Thursday, April 2, 2009

How one badge heavy idiot ruined my day at the beach

People constantly stop to ask about my Service Dog, Bailey. I am sometimes stopped from entering an establishment with her. After explaining she is my service dog, I am allowed to proceed - until yesterday.

I was with Bailey at Crystal Cove State Park. Ranger Rick (not his real name) Badge #007 (not his real badge number either -even though he seemed to think it was) approached me and my husband, Jim, all puffed up like a toad. " Lady, there are signs all over that say no dogs on the beach!" I responded I was aware of that, but Bailey was my service dog. I pointed out the service dog vest even though he was standing beside her. I offered him three different forms of ID. I also told him she was registered at the office. What office? he asked. I informed him we were staying at Cottage#1 - the handicap accessible cottage ON THE BEACH.

He spit out, "THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!" He went on to say, service dogs needed to be registered with the State Parks Department. "Really? I said, and exactly where would they register?" He stared at me a moment, unsure, then I offered, "on" "Yes, he said, they have to be registered there!"
Gosh, should I check with Raley's and the Library and any where else I want to go to see if I need to "pre-register" my service dog in order to enter.
Since federal ADA laws supersede state laws, I said I would buy him a cup of coffee if one had to register dogs on the park web site.
I walked away; angry, embarrassed and sick of him trying to intimidate me. Most of all, I was so very, disappointed my long awaited walk on the beach could be ruined by this ill trained, badge heavy, ranger. In tears and shaking, I returned to our cabin. Jim stayed behind and asked the ranger, "What would you like us to do?" Ranger Rick just walked away from him.

Once in the cottage, I immediately went to the web site where, surprised, surprise, I did not see any place to "register service dogs." However, I did see the complaint forms.

I left to find Ranger Rick. He was sitting in his truck. I told him I looked on the web site and I thought he owed me a cup of coffee. So much for the humorous educational approach as he responded with, " I HAVE BEEN DOING THIS JOB FOR 30 YEARS AND THERE ARE NO DOGS ON THE BEACH! Again, I said, except service dogs. He said "How did I know it was a service dog? I couldn’t see it from the truck." I reminded him he was standing right next to her wearing her vest and I showed him ID.
I was extremely upset. I cannot convey the horrible attitude of this man. He was belittling me and trying to intimidate me. He was still arguing about dogs not being allowed on the beach. He couldn’t seem understand that service dogs ARE NOT PETS. Again he repeated, "I HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 3O YEARS!" I then informed him the ADA was passed in 1990 and it might be time he read it.
I asked for his name and badge number. Ranger Rick gave me his card, and said the web site was on the card - it wasn't.
I don't mind being stopped and asked if Bailey is a service dog. She is a whippet, not a common breed for service dogs. I don’t look "handicapped." I am used to people asking questions.
In the past, I have provided rangers at Crystal Cove: ADA literature; Service dog brochures for public access from Delta Society; Department of Justice information and, ironically, I have provided the access policies as published on the State Parks web site. The last time I was there, I even offered to give up some of my vacation time to give an in-service (free of charge).

I understand the beach is a fragile environment. What the rangers don’t understand or haven’t been trained to understand, is that a service dog is to be regarded as medical equipment- just like a wheelchair or a cane.
This time I am filing a formal complaint asking that staff be trained on ADA.


  1. I remember you talking about your previous experience here last year and I am sadened to hear that they still are ignorant to the issues of service dogs.

    I am happy to hear that you did confront him and are going to proceed with a complaint.

    Is this the same guy from last year?

    If it is I would of hoped that he would of learned that things are not always as they appear.

    It is too bad that people continue to show their ignorance when it comes to issue of the physically disabled. I still have confidence that they are the minority and not the majority.

    Keep up the good work Darcie.

  2. Thanks, Vickie.

    I am not one to file a complaint, but this happens everytime we come here - 3 to 4 times a year. No, it wasn't the same guy. The younger rangers are generally great. It is the older ones that seem ignorant of the issue and are in need of some training.

    It just surprises me, that it is State Employees - I thought they would have been better trained.

  3. Probably a good thing I wasn't there, you know the "stance" I would have jumped into.