Monday, May 9, 2016

Under the table

So far Trooper seems to be completely accepted everywhere in the little Upper Michigan village of Ontonagon except possibly one place—and only in a minor sense. But not a trivial one, not to me at least.

With me he's gone to Pat's Supermarket, where all the checkers and stockers whirl, smile and coo as we pass by, and to Syl's Cafe, where the waitress did the same and allowed us to pick a table where Trooper could lie by my side out of the way.

Last night at Konteka in White Pine, the manager smiled at him as we arrived. Evidently she didn't spot his bright orange service-animal vest, because she said, "He can't come in here."

When Debby said he was a service dog, she quickly replied, "Oh, okay," and let us choose a suitable table. He lay quietly beside me. No muss, no fuss. Everybody was happy.

At my side at a table against the wall, well
out of the way of servers and other patrons.
At lunch in Lynn's North Country Cafe in downtown Ontonagon today, the waitress immediately recognized Trooper as a service dog and admitted him, but when I spread his little mat close by my side at a table along one wall, quite out of the way, she said he had to lie under the table.

"The owner says so," she said.

Such a request is not illegal.

On the other hand, putting Trooper under a small cafe table with a heavy center column means I can't see him and make sure he's lying where he should, keeping him under control at all times. That's why his little mat is always spread at my side so that he's visible out of the corner of my eye. Otherwise I worry.

The issue of where to place a service dog in a restaurant is a gray area so far as federal law is concerned. Dogs are to be either under the table or beside the handler. Who decides which? There's the rub.

Federal guidelines say Trooper is essentially a four-legged item of medical equipment. I doubt that any restaurateur would require someone with a rolling oxygen tank to hide it under the table. The idea is to keep the device out of the way where no one will bump into or step on it. That was my intent in having Trooper lie close by my side.

I didn't put up a fuss after telling the waitress that her command made me fret. Why get her into trouble with her boss? When she later brought the check, she apologized for the incident. She was not only pleasant but also empathetic.

Now I must decide whether to stay out of Lynn's and take Trooper elsewhere, or try to speak with Lynn herself and see if I can't persuade her to relax her policy. Sticking service dogs out of sight under small tables even if their handlers are inconvenienced might be quite legal, but isn't always the right thing to do.

Why not just say goodbye to Lynn's? Her food is excellent, that's why not.


  1. Sticky situation. I'm sorry you're going through this. Did you ask DFD what they suggest? I'm also their client. :)

  2. Best of luck to you and Trooper!