Service animals…Every time I see one, I get goose bumps. What a wonderful marriage of the human world and the animal world. A trained animal that offers safety, help, companionship and protection to name a few things. As one organization says, “the most advanced technology capable of transforming the lives of people with disabilities has a cold nose and a warm heart.” How does Fido become a service dog? Trained volunteers and professionals collaborate to transform Fido from a pet into a working dog.
Working dogs are recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act as just that, a working dog. They are permitted in any establishment and in any part of the establishment a customer can normally access. That means a service animal is allowed in a restaurant, a hotel, a retail store and a theater to name a few places as well as the rest room, the dining room and the changing room, but not a stock room or any other place designated for employees only. An establishment’s pet policy does not apply to a service animal exactly because a service animal is a working animal, not a pet. Forbidding a service animal into any establishment is not only unethical, it is illegal.
How do you pay for a service dog? Insurance? Very few policies cover a guide dog or any other type of service animal. If you do not qualify for one of the sparse government assistance programs, you pay a steep price. Most service dogs start at $10,000 and prices can exceed $50,000. If you are lucky enough to call Omar, proprietor of Animal Outfitters (corner of Bryant and Elmwood), a friend, he might decide to throw an impromptu fund raiser for you without your knowledge like he did today for his friend Joanne.
I stumbled on Omar’s sidewalk party yesterday afternoon. My dog Frosty is a huge fan of Omar’s and we frequent his shop often. We walk by his store on an almost daily basis and something great is always happening whether it is photos with Santa at the holidays, doggie ice cream on hot summer days or just a pleasant chat about neighborhood happenings. He and his lovely wife, Suzanna, installed their beautiful shade garden complete with American flags yesterday, and now here he was (lead photo) sporting a chef’s toque behind the grill – a classic Memorial Day celebration.
Many of his customers- some with 4 legs and others with 2- were gathered on the sidewalk visiting, laughing and munching on hotdogs. As Frosty and I approached, Omar greeted us with his customary, “Ca va,” and I replied, “Bien. Qu’es que sait.” (We share Francophone ties.) Omar then explained that a friend of his had recently lost her service dog, Peanut, and needed to acquire a new dog to help her with her mobility.
Although a more formal fundraiser is planned for Saturday, May 30th at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Lockport on Church Street (call 716-882-8192 for more information), Omar decided to throw an impromptu bar-b-que to help raise funds for her. He is going to surprise her with a check next week. When friends of Omar’s and Animal Outfitters heard about his plans, they all chipped in. Riley’s Mom and Dad brought a hamburger cake complete with French fries and a side of ketchup. Stoli’s parents brought a bottle of Merlot with a dog label and the list goes on and on.
For a donation of any size, Omar grilled you up a hot dog complete with chips and veggies on the side. Like any gathering in Buffalo, the crowd was a cast of characters, 2 rescue Chinese crested dogs (did you know they wear neck and leg warmers in the winter?), a Pekingese, a couple of pugs, a pair of bull dogs, my sweet Great Pyrenees and a whole bunch of adorable, lovable mutts with a little bit of this and a little bit of that thrown in for good measure. Not only are we the City of Good Neighbors, we are the City of Good Old Fashioned Fun.
264 Bryant St
Buffalo, NY 14222