Sometimes all it takes is some communication.
A couple of years ago, Sabrina and I went to Sake O, a Japanese restaurant in Healdsburg, with Ripley at my side. We were met at the door with a perplexed, although very apologetic, waiter. He said, with great discomfort, “I’m so sorry. But we can’t allow dogs.”
I lived in Japan for three years, and know how much most Japanese hate conflict. It was clear on this man’s face. He was in a predicament, and wasn’t quite sure how to resolve it. I immediately moved into education mode. I said, “This isn’t just a dog. She’s a special kind of dog, who helps me. She’s a working dog, a service dog, who assists me because I have a disability.” He still looked very concerned, and glanced over his shoulder towards some of his co-workers, obviously seeking backup.
At this point, I reached into Ripley’s vest pocket, and pulled out my copy of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Business Brief, a one-page guide that explains the rights and responsibilities of businesses owners with regard to service animals. (You can find a link to it on my resources page here.) I handed it to him, and quietly pointed out the parts that were relevant. He took it, glanced over it, and with a quick nod, picked up menus, and escorted us to our table.
As we were choosing our food, we saw the waiter and another man who appeared to be the manager or owner reading the sheet of paper. When the waiter came to take our order, he said, “Thank you so much. This is very helpful. We have always worried – we didn’t know how to explain to other customers, if they would complain that there was a dog in the restaurant. But now we have this. We can show it to them.”
Later, as we were eating, we glanced up towards the sushi bar, into the open kitchen, and saw that the entire kitchen crew was reading our ADA Business Brief, heads bent in a circle. When we left, everyone smiled and thanked us for coming.
Since that time, we have returned to Sake O on several occasions, and we are always greeted warmly — all three of us.
These are the moments when I value community, communication and, as I do every day, the wonderful dog who keeps me safe.