Thursday, June 30, 2011

PEOPLE BEHAVING BADLY - SERVICE DOGS EDITION

An interesting thing happened in the hotel this week.  A couple checked in and then wheeled in a little dog in a stroller.  When told that we do not accept pets, they claimed that the dog is a "service dog" and not a pet.  I asked if they had informed us that they would be bringing a dog when they made the reservation and I was told in loud and self righteous terms that in America they do not have to tell us anything and we can't turn them away.  He was a very large, very aggressive guy.  I suspect  his demeanor and his "this is America" rant get them into pretty much wherever they want to go.

My first reaction was to hop on the internet and learn about the rules around service dogs, then I googled around about abuses of the law.  (This sort of this is something I love to dig into.)  I am aware that there are service dogs for more disabilities than blindness.  What I did not know is that the term service animal has become overworked to the point that people who are psychologically attached to their pets can find a doctor to say that the animal is necessary for their mental health and POOF!  the pet is a service animal.

The Americans with Disabilities Act states that a service dog must be trained to perform a task or service that the disabled individual cannot.  However, (1)  there is no requirement in the law with regard to the training of the animals and (2) there is no requirement that the owner of the animal have papers or any other identification that the animal is actually a trained service animal. A business may inquire about 2 things:  Are you disabled?  Is that a service dog?  Yes to both and that is the end of it.  No more questions allowed, no proof required.

It is also illegal to ask what a person's disability is.  So in this case, a woman who appeared to have no physical issues was wheeling a little dog around in a stroller, the dog did not appear to be performing any service for her.  It just looked like an old dog, curled up and sleeping.  They went in the bar, the breakfast area and apparently out to dinner in a local restaurant with the dog.

As a hotel which does not allow pets, this will require a deep cleaning of the room costing time and therefore money.  But if a guest checks into that room and has allergies triggered, it would be a big problem for us.  We cannot charge the "disabled" guest extra for the special cleaning  (per the ADA) we can only charge extra for any damages to the room. (We charge extra for cleaning a room in which someone has smoked due to the extra cleaning required as we advertise as smoke free.)  So for those who question the reason a business might not welcome an animal,  that is one of the issues.

Another is that many guests are not comfortable having a dog in the dining room while they are eating, so we are left to explain the dog as a service animal not a pet.  Why is that an issue?  I think because the dog is not visibly performing in a service capacity.  The owners have not attired the dog in a vest or with an identifying collar or tag.

In fact, some other postings I read by owners of what appear to be to be non-traditional service dogs were quite strident about the fact that they need not identify their dogs as service dogs or themselves as disabled persons.  They felt that they owed no one any explanation for the presence of their dogs in stores, restaurants, theaters, hotels and other places where animals are not normally allowed.   I don't understand this attitude.  Being disabled is not equal to being somehow privileged and  above being responsive to inquiries on behalf of businesses which must protect themselves and their customers.

Toni Eames of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) says that comfort dogs, sometimes referred to as helping dogs, are not trained. “Comforting you and licking your face is not a trained task. Grounding a person is not a trained task,” she says. According to IAADP:

While a dog’s companionship may offer emotional support, comfort or a sense of security, this in and of itself does NOT qualify as a “trained task” under the ADA, thus it does not give a disabled person the legal right to take that dog out in public as a legitimate service dog. Setting up a realistic training plan to transform a suitable dog into an obedient, task trained service dog is the only way to legally qualify a dog to become a service dog whose disabled handler is legally permitted to take the dog into restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, medical offices and other places of public accommodation.

No one wants to have their beloved pet put in the cargo hold of a plane, but the many owners who claim their show dog or lap dog is a service dog in order to have it ride in the cabin is illegal and unethical. An industry has also sprung up selling vests, harnesses and collars indicating a dog is a service animal. No proof is required to buy these items. They also provide certification papers for a fee - again, no proof necessary.

The flexibility designed to help the disabled also allows the law to be easily abused. These people are undermining legitimate service dogs.

"Each time an employee has an encounter with a fake service dog (and yes, they know when you're lying), this brings us tangibly closer to the implementation of laws, regulations, and policies that make it harder for me to live my life without being treated as a second-class citizen."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sunday, June 26, 2011

WALK A MILE

In line at the grocery store the other day I heard part of the conversation between the checker and the guy in front of me.  He was a fit  young man in his 30's and they were discussing his work as a trainer and that some of his clients were police and fire fighters.  She, a trim 40 something woman, said her son works at the Marine Corp Recruitment Station with the recruits which don't meet the fitness guidelines.  She said he had complained to her that some of them "couldn't run a mile without puking."  They made noises of disgust ans she said "there is no excuse for that."  He agreed and then left.

