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Friday, June 22, 2012

An Ann Taylor Update

So, when I received the email from Ann Taylor I first thought that there might have been a mistake. Another situation where there was an honest mistake. It wasn't until I read it the second time when I realized that they were talking about Becky and Cricket. It's about that point where I began to rage. So, after being talked out of sending a new email right away I took a deep breath and thought about what I would say. I decided to go the route that there must have been a misunderstanding in my email and explained to them that I knew in this instance the dog was harnessed. I apologized for any ambiguous language in my first message.

I go this message back yesterday after all of the bad press and the retraction had started:

"As a follow up to our previous response, please see the below statement released to the press by
ANN INC. regarding this concern.

“We at Ann Taylor sincerely apologize to [Becky] for her experience at the City Creek store. Service animals are always welcome in our stores and this incident is not representative of how we approach customer service. In our previous statement we had said that her guide dog was unharnessed. This was not the case. We were misinformed and we are sorry that this incorrect information was released. We strive for 100 percent customer satisfaction. In this case we fell short. We are reaching out to [Becky] and her family to make this situation right.”

Again, we appreciate the efforts you have made to share your feedback with us."

While I think it is great that they are at least admitting to their being wrong to release the information that said Cricket was out of harness, I still wonder if they are admitting that because the sales clerk and manager really gave them false information or because they realised that saying that flat out lie wasn't going to roll smoothly with anyone let alone the people who know Becky and know the training of a Guide Dog. I guess this is just my cynical outlook on life. It doesn't rear it's head often, but sometimes I just can't help but think that the world is a horrible place. (Cheerful sentence huh?)

Anyway, the sentence that most intrigued me was, "We are reaching out to [Becky] and her family to make this situation right." Can a situation like this ever be made "right". In my eyes, the damage is done. Like I said in my last post, I'm not telling you to never shop at Ann Taylor again nor am I saying that I will never walk into an Ann Taylor again. But, the damage is definitely done and I'm wondering what they are doing to make it "right."

I don't think this is something that is so simple that just saying, "Hey, sorry our staff wasn't completely trained and threw you out of the store because you're blind and use a dog to get around. And about that whole 'blaming the situation on you' thing. Yeah...sorry about that too." will really fix anything. I guess it would show that they realize that they were in the wrong. But I just don't see a 'sorry' really going all that far.

Again, this might just be my cynical outlook on life coming up at an inopportune moment. But I know that when I'm told I am not welcome in a store with my Guide Dog puppy I to try to avoid it in the future. There is a Target that I have not been into in almost 4 years...of course, that is more because of how rudely Freya and I were treated. There have been other stores where after a few months I walk in with confidence (only if I have to) and I don't tend to have a problem again. It's not because I don't like this stores or don't respect their decision to not allow a service dog in training, it's more because my confidence is shot.

So much to think about in the next few days. I do enjoy a good moral discussion.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another Ann Taylor Post

Hi People!  I know that this is pretty old news by now, but I wanted to share it so that it got as much circulation as possible.

I think I've mentioned GDB alumni Becky over at the blog Cruisin' with Cricket. But I'll say again that she is the most kind hearted and wonderful person I've ever had the pleasure of meeting...even if it is just over the Internet through our common interest of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Now, there are three posts that I think you all should read if you haven't already. The first one is Disappointed in Ann Taylor. The second one is Sharing. And the third is Finding Lemonade.

For those of you who don't want to go and read them all the short story is that Ann Taylor kicked her out of the store because of Cricket. Obviously, this is not only illegal but is also really hurtful. A bunch of us wrote in to Ann Taylor through their website to voice our concern and hopefully to get them to have more vigorous training when it comes to access rights of service animals. Here is the letter I received back from Ann Taylor.

"Thank you for taking the time to contact us.  We truly love to hear from our clients and appreciate your efforts to email us directly.

Please know that all service animals, including guide dogs, are welcome in all our stores at any time.  The situation you are referring to was a misunderstanding that occurred when a customer entered the store with an unharnessed guide dog.  In accordance with the mall regulations, dogs should be leashed or inside a carrier at all times.  When the customer entered the store with an unharnessed dog, the associate did not realize it was a guide dog, but upon realizing her error, she apologized and told the customer the guide dog could stay in the store.

Again, we appreciate the efforts you have made to share your feedback with us. At Ann Taylor, we want to help women put their best selves forward every day and we will continue to strive to make your shopping experience the best it can be."

