A close call? or Do I really have to be the drama queen?
 
Just why I have to have all the drama at the moment is beyond me.
 
I had to fax off a contract for my new business project this meant I had to drag the kiddos with me. Of course, I got hit with the I'm thirsty/hungry routine from them. There where just way to many tempting Valentine's day candy displayed; so I don't totally blame them. After all who doesn't get hungry with the smell of chocolate? So I thought they'd be ok to reward with a treat at McD's inside the  WalMart next door.
 
Little did I  know what drama I was going to be walking into.
 
A little background info. We've had a dog (Scout) for a year now. In order to keep him, we are working with having him trained as a service dog for my dd or me depending on how things go some days. LOL SDIT is the short hand for Service Dog in Training which is what Scout is because we have a lot of hours of training to get through before he can become an official SD (service dog)
 
We have been taking our SDIT into WalMart  and this McDonalds since we got him started his training as a service dog. He has messed up a few times but for the most part is well behaved. His presence has been noticed by several people. LOL Some times it's good and sometimes it's not so good.
 
Well our unusual stop at the McDonalds sparked a conversation with a head McDonalds person. I don't know if she's the manager or assistant manager or just a long time employee who's often in charge at this particular store. Anyways, she asked if we where our SDIT was. I told her that he was in his spot. And she looked and chuckled. Cause sure enough he was in his spot.
 
The spot is a corner spot that is in an L shape juncture. We always try to go to this section of the store and this one particular booth that is in a corner but away from the wall enough that Scout can get between the two booths and walls and be out of everyone's way. He can lay quietly and not bother too many people because he's fairly out of site and thus out of mind. He doesn't bother people in the form of begging or being noisy unless something is going on with dd. But dogs in places can stir up a crowd and we try really hard not to stir anything up especially when he's working with us.
 
This woman was thrilled to see that he was in his spot. She complimented me on what a fine dog Scout is turning out to be and wished that other handler/dog teams would be more like us.
 
Turns out that there are a few other handler/service dogs that come into this particular McDonalds in WalMart. And it's not such a good situation. One handler's dog is very old and seems to be more of a pet than a working dog. He tends to jump up and put his feet on the counter and then slobber all over. Another has their dog also nosing and putting paws up on the counter when it shouldn't and he tends to snap if customers get too close. the dog also tries to take food not sure if from customers or from the counter. This team never sits far off but right in the heavy traffic area.So the snapping is a big issue. Especially with little kids around as often happens at this store.  And then there's another team that well if being on the counter isn't bad enough the dog begs from table to table and the handler gets upset if anyone says anything. None of these teams have clearly discernible needs for this type of dog. (Just as my dd, ds, and I don't have clearly discernible special issues on our good days. lol) None of these dogs are truly marked as being SD's. (Scout doesn't go in without his training vest on and being clearly marked as a working dog.) So we were also complimented on having Scout clearly marked. LOL Then there is the rabbit lady. But we'll stick to dogs for the moment.
 
Well we get our snack and sit down and have our drinks.  Dd and  my aunt are at one table and I'm sitting with ds at another table. Normally we all sit at one table with Scout behind in the area I described. Tonight it didn't work that way as at another close table were two late teen to young adult boys that were a little heavy on the aftershave. Hence why ds & I sat away. Our asthma was not in a good spot to allow for the close contact with the heavy scent.  We should have had Scout and the others join us but we like to keep him in that one spot and it makes McDonalds happier if we do use that table when he's with us. So we split up.
 
Well, it was quite enjoyable. The young men got an education in a different type of service dog and how a team should act. Meaning the dog should be basically unseen and unheard and unnoticeable. We were done so we were getting ready to go. My aunt went to throw the trash away from her table and I went to refill my water so that Scout could have something before we finished shopping. We try to give him water outside and a tinkle break before going into the store. It's just good manners. No one was around dd as she stayed with Scout at the booth (as part of our routine) and it wasn't super busy; pretty noisy but there were just a few people so it seemed safe to just do this part so we could get on to the next step giving Scout a water break and a chance to relieve himself prior to the shopping.
 
WRONG!!!!
 
Some old guy came up to her and flashed something at her and started talking harshly to her for having a dog in McDonalds. She just sat there shaking and I went over to find out what was going on. He wasn't using a very loud voice but loud enough and his body  language clearly indicated he wasn't happy.  She was in hysterics. Because of how upset she was; she bolted when he left and that's why we went to her before confronting him. 
 
So we got her  stopped from blindly bolting in panic and in a spot where she could talk and she told us what had happened in detail. Upon hearing that he had a badge and threatened her.  I went looking for my USA Federal Law card and couldn't find it so I copied the info from Scout's tag. *mental note get more cards made* I also called the disability advocate for advice. As this was way beyond what our training has covered just yet.
 
I then went in to ask him exactly what had happened and why he felt the need to intimidate my daughter. Just in case dd over reacted or there was something I missed. (NOT, I just needed to know exactly what had happened because sometimes a simple answering of a question or two can ease tensions) Well... he told me that we had no right to have our pet in a public building. So I made a simple statement of excuse me but I'm sure I misunderstood what your saying could you please tell me exactly why a service dog in training isn't allowed in this public place?
 