I wondered if she felt a bit uncomfortable to see me next in line - large and unfit as I am..  She certainly was not chatty as she usually is.  I left without saying anything.

But this is what has been going through my head:  Walk a mile in the shoes of those of us who do struggle with our weight, with overeating, with the things that may lead us to overeat.  I am not one to attach addiction status to each overweight person - but I do attach a reason, physical, psychological, emotional or learned behavior.

Just last night I had eaten my  dinner of whole wheat pasta with spinach and walnuts and some wonderful watermelon.  I was full.  I could feel the food in my stomach for some time after I ate, yet I wanted more to eat.  It was quiet at work, I was bored.  I finished the book I brought to read and I felt restless and I wanted to eat. 

Hungry?  No, I was full.  Hungry for food?  Yes, eating would occupy me, sooth me, .  Did I eat?  No, because I am learning to be more mindful about what my "hunger pangs" are about and find other things to divert myself, redirect the feelings.  I will say that there have been times in my life when I had feelings akin to panic attacks which seemed to be resolved by eating something.  Times I thought I would fall to pieces without eating something.  Of course, in reality that wouldn't happen - but the feeling is real, too.

So that is what it is like in my shoes at times.  Hard to fathom?  I don't get smoking or drinking beer or being Catholic or enjoying boxing.  I don't get the need to be mean, I don't know why people fear mice or bugs, why people can't eat meat or like rides at the fair that make them dizzy.  We are all different in our tastes and reactions and beliefs and the things we need.

And the other thing - those young recruits?  Those kids are probably away from home for the first time.  Away from  family and friends and the safety and comfort they inspire.  They also, many of them, come from schools that  didn't offer much in the way of physical education and come from neighborhoods which were not especially safe to run and play in.  There were probably not many pools or tennis courts or baseball fields where they came from - not to mention organized leagues and coaches to teach them.  So those recruits who are out of shape and maybe overeating?  Perhaps some counseling or a little compassion would go a long way. 

Okay - getting off my soapbox now. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

FRIDAY FAST ONES

1.)  Just read in the paper that one of the booming products in "this tough economy" is liquor.  Said to be an inexpensive luxury item, say compared to a trip to Hawaii!  A great rum drink is like "taking a trip to the tropics."  Okay.  I guess that's another way of saying we are trying to drown our sorrows...

2.)  Ally has gone camping with her boyfriend and two other couples and we have not heard from her.  I am sure it is because there is no cell service and she has never heard of a land line or pay phone on which she could call her mother to reassure her that she is safe and using sunscreen.

3.)  Hurray!  My benefits have kicked in and we have already been to the doctor for Ally 3 times and gotten caught up on our prescriptions. 

Boo!  My benefits cost 2/3 of my paycheck.

4.)  Have you ever put yourself on the waiting list at the library for a bunch of new releases?  I have been using the library as part of my new "groceries are more important than books to some people" austerity plan.  Problem is that suddenly 3 of the books I waited for are all waiting for me at the same time.  Yikes.  Gotta read fast.  I am 75 pages into the new Elizabeth Berg - it's a good one!

5.)  I spent the day at SF State for Ally's orientation on Monday.  I was very irritated that the program for the parents was, as one staffer put it, "keeping you busy so the kids and staff can get their part done."  I am not a helicopter parent.  If there was not going to be a role for me, why suggest that I should be there?  The only thing that saved the day for me was that Ally got registered for her classes, she met a new friend and we had some time together.

Oh!  We ran into a girl who had been Ally's BFF in elementary school and early middle school.  After she moved away we made some long trips back and forth but eventually those stopped and the girls fell out of touch.  But there she was sitting a table away at the orientation!  They are going to the same school - out of all the schools in the country! 

I don't know if their friendship will be rekindled, but it was an amazing coincidence.

6.)  The Alameda County Fair opened this week and my sister and I are going for our annual visit to see the pig races and visit the animals, the gardens, and all the exhibits the kids don't even know are there because the Fair = carnival rides!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

TOO MUCH INFORMATION

I know a lot of people are worried about their privacy online.  It isn't something I have given all that much thought to as I don't really do much social networking, but my husband is very proactive about checking our status "out there."  He sent me a link to a site called Spokeo and said I needed to check it out and then attached the link to have my info deleted.

Of course, the trick with many of these sites is that you have to subscribe to see all the info available.  But the "info" they had on me was partly correct and partly a laugh riot.  One of the listings had me living with my son and  mother-in-law, who has been deceased for 25 years.  They listed me as the owner of our rented home.  They did have the address and phone number correct, and that I am a Sagittarius and in my mid-50's.