Now, I have highlighted and bolded the parts of the email that were untrue. Hopefully you were able to see them without this help, but just in case. Apparently, everyone who wrote in got this exact same email.
Ann Taylor is now is the middle of a retraction as the PR representative was allegedly told that Cricket was out of harness (a ridiculous claim) and was also told that they were allowed to stay in the store. Of course, if this was the case none of us would have written in. Obviously, this is an example of someone trying to cover their own mistake by blaming someone else. I'm not too sure if Ann Taylor decided to retract this because of all the bad press they were getting or because the store manager really did tell them something wrong in order to cover her own mistake.
Now, I'm not upset that this happened. Things like this still do happen, though it does not usually involve a large corporation like Ann Taylor. Smaller organizations, much like the hotel we stayed at in Oregon for the Shakespeare Festival, have not fully read nor fully understand the terms of the ADA regulation involving service dogs. What upsets me is that they tried to make Becky look completely at fault instead of just owning up to their mistake and apologizing. As Becky says, she doesn't plan to sue and that all she wants is to educate. I like to think that I would have the same attitude, but I know when I received that email I raged for a full ten minutes straight before calming down and feeling sad. As always, Becky has made me feel like an inferior human being with her wonderful attitude and sweet nature.
Now, for something good that has come of all of this. If you go to the Ann Taylor facebook fan page or their Twitter Page you can see that the public has rallied to support Becky and Cricket. People are saying that they will never shop at Ann Taylor again and that there should be a public apology and all manner of things like that. I know one of things that Becky said was that she felt so alone when she was told that she was not welcome in with Cricket. I'm sort of glad that there is such support from the public. Now, I don't know if Becky will stop shopping at Ann Taylor entirely, but I think that she might not want to go back for a while.
I don't shop there often and I'm not telling you that you should never shop there again. While it was handled badly by the PR representative, it was an isolated incident (which is what they should have said to begin with). I've been into Ann Taylor with puppies before and have never had a problem. The point of this post is just to pass it on and hopefully to educate any new readers. ADA regulations state that service animals are legally allowed to accompany their handler anywhere.
I also think they has educated me a little. Normally, when asked to leave somewhere I say politely that it is a service dog in training. If still asked to leave I make sure that they are aware of ADA regulations regarding fully trained service dogs and then leave. Once though, when I was having a bad day, my voice did raise a little. I know that in the future I will be able to take a breath and calmly educate the employees. A learning experience for all of us I think. Though it is absolutely horrible that it happened.

Friday, June 15, 2012

2 Hours with Rachel

About a week ago I had the opportunity to watch a little 8 week old puppy for a couple of hours. The raiser needed a sitter for the whole weekend, but I wasn't available Saturday or Sunday so I said that I could watch her for an afternoon if she couldn't find anyone to do the whole weekend. It turns out that she had two separate things to do so it worked out well for me to take her last Friday for a couple of hours.

Again, the only thing I knew before the puppy came to my house was that she was a female 8 week old puppy. What I got was an adorable golden retriever named RACHEL. She was super tiny and super cuddly.  I kinda wished that she could stay the whole weekend, but I had a fun weekend with friends.
Rachel walking toward the camera
Rachel standing in an alert stance when she heard barking on the TV
Rachel chewing on the bunny
Rachel turning away form the camera with her eyes closed
Rachel is a dark golden retriever who is not as fluffy as others, but still a fuzzball
A closeup of Rachels face with the bunny in her mouth

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wilma's Visit: Part 2

First, some pretty pictures of gorgeous Wil sitting in our front room.

Wilma looking like she is rolling her eyes.
Wilma starring straight at the camera.
Wilma looking up at the camera.
Wilma with her head cocked to the side.
Now, after those pictures here are a few during our free run. On the last afternoon she was with me, I decided that I was going to try Wilma on a free run. If I haven't mentioned it before, we are allowed to take the pups on "free runs" which basically means off leash play time. There are, of course, some rules to follow when doing this. I really enjoy taking the pups on free runs especially when I know that they are able to handle it. I was a little nervous about taking Wil because I wasn't too sure how great her recall would be when she was distracted. I knew she would come when called when not distracted so I decided that I could probably, eventually, get her back. Turns out, I didn't need to worry.

I brought the no stuffing bunny for her to fetch and run around with. As soon as I told her to "run free" she took off with it in her mouth and made a huge circle before returning to me so that I could throw it for her. She totally loved it.

