We walked into the holiday party. I was already anticipating a good time with friends after the imposed bouts of social isolation as a result of Covid.
We were greeted and directed to our table by a pleasant staff person. Bailey, my guide dog, was excited to see our good friends and greeted one of them. I pulled out my chair, settled my coat and bag and asked Bailey to lay down under the table when the two women to my right became hysterical upon noticing him.
“I can’t stay here, the dog will eat all my food,” and “That dog is going to bite me,” and “I can’t relax with that dog so close,”.
My heart sunk and I put on the blank face. The face that tries to hide the disappointment and frustration brought on by ignorance and fear of my guide dog by others.
My friend tells them the dog won’t do that, it’s trained. Still they go on and I feel the anxiety build. Will I have to leave? I do my best to ignore them, but one person continued to go on about “that dog, will bite me,” “I can’t stay here with that dog,”, etc.
I grope for my water glass and wait it out.
I don’t want to be here, don’t want to eat, I feel like these people just stole it all from me. I almost got up to leave, was close to tears but I refused to let them see me cry. I had a right to be there, too, and because I am blind, my guide dog did, too.
a person sitting on the other side of our table spoke to the person who was now almost yelling about “that dog,” — and quieted them. It took me some time to refocus on my meal and my friends. My guide dog curled up for a nap under the table.
The rest of the afternoon was fun thanks to a stranger who knew how to handle another stranger’s fear of dogs.
The thing is even though I stayed quiet, I was angry. Being subjected to reactions like this, while infrequent, still happen and still affect me in a powerful way. I felt confused and hurt by their reactions. I hope they will remember how “that woman with the dog,” kept her cool and shared a meal. I hope they will one day understand how much it cost me personally to shelf the feelings and get past their outburst.