FLD Rosie waits in her crate in my truck while I ask permission to bring her into the restaurant where I am having dinner with my tandem-friend, Lou, and her husband Randy. It won't be long before Rosie will not fit in this little crate--she can barely stand up in it to turn around. She is just three months old and growing like a weed.
After a brief explanation of my role as a Future Leader Dog (FLD) puppy-raiser, permission to bring FLD Rosie in with me is granted.
While the ADA prohibits public places from disallowing service dogs, technically a FLD puppy being raised by a volunteer is not a "trained" guide dog, and thus not automatically allowed. Leader Dogs for the Blind requires puppy-raisers to ask permission of an establishment before bringing our FLD in with us. In my experience, almost every place I've asked has been more than gracious in allowing my FLD puppy to come in. At a few locations, the person I've asked has either been confused, unsure, or unable to make the decision; after politely "educating" them about Leader Dogs and the puppy-raising program, or after they've checked with a supervisor, we've been welcomed. In the last two years, I've only had two restaurants refuse my FLD puppy admittance.
The hostess seats us at the first booth to the right of the entry door. I wonder, Perhaps a quick exit if Rosie has to park? Or, perhaps the hostess thinks we might disturb her other customers if we walk through the dining room to a table further away? I've only had Rosie for just over one month, and I'm still getting used to taking her with me everywhere I go.
FLD Rosie eagerly sniffs out the floor under our table as we situate ourselves, but soon looses interest and wants to explore beyond our booth. I struggle with her. Rosie. Settle. She sits between my feet and I give her a praising pet. Good girl. She pops up from her sit. I physically put her back into a sit by running my right hand down her backside to her tail and curling her rear end to the floor. She pops up again. I return her to a sit, but this time I sweep her front legs out with my left arm, bring my right hand to her shoulders, and encourage her to lie down. Down. Good girl. I give her a few long, slow strokes along her back. Settle.
Just when I think I've got her settled, the waitress arrives with our water. Rosie pops up, vigorously wagging her tail, and sticks her nose out to sniff the waitress's leg. No, Rosie. Leave it.
Ok. Deep breath.
I quickly scan the menu, make my selection, and slip a piece of puppy-chow to Rosie, who is finally settling at my feet. Good settle, Rosie. She is so bloody cute when she looks up at me, I can't stand it. I give her a Nylabone and hope it keeps her busy through dinner.
Before our food arrives, a woman with two little girls enters the restaurant and approaches the hostess stand. The oldest girl, maybe six or seven years old, takes notice when Rosie peeks her nose into the aisle from under our table.
"Mom, there's a puppy in here!" she exclaims, pulling on her mother's sweater. The younger girl (a years or two younger) sticks her head around the corner of our booth just as Rosie lunges. I have a firm hold; there is not chance for Rosie to reach her, but both girls squeeze tight against their mother. "Mom, look, it's a puppy!" the older girl repeats.
The mother, a tall and imposing figure, turns and leans over to see. "Awwwwww...." she says in a voice that doesn't fit her persona.
"Can we pet her, Mom?" The mother notices Rosie's Future Leader Dog bandanna and tells her daughter, "She is a Leader Dog. You'll have to ask."
The older girl cautiously comes toward us. I'm surprised, and proud, when Rosie sits without being told, but I keep a tight grip on her collar. She needs to learn to stay calm when strangers approach and the "four-on-the-floor" rule means she can't accept pets unless all four paws are down.
"Can we pet her?" the girl asks me. I'm even more surprised when Rosie lies down.
Yes, I answer.
The girl kneels beside us with her sister close behind. Rosie sits up, but keeps four feet down. As the girl reaches out, Rosie opens her mouth and reaches back. No bite! I say and pull her away. Rosie licks the girl's outstretched hand.
"I just read a book in school about a Leader Dog!" the girl tells me.
That's great, what was the name of the book?
"Rugby and Rosie."
I smile, no stranger to coincidences. Well, guess what? This puppy's name is Rosie!
"What?!" The girl jumps up and almost knocks her sister over. Rosie leaps up after her, but I hold her. "And she looks just like the one in the book!"
Now you can tell your teacher that you saw Rosie the Leader Dog in the restaurant, I say. The sister comes over to pet Rosie, but now the puppy is too excited so the little girl draws away. Pet her on the side, like this, I show her and keep Rosie's head turned away.
"She is soooo soft!"
"Come on girls," their mother calls as the hostess grabs menus to lead them to their table. The youngest runs off, but the older girls follows slowly. Suddenly, she races back. "Thanks for letting us pet your puppy!"
I'm getting the book from the library tomorrow, so I can read Rugby and Rosie for myself!
As it turns out, the Rosie in the book is a yellow lab, not a black lab like my FLD Rosie--I guess it is all in the name!