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Islam Vs. Service Dog


CelloChick
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I posted this in News and Current Events, in "Muslims’ Veils Test Limits Of Britain’s Tolerance" But it turned out to be more of a rant than I thought it would.

 

Regarding the Muslim veil, I've got a problem and maybe you can help me with it. I'm disabled, I use a wheelchair for mobility and I have a helper dog named Honey. I live in a suburb of Chicago with a growing Muslim population. There are three Islamic centers within a five minute drive from my house.

 

Although I've seen women wearing all kinds of different head coverings, I'd never encountered anyone wearing nothing but black from head to toe and a full veil over her face. Until a few weeks ago. I was shopping in the grocery store with my dog, Honey. I came around the corner and there was a woman staring at me and Honey. She wore black and just her eyes were showing. Honey FREAKED out. Smelled human, didn't LOOK human! Poor dog. Honey just backed up like, "What in the hell is THAT?" I turned around and took Honey the other direction. Even though what I needed to buy was on the other side of the store, I went the opposite direction to avoid offending her.

 

I find myself doing that a lot. Dogs are unclean animals in Islam. I'm aware they are unclean because stores that have Muslim clerks yell at me to get my dog out of their store. I have yet to sue anyone for violating the Illinois Human Rights Act and the American's With Disabilities Act for discrimination. I simply choose not to shop there again. I need my dog. She can pick up a dime off the floor for me. She can get my credit card for me if I drop it. My dog gives me independence I just wouldn't have without her.

 

So, there I was in a store. A woman dressed in a black veil was keeping me from shopping because my dog was afraid of her. I was so careful to socialize Honey around people of all different kinds of colors, speech patterns, disabilities, because I need my dog to work in all different places. But, I didn't socialize her around people dressed in black from head to toe. And it wasn't like this lady was gonna pet Honey and coo at her and tell her not to be afraid.

 

I ended up making a huge detour through the store. I was frustrated and didn't know what to do. I don't want to offend people. I just want to live my life and go shopping and do what I need to do. As the Muslim population in my town grows, I'm getting into more and more conflicts with my dog in public.

 

Next time I'm in that situation what should I do? I always go out of my way. Pick a different aisle, or even leave the store. My dad says it's the MUSLIM lady's job to get out of MY way and not MY PROBLEM. If she finds dogs offensive to her religion, she needs to move. Not me. The law says I have the civil right to bring my helper dog everywhere the general public can go. Is my dad right? Who yields? The Muslim lady? Or me?

 

One confused CelloChick

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What a beautiful companion you have. Just gorgeous.

 

My opinion is that the other person yields right of way. Muslim or not Muslim anytime someone encounters a person with a service animal (that could be a monkey too), in a wheelchair on crutches, having problems walking due to a physical issue, whatever, compassion for a fellow human should prevail. You should be able to put aside your fear or revulsion of the dog for a couple of minutes and move.

 

I probably would have asked her nicely to move. Just said, excuse me I hate to bother you but would you mind moving away a little? My dog is a bit afraid and while we've worked on her being afraid of strangers it's something we need to work on a little more.

 

I have a dog who is terrified of people (due to abuse) and while not a service dog I've been trying with her so she won't be as afraid of people. I've had issues as well when I have had her out in public trying to work with her and just saying that she is afraid and that we have been working with her people have been a bit more compassionate with her and really will back off and move away.

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Certainly any mobile person is obligated to stand down and give right of way to the person who needs a service dog.

Unfortunately many muslims are afraid of dogs. They tend to freeze up when they see one.

It goes beyong the islamic tradition of dogs being unclean, It stretches into colonialsm, and the use of dogs as weapons of terror against muslims by colonial masters.

The french in Algeria routinely had a villager killed by dogs in front of the rest of the village as a prelude to collecting taxes fom the village. and this continued untill Algeria gained independence in the 1970s.

The same was true in british Iraq untill 1948, And continues in occupied Palestine to the present day.

 

The sad reality is that muslims have no cultural context for service dogs.

Westernized muslims of course have little issue with canines.

Same for muslims who have never been colonized.

But refugees who are still traumatized by the memory of colonial dog violence are likely to freeze up in panic.

 

Education does help. Post colonial muslims need to know that not all dogs are weapons controled by invaders.

They need to see dogs as helpers and freinds rather than as vicious teeth flashing in their face.

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CC,

 

Start a new religion Dogatism, and claim that you won't go to Heaven unless the dog is with you all the time. Then you can demand respect and tolerance. It seems like that only religious symbols are allowed nowadays, don't bother if they are necessary or helpful, only things related to religious expression holds up against people's bigotry.

