The manuscript for Why’s That Dog in Here? is drafted, and first round revisions are underway. I thought you might enjoy a sneak peek, so I asked Steve to pick a scene for me to share. The book is a series of questions people ask, examples of how Gizmo mitigates my disabilities, and positive and negative interactions with the public as we have gone about our lives since 2011. Following is a short vignette from the chapter, “Why’s That Dog on Public Transportation?”.
“Why’s that dog in here? Shouldn’t be no animals on the bus. He’s gonna bite me! Bus Driver! You make her get that mutt off the bus. I paid my fare, I don’t have to share this space with a damn dog.”
“Ma’am, you need to settle down,” said the bus driver, glancing up at his rear-view mirror as Gizmo and Kathryn settled in their seat three rows ahead of a very loud and irate woman in her mid-twenties. It was just past sunset. Most passengers were on their way home from a long day at work. Kathryn had had a long day also, wasn’t feeling well, and dreaded the noise, smells, and jostling of public transportation which would surely turn the headache into a full-blown migraine attack.
Gizmo was doing as he had been trained. Sensing Kathryn was unwell, he was completely focused on her. He knew the routine for riding the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) busses. Stand close to Kathryn while she steps up into the bus and pays her fare. Walk up the aisle in front or behind her, as she commands, depending on how crowded it is. When she points to a seat, Gizmo goes in before her and lies on the floor under her seat. No dog parts on the aisle or they might get stepped on. No begging for attention from strangers. This is the routine.
“You gonna let that smelly dog ride on this bus? Bus Driver! That dog is mean. He’s growling at me.”
“Ma’am, that’s a trained service dog. He’s as much right to be on this bus with his handler as you do. He’s not even near you. Please stop disrupting the other passengers.” The other passengers in question were trying their best to ignore the loud woman, or rolling their eyes at their seat mates. Kathryn was grateful Gizmo was on his best behavior and had been recently groomed. It didn’t hurt that they had ridden with this driver a number of times before.
Bus rides are difficult at best for service dogs. Even at off-peak times without crowds, it’s difficult for Gizmo to feel secure with all the vibrations of the bus. Every time the bus crosses a train track or pothole, it startles him, often causing him to bump or bang himself against the bottom of the seat. Since Gizmo relies on his nose to monitor Kathryn’s health, and his nose picks up so much more than human noses, it’s distracting to be so close to so many feet, backpacks, lunch bags, and grocery sacks. Not to mention all the smells left by people who had been on and off the bus all day. How long ago was that baby with the dirty diaper on the bus?
“Bus Driver! I pay taxes. I don’t have to ride with no damn dog in my face. Make him get off.”
Before the driver was able to respond, and while Kathryn was trying to decide the best way to handle the situation, two other passengers came to Gizmo’s defense. They both tried to de-escalate the situation by pointing out how well behaved he was, and how he wasn’t anywhere near her. Kathryn chose to stay quiet and keep calm. If she got upset, Gizmo would sense her stress and try to help, and that might be perceived by the difficult woman as aggression. When logic failed, another passenger who was familiar with ADA rules, tried to explain them to this woman. Instead of calming down, the woman got louder and more irate.
At the next stop, the bus driver stood up and turned around. “Ma’am, we’ve all tried to be patient with you, but enough. You are the problem here, not the dog. Your choice is to either sit and be quiet until we get to your stop, or you can get off here. You choose. Anymore trouble from you and I’m calling DART police to remove you.” He glared at her, as did many of the passengers around her, until she slid down in her seat, mumbling a string of profanities under her breath. Gizmo kept focus on Kathryn.
Three stops later the young woman pushed the yellow strip by the window to notify the driver to stop, and gathered her belongings to exit. The bus jerked to a stop. Kathryn kept eye contact with Gizmo, relieved this situation was about over. While watching Gizmo though, she didn’t see the woman’s next move. As she passed their seat, she side-stepped onto the floor under Kathryn’s leg, and stomped on Gizmo’s tail. Before she even removed her foot, she screamed and yelled, “That dog’s attacking me!”
Kathryn silently thanked Mike Pugliese in heaven for making sure Gizmo could handle this abuse during puppy boot camp and repeated temperament testing. Rolling that shopping cart over his tail had seemed so cruel during Gizmo’s Public Access Test, but now the long-suffering black Lab simply looked at Kathryn with sad eyes.
The man seated immediately behind Kathryn spoke up in Gizmo’s defense. “Get your self off this bus. That dog never did nothing to you! You just hurt an innocent animal that spends his life helping someone who can’t help herself. And that animal has more sense than you. You stepped on him on purpose, and he just kindly moved farther out of your way. Girl, you need to learn some manners from that dog. What’s wrong with you?!? Go on. Get!”
By now others were yelling at the woman, and she realized she had no recourse but to close her mouth and exit the bus. As the doors closed behind her, the passengers quickly settled down. A few asked if Gizmo was OK. Kathryn reached down and gently checked his tail. He flinched just enough to let her know it was tender, but not enough for her to suspect any serious damage.
Kathryn thanked those around her for their concern and support. A few people apologized on behalf of the woman. One person asked a couple of questions about Gizmo. An older man mentioned that he had worked with a military dog in the army—just amazing what those dogs can do. Of all the times they had ridden the bus, this was the first time anyone had been openly hostile towards Gizmo. Hoping it would be the last, Kathryn pushed the yellow strip as her stop came into view.
If you enjoyed this excerpt, I hope you will consider helping us finish the project and further our mission of educating the public about the amazing work Service Dogs do. Check out our Kickstarter Campaign, watch the short video, and share it with your friends. Kickstarter is –this project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sat, August 24. Your help is greatly appreciated!