The claim, if you pay, is that they can fill you in on my hobbies, religion, employment, politics, financial health, education and more.  What is there, I don't know.  I suspect if I have listed any of those things in the minimal profiles I have on Facebook, Linked-in, or even on Blogger;  that information has been gathered into this report on me.  They are also using mailing lists because we still receive mail for my dead MIL and since she lived and died in New York, I can't imagine how else they would have made a connection to us.

I checked out the reports on a couple of my friends.  One woman, married for 28 years is listed as single and her religion as Catholic, which couldn't be further from reality.  Another friend's listing has a very nice photo of her house with a lot of contact information, including the suggestion that her e-mail address is available if the fee is paid.

I did opt-out of sharing the information.  I know it can be found elsewhere, but there was something a bit unnerving about seeing a picture of our house along with the information all in one place.  And as Tom suggested, if a guest from the hotel decided to try to find me for some reason...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

FATHER'S DAY

I was reading an article on Slate about American spending habits around Mother's and Father's day.  apparently we spend about $35.00 more on mom.  The article suggested that the reason had to do with the high price tags of things like spa treatments and jewelry versus ties and gadgets for dad.

At my house I think this may be true.  It is not because dad is less valued - it is because dad goes out and buys himself what he wants when he wants.  It leaves few options for special occasion giving.  When a special occasion is coming up, I store up ideas of things I would like and drop hints or even make a little list - like an Amazon wish list.  This year, as in years past, I asked for a professional house cleaning - this year that was translated to carpet cleaning.  Which is fine.  The carpets needed to be cleaned.  I just wished  Merry Maids was also coming by to scrub the tubs!

When the kids start asking me what dad wants for Father's Day - I may or may not have managed to come up with some ideas.  This year I was pretty blank.  He is getting a gift card for his favorite coffee place   because I can see that he is using his debt card to buy coffee there several times a week.  Our son is taking him out for a long bike ride.  I was coming up really dry for ideas - then it hit me.  Our local favorite restaurant has a great house wine which is not sold anywhere locally (and costs a small fortune to have shipped) but they are willing to sell bottles from the restaurant as long as they are opened (some kind of limitation on their liquor license.)

Now, I send a lot of business to this restaurant in my position at the hotel and I know people have told them I have sent them. On my first visit I introduced myself as a hotel employee to the owner - but I never have since, plus I have never expected or received any special consideration.

That said,  I do admit to a bit of calculation in my thinking when I went in to purchase some of the wine for Tom for his Father's Day gift  when I stopped in,  in uniform,  on my way to work.  At first they were not so sure about allowing me to purchase 6 bottles - but  the chef came out of the kitchen, we chatted and then they decided to allow me to purchase them unopened.  Shhh - don't tell!

So I managed to get something Tom could not get for himself!  Some good karma!

Cheers to all the Fathers!

Friday, June 17, 2011

FRIDAY FAST ONES

1.)  We have read the salacious details, heard the re-enactments, gawked at the photos and seen, as usual,  that Gloria Allred found a way to get involved in the Wiener story.  Oh the puns and double entendres - the writers have had a field day.  Hurrah - another sex scandal so we can continue to avoid delving into the real, hard issues.  The media outlets are not even making an effort to seem like they care about anything but frivolity and titillation.  When Pelosi had her scheduled press conference on the day the congressman had announced he would resign, this is what happened per the Talking Points blog when she made her opening remark:

"As usual we're here to talk about jobs, about protecting Medicare and protecting the middle class. If you're here to ask a question about Congressman Weiner, I won't be answering any."


If you thought disappointed news networks decided then to make do with the other items on her agenda, you'd be wrong. All three of the major cable nets -- CNN, MSNBC, and Fox -- all cut away right then.

I continue to believe that the media is the biggest contributor to the stupidity of the country and the decay of our government.

2.)  Since we are on the subject...crusaders against male circumcision (intactivists)  want parents to choose not to circumcise their sons AND they want the government to prohibit circumcision including  punishment for adults involved in circumcisions. 

We did not circumcise our son shortly after birth because my husband is not circumcised and he preferred not to do it to our son.  I went along with his wishes.  However, our son had to be circumcised at age 10 because of urinary issues.  He suffered from a problem a small percentage of uncircumcised males have and it had nothing to do with not being clean (which is what everyone always says is all it takes to maintain an uncut penis.)

So if we are going to say parents can't choose to have this procedure performed for medical or religious reasons - then, as raised in an opinion piece on CNN - we should ban the piercing of baby girl's ears.  Ear piercing is painful and it carries MORE complications than circumcising.