He went on a huge tirade about dogs and sanitation etc. and repeated he was going to haul  me into jail. After he threatened to arrest me twice. My gut sent a warning signal that something was off so I got brave and I asked him for his name and badge number and who he was with.
 
He refused to give me said information. Said it was none of my business. Again this set off my internal warning system. I asked again why he was going to arrest me. And that I would like to know his name, badge # and to know what authority he had. He refused again.
 
So I handed him the paper with the information from Scouts SDIT tag and suggested that if he had a problem with service dogs and service dogs in training that he needed to call the # on the paper which was for the US Dept of Justice. After this statement the female at the table with him started saying that she didn't have a problem with our service dog and both her and the male next to her said that they didn't want any trouble.  No trouble at all.
 
He looked at the paper I laid on the table and  He backed down a bit after reading the  US Dept of Justice name & phone #. He didn't apologize or say anything else. So I left McDonalds to go comfort dd.
 
I also left because my cell phone started to ring. It was the advocate calling back and suggested that I immediately call the local police  and ask for a supervisor since the incident wasn't right on several levels.
 
I called and spoke to the Sergeant in charge for the evening shift. Sergeant U agreed that it was fishy and recommended that I speak with an officer. He said that to his knowledge "there was no one on the force that  fit that description". And something wasn't right at all.
 
He would send an officer out immediately and that I was to get my daughter to a safe spot and wait for the officers out front if possible. It was horrible trying to talk to these officers and give a description with a mind that was seeing it clearly but drawing a blank on the best word to use to fit the description of the man. This thinking in pictures thing is annoying.
  
An officer H arrived and he took our statement. He thought it was funny to hear my description of Old Man looking. Because of wrinkled hands, ghost white hair, old businessman hair cut not too short but not long, small plaid shirt not the young man's big plaid but the old stuff with the snaps not buttons. etc.
 
Officer H got a surveillance video from WalMart and we tried to spot him. Unfortunately McDonalds isn't a clear view from the cameras and the surveillance video is of poor quality. I had no way of being able to pick him out of the scene. Just because there was no clear shot of his face, the possible suspects kepth their face always out of line with the camera so it wasn't ever clear,  and the confrontation was with a male with no hat or coat and the ones that left had a hat & coat. plus there black & white so the colors I had to describe him with what didn't show up well on video. 
 
The WalMart employee who does the videos even said that she could see the person but that if they put a hat & coat on it would be hard to get them out of the video as poor quality as it is. She too said that she has seen us repeatedly in the store and that we work hard at keeping our SDIT under control and are a model team. She wished that more teams were as conscientious as us. she said a lot of praiseful things in regards to us and Scout. One being about dd's behavior in the store improving with Scout. (I shudder to think what's been caught on tape there.in the past)
 
Also, with the two bad shots (face was turned from camera)... She felt that she had a general idea of who gave us a problem as the store has had issues with him in the past. Again the officer felt that we had a good description but that the video's where just too poor to be 100% accurate. And to do a departmental survelliance search would take too long.
 
 So if we spot him again we are to call the police department immediately. Because something wasn't right with the picture from what dd and I said.
 
There is an off chance that he could be from a Sheriffs dept or Federal agent but because of not accepting Scout's clearly marked identification and going after a child not an adult plus the refusal to provide a badge #, name, and agency clearly indicate that it's highly unlikely that he would be from these departments. Plus being that he was in plain clothes and not a uniform was also disturbing as most undercover or plain clothes wouldn't break cover over an SDIT. They'd not think twice about one being well behaved according to this officer who was doing the investigation.
 
Same with a health inspector. They wouldn't make a scene over a clearly marked, well behaved dog. 
 
And I also find it very interesting that the officer thought dd was MR and not autistic because of her physical size being older and speech being so much younger like that of a 3 to 4 year old.
 
So it's reassuring that I did the right thing. I am kicking myself for not thinking to use the camera on my phone. I'm going to have to get my head working better and learn to use the thing. That would have so helped our situation  but I just didn't think about having a phone with a camera.
 
 What I find most disturbing about this situation is the fact that 2 other officers where at WalMart for another reason (shoplifiting) and they were aware of someone who's been going around pretending to be some sort of officer but he's of a different ethnic than what this man was.
 
Poor dd is terrified to be in WalMart now and is refusing to ever go to McDonalds or WalMart again in the future. She's terrified that she's going to be snatched by this man. I've put 2 calls into her counselor with no response back. Yes it's a weekend but the counselor knows I don't call the hotline number she has without it being very serious.

 Anyways, can I please get off this drama roller coaster??? pretty please with sugar and spice... And PTL that nothing bad came of this. I mean seriously there are enough psycho's in the world today that this could have ended very differently and I'm just so thankful that dd is safe and sound physically. I'm thankful that Scout responded appropriately as did dd. I hope we never have to go through this again.
 
Hope this makes sense. I'm still pretty floored by the event.

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