 

And I suspect that you might have the law on your side. You should spend a little time to investigate, and if you do have the law on your side, you should tell the store owner this. If the store owner give you a hard time, you can always threated with a law suit. If they want respect, you have to get the same respect from them. Our system works on tit-for-tat, and not one side gets all.

 

(And your dog is very cute. We got three dogs, and all of them are wonderful and loving.)

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Beautiful dog. She must be a smart one (assuming she's a she), I can see the intelligence in her eyes. I'm sure she understands in her own doggy way she's an important part of your pack/family.

 

And I agree. Make the bipedal Hefty bag move out of the way. I say screw the ignorant superstitious self-oppressive statement-making theist, even though stronger language comes to mind.

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And I agree. Make the bipedal Hefty bag move out of the way. I say screw the ignorant superstitious self-oppressive statement-making theist, even though stronger language comes to mind.

Yup. I probably would blow a casket and have the dog chase the woman. Religion should *not* go before handicap, but we see that even with Christianity, like stemcell research and many other things. "Religion first, then health, fairness and democracy." *argh* It makes me furious! It has to change.

 

-edit-

 

And if it is okay for women to wear a veil because of their belief, what about nudists? Are they allowed to streak?

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And if it is okay for women to wear a veil because of their belief, what about nudists? Are they allowed to streak?

 

Do they have to streak to get to heaven? Will they go to hell if they wear clothing in public?

 

Okay confession time. I am far more comfortable with dogs than with naked humans. I might not be admitted to heaven, though.

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And if it is okay for women to wear a veil because of their belief, what about nudists? Are they allowed to streak?

 

Do they have to streak to get to heaven? Will they go to hell if they wear clothing in public?

Maybe there is some crazy religion out there that believe in nakedness? Like a super-amish kind. :) Back to the roots of nature. The Holy Naked Nature.

 

Besides, does Sunni Muslims go to Hell if they don't wear the veil? I thought there isn't anything in the Quran about the veil or women going to Heaven at all. And what about the Shiite's that don't believe in the Sharia laws and the veils at stuff? Are they Non-True Muslims? After all, the whole thing about these clothes are demanded in the Hadith and not in the Quran. The Hadith is only some semi-holy scripture with add-ons and not the real holy book.

 

Okay confession time. I am far more comfortable with dogs than with naked humans. I might not be admitted to heaven, though.

:HaHa:

 

Well, maybe dog heaven will admit you instead. Isn't that a great idea? One heaven for each belief, no one will go to any hell, everyone will go to their own paradise.

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Thanks everyone for your support. This situation is stressful for me. I couldn't sleep at all last night because I just felt so confused. I ended up crying all over Honey for a while. I did say, "excuse me" to the woman in black, but since I couldn't see her face, I couldn't tell if she understood me. She didn't move. Perhaps it was because she was afraid of Honey. Again, I couldn't tell because she had her face covered. My dog is a bold, outgoing, friendly sort of dog. So Honey's reaction was a surprise to me. Honey was really scared.

 

My town has a large and growing Muslim population. Our 100 year old elementary school was closed, and reopened as an Islamic school, if that gives you any idea of the culture shift. Because of the changes around here, my service dog is becoming a problem. I stay home a lot. And when I do bring Honey in public, I get dirty looks. Worse than if I was just alone in my wheelchair. It makes me feel bad.

 

So, I go out of my way to avoid offending people in the store. If I’m on my way to get paper towels, and I see a Muslim man dressed in traditional garb shopping for paper towels, I’ll back up and go the opposite direction. Past the baby food, which I don’t need. Hang out, wait for the aisle to clear, and THEN go get paper towels. If the shortest checkout line has a Muslim waiting with his groceries, instead of cruising behind him, I pick another line. Even if its longer. I always do this because I don’t want to offend anyone.

 

I end up offending myself.

 

What should I do instead? How come I feel like an outcast AND an infidel in my suburban Chicago hometown?

 

Still a confused CelloChick

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Cello Chick, I, like others here, just don't think it is your job to not offend everyone. First of all, nothing you are doing is offensive, it's not, you are not insulting anyone, all you are doing is living. If they are bothered by it that is THEIR problem, not yours. Maybe you really do need to speak up, get back in the face, especially of shop owners that yell at you, that's outrageous.

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CC,

 

I totally understand what you are saying, I am a bit that way myself. I would much rather go out of my way to avoid causing someone else discomfort; however, in this case I have to agree with Purple. Honey is not just a cute dog she has a purpose, a purpose that is legally recognized in the US which allows her entrance into retail locations. If the lady and store owner are immigrants they need to become aware of US laws. If the store owner continues to harrass you I would report him to the US Dept. of Justice (they are resonsible for adminstration of the ADA), here is a link to their requirements for service animals Service Animals. As for the lady, aside from saying excuse me and trying to explain, short of getting into a major confrontation I don't think there isn't a whole lot you can do about her.

