slammed a bit on McDonalds. Let me be clear on this, it’s rarely the business itself but the employees that mess things up. Trotz and I have been to several McDonalds with no issues at all. But to be fair, I will tell you a story of a different McDonalds experience, at a different McDonalds location.
I was barely coming out of my new handler phase. You know what I mean if you’ve been there. All the hours of training, everyone tells you that you both are ready, but you are a bit hesitate to take on the world. You tend to worry about what your dog is doing on the other end of the leash, he is trying to alert that you are getting tense, but you are getting tense because you are worried about him.
I went through new handler boot camp with my Auntie Debi as the Drill Instructor.
Auntie Debi in fanatical about Trotz, lol. She absolutely adores him. While I was hesitant about going certain places, she just charged right in, demanded we be welcome, and accepted no excuses from me about leaving Trotz at home. Auntie Debi is a very high energy person.
A few times a year, I leave the solitude and quiet of my little cabin in the woods and travel to Orlando to spend time with her.
When I say Orlando, I mean Pine Hills, a somewhat scary place with lots of people. Everything and everyone is very busy there. I love her dearly and usually go home a bit shell shocked from my visits.
So, my new handler phase was short and intense. I was a bit more relaxed and much more trusting with Trotz’s performance as a result. I had had a busy day, Vet appointments. 2 dogs in the morning, Trotz in the afternoon. I still needed to go to Walmart and pick up a few things, it was getting late, I had forgotten to eat.
Trotz had a nearly clean bill of health. He had a minor ear infection in one ear and it was treated. He got his heartworm shot. Doc said he was good to go back to work.
I started to pull into the Walmart parking lot and realized, it was packed. The after work/school crowd, grabbing groceries before going home and making dinner I supposed.
Hungry and tired, I opted to head over to McDonalds to grab a coffee and a bite to eat. By time we are done, Walmart should be cleared out a bit. McDonalds was a bit busy also. Apparently, there was a high school game that night, the kids were out in droves.
I leashed up Trotz and went inside. We stood in line, placed our order, and paid. While waiting for our food, a woman with a handful of kids came in to eat. While she was trying to round them up enough to get their preferences before they could bolt out into the play area, they spotted Trotz.
Trotz had no experience with kids. I was watchful, he was calm.
With an ear piercing shriek, the kids rushed towards Trotz, the woman was trying to call them back, but they had gone deaf to her voice.
Let me explain something to you.
Trotz is a service dog. He is not a feature at a petting zoo, he is not here for your entertainment, he does not have to be friendly. He cannot, however, be mean. No matter what. He is not allowed to defend himself or me, that is not one of his jobs. He has to merely tolerate whatever comes our way until I can handle it. It is MY job to protect him.
I placed my hand on his shoulders and leaned down, putting my face on the level of the on rushing kids.
“NO”, I said sharply, right in their little faces, “You stop right there!”
“This is my service dog, not a toy to play with. Go back to your adult, go over there, NOW”.
They did a quick about face and complaining the whole way, went back to the woman, who was then able to take their orders and send them to a table to wait. She glared at me. I glared back. She dropped her gaze. I win.
The lady at the counter called to me, I walked over she winked at me and handed over my food. I thanked her sweetly, headed to a table more than half the way across the restaurant from the screaming kids. Trotz was fine, but they were getting on my nerves.
I opened a book, read while I ate, Trotz laying mostly under the table, quiet and still, his big ole head on my foot.
Distantly, I could hear hushed giggles. Then I felt Trotz jerk against my foot. I looked down, just starting to murmur, “you ok buddy”, when I saw it.
A chicken nugget came flying across the room and hit Trotz, he twitched away. I saw several laying around him.
Trotz is trained not to eat off the floor, to ignore food in restaurants. Sometimes I test him by dropping food, then asking him to leave it. He won’t touch it until I tell him ok, pick it up and hand it to him. We never do this in a restaurant. He accepts food from his bowl or a hand, never from the floor or table.
He whined, then growl talked to me. Complaining. He had ketchup and dipping sauce on him. He was grouchy, I was furious. Those kids were throwing food at us, and the woman was just letting them!
I smiled to Trotz and gathered up the nuggets. Placing them all in one hand, I hurled them right back at their table. Everyone got hit, including the woman. She was outraged, and started to stand up.
“Is there a problem here?”
It was the manager. She wasn’t loud, but she sounded firm. I probably shouldn’t have thrown the nuggets back at them as hard as I did.
In a low voice, I explained what had happened. Now the manager was starting to get a bit miffed. While not a friend, I knew her well enough from our drive thru experiences. She has always been friendly towards me, I was surprised to have pissed her off to quickly, normally it takes me a little more time to send a stranger over the edge.
She turned toward the counter and called to a coworker to bring a clean, wet cloth to her. Then she went over to the table with the woman and kids, she asked for their receipt and was given it. The coworker came up to her with the wet rag, she handed her the receipt and asked her to issue a refund to the woman.
The woman looked pleased.
Then the manager asked the woman to collect her refund and leave. She kept her voice low and firm, but told her that they would not tolerate this kind of behavior towards a disabled veteran in their establishment. She suggested that children should be taught to respect those who serve and protect our country. She then wished the woman a nice evening and returned to my table with the clean, damp, cloth. It was to wipe the mess off Trotz. I thanked her.
As I was bent to wipe the McSauce and ketchup off Trotz, I heard shuffling feet approaching. The kids.
A chorus of little voices all said, “We’re sorry lady”.
I thanked them for apologizing. The woman said, “We really are sorry, we didn’t realize you were a veteran.”
I raised my eyebrows at her. She waited a moment to give me time to accept her apology.
I thanked her for her apology also, then I gently suggested, “It’s really not ok to throw food and trash at any handicapped person, regardless of their military status.”
“I don’t know what the big deal is, the kids just wanted to play with the dog and he wasn’t doing anything anyway”, she shot back at me, turned on her heel and left.
The manager, already on the way back when she saw them approach me, just shook her head, brought me another coffee.
The manager handled things just right. She spoke to me, not the dog. She resolved the problem quickly, in a low tone, a calm manner. She offered reasonable accommodation for the service dog.
I finished up my meal, gathered up my trash, tossed it on the way out and went to Walmart, then home.
There was nothing I could say to that woman. I suppose I could tried to explain, nicely, to those kids why they shouldn’t run up to a huge, strange, dog…shrieking and grabbing. I could have further, nicely, tried to explain how a service dog works.
I could have taken the time and explained that, although it appears he is not doing anything, he is actually focused in on me and how I’m doing. He puts his head on my foot or touches me with a paw to remind me he is there, that I can trust him to warn me of trouble with my blood pressure or a sneak attack. I don’t have to be hyper alert, I can just relax and eat, read a book. When I stand from the table, he stands and provides support until I have my balance, if I misstep and fall, he will be there to pull me back up. I could have been tried to explain all that.
But I’m not really all that nice. It’s not my job to train those kids. If that woman needs to be told that it’s not ok to watch those kids throw food in a restaurant, nothing I could ever say is going to make a difference.
It is my job to protect my dog.
Everyone lived, no one bled, I call it a win.