Now here comes the really funny part. I try and do free runs when there are not many dogs in the park. It usually means that the puppy won't be too distracted and increases the chance of them coming when called. When we got there, there was only one dog who was so engrossed in his ball that he didn't even notice us walk in. So, I took Wilma quite a ways away from him before telling her to play. She didn't even noticed him either at first. I'm fairly sure that he noticed Wil first and started walking towards us. Any other dog would have seen him noticing them and ran straight for them. What did Wilma do? She noticed him, looked, and sat down with the bunny in her mouth. Haha! She sat there until he got within five feet of us and just couldn't take it any longer. She ran straight towards them and they started playing and playing and playing. After they were done playing quite a few other dogs started pouring in so I decided it was time to leave.

She was just fine with that, though our walk home was considerably slower since she had tuckered herself out. Of course, I didn't leave without taking some pictures. She's such a photogenic puppy.
Wilma in a "sit/stay" looking at the camera
A picture of what Wilma did when she noticed the other dog walking towards us. She is sitting with her ears perked and a forgotten stuffed bunny in her mouth. Notice, she doesn't have the leash on and I did not tell her to sit, she just did it.
Wilma after playing with her new friend
Wilma with her giant tongue hanging out because of how tired she was
Wilma with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth
Wilma with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth and her ears perked
I was totally sad to see her go later that afternoon. I also don't think it helped that Lisa left for home that morning which meant that I was left in an empty flat. But mostly I think it was because I really liked her and wished she could have stayed longer. I guess it also meant that I would never see her again because she'll be going back in for training next month when I'll be home.

I think, as long as she passes her medicals, she could definitely make it. She does have a softer, golden side. But she settled after a second or two after every loud noise that startled her or just needed a little encouragement at points. But as long as you said "good girl" or "Wilma forward!" in a happy voice, she would realize that there was nothing to be worried about. *smiles* I wish her well and a part of me wishes that she needs to be sitted again before I leave. Haha!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Wilma's Visit: Part 1

I got a call a little over a week ago from a raiser asking if I could watch her puppy from Monday evening to Saturday afternoon. All I knew before she was dropped off was that she was a thirteen month old yellow lab who was very sweet and very good. I was so excited especially since I am finished with exams and second year. That meant that I could do anything with her without having to worry about classes.

When she was dropped off she started to explore the house right away and paid little attention to her "mom" standing in the door. Since she was happy as a clam her raiser decided to slip away without her seeing. Before she left she did say that the puppy's name was Wilma. Immediately I started calling her Wil because every time I said Wilma I thought of the Flinstones.

Turns out that she was very sweet and very good! And very, very silly. It didn't take her two hours for me to fall in love with her. She loved her crate, she let me sleep until I work her up, and she had a wonderful pace and listened really well to all of the commands. She loved her crate so much that she would wonder in there in there to take her afternoon nap...but not before trying to make it more comfortable.
Wilma sitting in the crate with the bed under her chin and covering her
Wilma trying to get comfortable with the crate mattress
And the best part was, her raiser wasn't lying. Wil was very, very good! First, she had wonderful house manners. She would grab onto a nylabone and lie on her bed and just go to town on it. Sometimes she would grab the rope and get me or Lisa to play tug with her. Poor thing was so persistent even though we have wood floors. Or she would bring us one of the stuffies and have us play fetch in the house. And when she was feeling particularly needy she would sit on our feet and wait until we scratched her ears. But she wouldn't bother us too much and when we needed to stop she would just sit at our feet.

Wilma on her first day with me looking at the camera
Wilma lying near the bed

Second, she had wonderful leash manners. She didn't pull too hard and listened when I said steady, forward, leave it, hopp up, and left and right. Now she did have a little trouble with her "right" but mostly she was great. When we went to puppy class on Tuesday morning she was wonderful. She was a little excited when we first arrived, but she settled down eventually and listened really well. She even got super excited when she returned to me after we did a puppy swap. That made me feel special.

Wilma sitting near my feet while watching TV
Wilma showing off her golden nose

Now, I knew that she was a yellow lab but some of her mannerisms just screamed golden retriever. She always had to be touching someone and she had this great smile she would give me this silly smile that reminded so much of Colorado (I mean it was scary how much that she looked like him when she looked up with me and smiled). She also used her paws when she played and talked with her bones. And she had lab fur in a stripe down her back and golden fur on the sides. Haha! When she was picked up I asked and she is half golden and half lab.

Tomorrow I'll put up pictures from our free run.