 

Since you will always encounter people who are insensitive to others and because the muslim population in your area appears to be growing by leaps and bounds I think you may need to work a bit more with Honey to help her overcome her sensativity. First I would contact the organization who trained Honey to see if they can offer some suggestions. Secondly I would continue to take Honey out in public. The more she is out and sees these figures at a safe distance (allow her to set the distance, don't force her) she will begin to feel a bit more relaxed and eventually, while she may still feel some anxiety, it will lesson over time and she will be able to come within a certain distance to them. It's going to take time and patience and there is no magic cure that will fix it overnight. My dog while first terrified of teenage boys and men could see one a block away and would tuck tail and run the other way. She'll now allow them to get within 5 feet before she starts to get upset, it took some time to do it but then I didn't work with her everyday either. And thirdly you need to stop allowing it to upset you so much. It's not good for your health plus Honey can actually sense your feelings which only causes her to react more. And the biggest reason for not allowing it to upset you is because you have the right to live your life and to live your life you need Honey, so Honey is an extension of you. Therefore you are not the one with the issue, it's them and they need to just suck it up and deal with it. Don't you dare not go out because of it.

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And I agree. Make the bipedal Hefty bag move out of the way. I say screw the ignorant superstitious self-oppressive statement-making theist, even though stronger language comes to mind.

Yup. I probably would blow a casket and have the dog chase the woman. Religion should *not* go before handicap, but we see that even with Christianity, like stemcell research and many other things. "Religion first, then health, fairness and democracy." *argh* It makes me furious! It has to change.

 

-edit-

 

And if it is okay for women to wear a veil because of their belief, what about nudists? Are they allowed to streak?

 

OK this is me finding some's English amusing... and that's just wrong!

 

However... the word is 'gasket'; the image of Han's coffin (a casket) exploding with rage is just too good not to share... I know..I should be ashamed of myself...

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CC,

 

Unknowing had some great points. Definately contact the organization who trained Honey about this and ask for pointers. It'll probably mean a lot of doggy treats and "happy voice" to get her to understand that it's ok.

 

Yes, you and Honey have the right to be anywhere you want. Your need and rights to function without going the long way around is a hell of a lot more important than somebody elses's beliefs about dogs. THEY need to move and the shop owners need to be told by the authorities in no uncertain terms they are violating the LAW.

 

Unfortunately, this may mean you're going to have to be confrontational. Don't be rude, stay calm, and be clear.

 

If you don't feel confident enough at first, ask friends if they'd be willing to go with you and help you bolster your courage for a bit.

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Cello Chick, I understand your sensitivity around what other people think. That woman in black with her face covered must look awfully intimidating from the level of a wheelchair. I would probably react the same way you do, except by now I have probably developed enough self-esteem and sense of having the same rights in the world as everyone else, that the opinion of others does not control me as it once did. Sensitivity to the feelings of others is a very good thing so far as I am concerned. But as you are finding, it can also seriously hamper one's life.

 

I am trying to think what practical advice might be able to help you establish your rights as a human being in your hometown. Do you know any lawyers or police officers who might be able to provide advice? someone who could outline what rights you have in the case of a confrontation? esp. if there is a confrontation between your dog and another human? Or any other person in a position of authory and help that might be able to help you establish a higher level of self-esteem and assertiveness?

 

I'm trying to put myself in your place. Being disabled makes you physically vulnerable. Other people's butts are your eye level. Everyone looks down on you--literally. That can have enormous psychological impact. The one thing you have going for you is a large dog. Most people respect a large dog because of its ability to physically challenge and over-power them. Few people want to tangle with a growling dog. If they are afraid of your dog or think it's unclean, they should be the ones turning tail and running in the opposite direction--not you and your dog.

 

Like someone mentioned, your dog picks up your feelings of fear and reacts accordingly. I don't know too much about this kind of problem, but what about the training schools for dogs, where you got your dog, might they have advice on how to help your dog overcome its fear? I don't know the rules about this, but it seems to me that you should not be the person solely responsible for the training of your service dog. You have the dog because you need it. Therefore, the dog should be adequately trained to meet your needs. That is my logic.