And that is the problem with all this poking our noses in other people's business - if you don't like it, don't do it.  Please feel free to let us know your opinion, but it is not your place to legislate based on your beliefs.

3.)  One more highlight from our graduation celebration and then I promise I will stop.  I managed to snap this reaction when Ally opened her gift.

We had completely fooled her into thinking she was not going to get what she asked for - an iTouch.  She really wanted an iPhone which we said we couldn't do for her and the iTouch came up briefly as an alternative.  She is aware of our finances and so I think she had given up on the idea that she would get a gift beyond the grad party.

So fun to surprise our kids, isn't it!


4.)  On Monday Ally and I spend the day at San Francisco State for a new student orientation.  We will learn more about the campus, the programs and meet with her advisor.  She will register for her classes at the end of the session.  This sounds like a very helpful program for new students entering into the complicated morass of college.  I am looking forward to it - except that it starts at 8am and I work the night before...I'm not as young as I once was and leaving the house 6 hours after I get home will be tough!

Ally is nervous about the orientation, meeting people, looking right - but she is excited to purchase an official college sweatshirt and decals for our cars.

Monday, June 13, 2011

MORE GRADUATION CELEBRATION

Okay - pretty soon I will get over all the celebrating.  But I just have to share a few more photos 'cuz I'm just all about my family right now.


Ally and Zac following the ceremony.


Ally wth some of her graduation loot at our celebratory lunch.

Ally and Tom dancing at the party.


Ally having fun with her friends.
We put on a party with 4 other families - we had a DJ, a dance floor, lots of food, a fire with s'more makings, a HUGE cake and much more.  The party was supposed to end at 1am but everyone was having so much fun we didn't get home until after 3!

The weather was still cool for graduation and the party, but a good time was had and now we get focused on getting Ally ready to move into the dorms in August.

Friday, June 10, 2011

GRADUATION DAY

On Monday we were afraid it was going to be like this:


But today it is like this!



Class of 2011!

Monday, June 6, 2011

COULDN'T SAY IT BETTER

There are may times I become inspired by the blog posts of other people.  sometimes I think of my own take on an issue and write about it.  Today I simply want to share this great post about medicare - click over and read it.
http://bettysnewtrick.blogspot.com/2011/06/mediscare-through-years.html

Friday, June 3, 2011

FRIDAY FAST ONES

1.)  Someone at work started calling this month Juneuary.  Very apt.  We are having very cold, rainy spring. In addition to feeling Spring-deprived, I am getting nervous about Ally's graduation next week - the ceremony is held outdoors and in the evening...When Maggie and Zac graduated 5 years ago it was one of the hottest June days on record.  So maybe we will have the coldest one for Ally's graduation!

2.)  Ally is shopping for a roommate on Facebook.  SF State has a set up so the students can meet online and try to  find themselves a good roommate match.  I hope it is more successful than the matches that the dorms made in my day - there was no rhyme or reason to a sheltered suburban, liberal, lover of music like Traffic and Chicago ending up with a girl who was raised on a ranch, listened to country, swore like a sailor and took one look at me and called me a hippy.  Turns out I was her second roomie - the first one was African-American and her family threw a fit.  The original roommate I was paired with might have been a better match for me!

3.)  Zac has settled into staff housing at the CSUMB campus.  He is going to be the AmeriCorps*  staff position in the Service Learning Institute.  He will earn very little money this year, but will be awarded an education stipend at the end of his service.  It is also a bonus for the grad school resume. 

He always said he was interested in the Peace Corps but does not have the second language skills they tend to require.  Plus now he is more interested in service and social justice studies and not so interested in teaching math.

By the way, I learned that people over 55 can join AmeriCorps and transfer the education stipend to their child or grandchild!  Pretty cool for those who want to serve the country and help their family, too.

4.)  I heard in passing that Brad and Angelina's kids are questioning their not being married.  Then I  read that the last census found that married couples are now in the minority in this country; down 4% - while couples living together have risen 13%.  They have found that many couples are waiting to complete their educations, get settled in jobs and just generally wanting to be older and more mature before marriage.  I think that is great.

My parents married while in college and they encouraged their children to wait to be married - my dad said 30 was a good age.  Four out of 5 of us waited and we are all still married.  The sister who married young has been married and divorced 3 times now!  Just saying...

Then again, my parents have managed to stay together 58 years!

5.)  Did you know that you can be ticketed for jaywalking if you enter a crosswalk with less than 5 seconds left on the countdown?  I didn't.  Six of out out of town hotel guests were ticketed today just trying to go out to lunch.  Hope the revenue raised is worth the bad vibe sent out to the guests visiting out city.


*AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent federal agency whose mission is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.