Yesterday, I was out and about with Archer and Bane. We drove around, I picked up an ice coffee for myself and decided that it was a beautiful day to pick Nolan up from school.
So, I drove to the school. I put Bane’s harness and leash on. I got Archer out of truck and we headed over to the kindergarten yard like we’d done a thousand times the fall before. I’d even brought Bane a few times.
People smiled at Bane, a little girl was excited to see him. No harm no foul. I waited in my usual position by the fence with all the other parents and care givers. Bane was good, all was good.
Then an EA approached me. “Is that a therapy dog?”
“No…” I answered, because legally, he is not. Despite my belief that he has helped everyone of us mentally and physically, and despite the fact that we have considered and likely will pursue getting him registered as a therapy dog.
“We have a no dogs allowed policy,” she said. I stared at the sign literally in front of her.
“The sign says that dogs must be on a leash.” I replied, staring at her.
“The city makes us put that there. It actually says on our website* that we do not allow dogs on school property because some kids are afraid of them,” she explained. A little girl behind us, who had been okay with Bane’s presence before, squealed and hid behind her mother. “You see?” the EA said, gesturing to the child.
“Well, next time I won’t bring him. I wasn’t about to leave him in my truck.” I answered. She said she understood, and then walked away for 10 minutes.
She returned, telling me that I needed to go to the sidewalk and they would bring my son out to me. Because that makes tons of sense. Me, physically disabled, walking all the way to the sidewalk to get my dog off of school property, just to walk back up to the handicapped parking spot once I collected my son.
I wanted to tell her where to go. I wanted to tell her exactly why this so called policy is detrimental, but I knew she didn’t make the policies. She just has to enforce them.
Here’s why [I think] the policy is detrimental…
It teaches kids that their fear of dogs is justified, and it doesn’t teach them how to confront it. It teaches them that accommodations MUST be made for their fears or the things they don’t like, when that isn’t so in the real world. Example; if you had a fear of spiders or bees, nobody’s going to put up a policy that bans them from your work area or home.
It over-sensitizes it. My kids were fearful of dogs too, prior to being around them and interacting properly with them. Now? They have no fear. I taught them the proper ways of interacting with a dog, and to ask permission before touching. By helping them face their fears, they overcame them.
I feel for the children who are afraid of dogs, I truly do. Some children may have a “legitimate” reason, but remember that good old saying…”don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch”? If you child had a bad experience with something, that’s terrible. But it’s your responsibility, as their parent, to try and help them overcome that fear, so they don’t live in fear for the rest of their lives.
I know what it’s like to be afraid. I am afraid of spiders, to the point where it used to send me into a panic attack when I saw them. I still don’t expect them to be removed from my presence and have learned to co-exist with them as best as I can. Unfortunately, there are no “spider trainers” or “spider handlers” who can come and teach me why I shouldn’t fear spiders.
But there are plenty of people resources and ways to teach kids why they shouldn’t be afraid of dogs. The parents, for one. If they lacked the experience and knowledge, there are always dog handlers, police officers who work with dogs, people who need service dogs…and even just someone who owns and loves a dog.
Even if all fears are not easily solved, I believe it’s a better tactic than banning dogs from school property.
Not to mention…I wonder if anything would have been said if Bane was a small breed dog? I have seen countless smaller breed dogs in places where I could never even imagine taking Bane. Target, coffee shops, etc etc. If it’s small, nobody says anything.
Bane is bigger, and he is black. Big black dogs are stigmatized. How do I know this? I own one. I see how people react to him. I grew up with one, one that was the only all black puppy of a litter, one that nobody wanted because of that. People reacted to him the very same way that the majority of people react to Bane, yet the golden retriever we had growing up encountered no issues with the public.
I wrote a letter to the school, although I’m not sure if I will give it to them. I’m not big on confrontation. I just was hoping that they will see how foolish this ban on dogs is and maybe take steps to help the children who fear them learn how to cope with their fears and even get over them. Or, in the very least, start having signs that say “no dogs allowed” instead of “dogs must be on a leash”.
I guess I’m just tired of my friendly, lovable black dog getting stigmatized because of his size.
I’m not usually one to follow the herd. I travel outside it, and I keep my head down (for the most part). I know that a lot of people think this policy is ludicrous, but they won’t say anything because it’s a policy.
I don’t fear policies as much as I fear a society that will ban anything that scares them.