 

Also, by giving so much space to the Muslims I think you are giving them the message that they are superior to you. And they're not. They are your equal because both they and you are human. According to North American law and values, that makes you equals. If they don't like it they have a problem. The law is on your side. If the police are aware that you are being hassled because of your disabilitie, I think perhaps they will do what they can to improve the situation. Part of this might be informing you of your rights and how to assert your rights. I don't know. Just guessing here. I'm thinking a call or visit to the police station might be effective.

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Just remember: don't coddle a dog for showing a fearful reaction. This is the kiss of death to a dog's expressed confidence. Remember, always reward good behavior, sharply correct or do not acknowledge bad behavior, which ever the case might call for.

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Yeah, I was thinking the dog should take a stand for you, not cower in fear.

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Muslims have a right to practice their religion, this is true. But what you're seeming to miss is that YOU have a right to live as you do, too. Life is not about kissing someone else's ass or going out of your way so they can have a measure of ease that you will give up for yourself.

 

That's blunt, but to the point.

 

And for the record, ANY religion which dismisses dogs as "unclean" or bad is automatically null in my book. No wonder Muhammad was such a nasty ass, he never let sweet happy doggies around him.

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I think that you are trying to hard and bending over backwards not to offend anyone and it just isn't doing you any good. Your rights as a person with disabilities are protected by law and that's that. By all means go over and get your paper towels when you want to get your paper towels. If someone says anything politely but firmly explain to them the purpose of your dog and continue on doing what you are doing. If you are really that anxious about it I would try to find some leaflets about the American's with Disabilities Act and other laws that protect you and hand them to people who give you dirty looks. This would be especially useful to give to managers of stores. I also agree with the earlier poster who recommended that you contact the agency who trained your dog to see if they have any recommendations on what you can do to help your dog feel more comfortable in these situations. Best of luck and be sure to tell us how it goes.

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Yeah, I was thinking the dog should take a stand for you, not cower in fear.

Last thing a service dog should be is aggressive, followed closely by 'nervy'... If you have a guide dog you don't want it chasing down bikes or getting spooked by a horn... So, I'd say there was something a little amiss in the training if the dog is that nervous... I know UK guide dog training involves stuff with people in carnival gear and starter pistols... the dog pretty much is trained in line with a saguine character.

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CC, you're already at a disadvantage by having a disability, and I'm with everyone else here that you shouldn't let other people's beliefs and/or fears be an even bigger hindrance on your life.

 

Lerato mentioned leaflets to give people who raise a fuss about having your helper with you. I think that's a good idea, especially with store owners. I might decide not to shop at those places because they don't deserve your patronage, but I would also take it one step further and tell everyone I know about how horrible way you were treated, and lodge a legal complaint. If nothing else, it might teach them to treat others with the respect they deserve.

 

Disclaimer: I'm not a dog trainer, so please run the following suggestions past the people who trained Honey or some other qualified person before trying anything in the rest of my post...

 

As for the lady with the black veil. Perhaps now that you know Honey freaks out over such a costume, it might help to have a friend dress up similarly and have her stand at a distance from Honey, slowly walking Honey toward her at her own pace. In the future, instead of taking Honey completely away from a situation that she's uncomfortable with such as that one, it might be helpful to put a little distance between her and the scary person, then turn her around so she can watch this scary person and tell her in a soothing voice that everything is ok.

 

Edit to add: If the veiled lady is afraid of dogs, it might also help her overcome her fear if Honey can be calm around her, so you could actually be doing her a favor by not taking Honey to another aisle, and by calmly explaining to the lady how helpful and loving Honey is. Even if she doesn't understand English, she might nevertheless realize by your calm voice and demeanor that you wouldn't let your dog hurt her. End edit.

 

I agree with Grandpa Harley that it's not a good thing for your helper to be skiddish. She needs to be calm in most situations, but prepared to defend you if the need arises. Had she growled under her breath and showed her teeth in subtle warning to the veiled lady whom she apparently considered a threat, and then immediately relaxed at your command, I wouldn't be too concerned; but instead she cowered and backed away. What would she do if someone had actually attacked you? Assuming you probably love Honey too much to trade her for another helper, you might want to discuss this with Honey's trainers and see if there's anything you or they can do to make sure she won't abandon you if things get too scary.

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However... the word is 'gasket'; the image of Han's coffin (a casket) exploding with rage is just too good not to share... I know..I should be ashamed of myself...

Ooops. I was typing a bit too fast. Was in a rush and didn't think clearly what I typed. All my days are like that right now. But didn't you know? We're supposed to do what Jesus did. And since we're not using tombs anymore, but caskets, then resurrection require us to blow casket tops. :)

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First off, I gotta say thank you, because you all rock! This is a difficult situation for a lot of reasons. In January I completed my 23rd cycle of high dose IV chemotherapy. The chemo soaked into my brain and fried it. I have something called “chemotherapy related cognitive dysfunction.” It’s a form of dementia. At 37, I have many of the symptoms of early Alzheimer’s Disease. It hurts and it’s hard to deal with.

 

I’ve lost many problem solving skills. Which means I can now burst into tears because I can’t find the right brand of tea in the store. I know what I want, but can’t remember the steps to solve my problem, so I cry. I’m learning how to cope. I’ve learned to say to the nearest person, “Excuse me, could you help me find the mango green tea?” BEFORE I start crying. It’s tough. I’m tougher.

 

Several of you mentioned the emotional difficulties of being disabled. Yes, that is a problem. I’ve become the invisible woman. In the airport, people ask whoever is around me, “Does she have her ticket?” As if I can’t speak for myself. People stare at me, but never make eye contact, or speak to me. UNLESS… unless I have Honey. When Honey is with me, people walk up to me and talk to me. People smile at me. I feel human when my dog is with me. Facilitating social interaction is probably Honey’s greatest task.

 

I can’t contact Honey’s trainer. I trained Honey myself. That doesn’t mean Honey isn’t an extremely well trained dog. She is. For two years, I spent three hours a day training Honey. Honey earned her American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen award and passed a service dog certification exam with a perfect score. Honey isn’t perfectly trained, but damn close. I worked so hard training her. I had to earn Honey’s respect. As a young dog, she kept challenging me, as if to say, “Give me a good reason to listen to you?” Honey required a strong leader who was 100% in charge. She just demanded it and we learned to respect one another.

 

Now… now Honey never challenges me. She always looks to me for leadership. I think what happened in the store was, the lady in black startled ME, and my being startled went straight down the leash. I had actually never seen anyone dressed like that outside of TV. Since my brain doesn’t connect the dots anymore, I stayed startled.

 

Honey did not bark, growl, or snarl at the woman in black. She just backed up and looked to me for directions. Exactly what I want her to do when she’s unsure of herself. Do not ever take the lead, that’s MY job. Honey is not aggressive. Service dogs must never show aggression in public or they must be retired. A service dog must be safe enough for a toddler to poke her eye and not react. It’s my job to protect Honey, and never Honey’s job to protect me. So, Honey’s reaction to the woman in black was actually what I wanted. When in doubt, back up, and look at me for direction. Good dog.

 

Unfortunately, I failed Honey in that situation. Because I was startled and my brain stalled, I didn’t lead the way I should have. Now that I know there are women around here who dress like that, I won’t react in total shock, and then not be able to connect the dots. I’m fine as long as I know what to expect. It’s the unexpected that sends my chemo-brain into overdrive.

 

So, what I really was asking (and you all answered!) wasn’t for the dog’s sake, but for mine. I know how to handle Honey and help her over any problem. We left the lady in black with Honey at heel, tail up and wagging. Honey was flawless once she got over the startle, which was a hell of a lot faster than I did. I think Honey was scared for about 2 seconds. It’s just Honey and I have a psychic mind meld. I felt her fear, and she felt my surprise. So, ever since I’ve been avoiding the situation because I didn’t know how to lead Honey when surrounded by people who find dogs offensive because of their religion.

 

So, let me see if I have this straight…

 

Don’t go out of my way to avoid offending people. If someone is offended, it is 100% their job to move away. It’s not my religious hang-up, so it’s not my responsibility to deal with it. I don’t live in an Islamic country or Islamic culture. I’m an American, and as an American I have the unalienable Rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Making sure I get my wheelchair and dog out of someone’s way because they have a religious issue is squashing my liberty as an American citizen! Right?!?! I think I get it now. I need to enjoy myself and shop till my powerchair battery goes dead and Honey drops. Doesn’t matter who is in the store. Ignore them. Treat them like extras in a movie and get on with my life. Got it. OH, THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME!

 

I’m going to get bolder with businesses that give me a hard time. Confrontation, of course, sends me into chemo brain trouble. So, I avoid it because I literally cannot handle confrontation. If yelled at, my new plan is to leave the store and call the police. I have a prescription for a service dog. I have business cards that explain the laws. I carry the American’s With Disabilities Act service dog page, the phone number for the United States Department of Justice ADA hotline, and the Illinois Human Rights Act service dog page. I just can’t get into confrontations because my disability won’t let me, so I’m calling the cops. And besides, a police report will make it much easier to sue, should I choose to do so. Know what? I just might sue the next person who yells at me to get my dog out of the store.

 

Thanks everyone!

A less confused, much happier,

CelloChick

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