An Army veteran is helping to educate the world about the importance of service dogs and the laws regarding them via a viral Facebook post. The Chicago based restaurant ousted the vet because he had his trusted service dog with him.
Major Diggs Brown has spent over 30 years of his life serving his country. He has been on multiple tours (including Afghanistan), and as anyone could imagine, his time in the Army left him with some pretty deep scars.
Major Brown suffers from severe PTSD, but thankfully he has been blessed with his service dog, Arthur.
Arthur helps see the veteran through his worst episodes. So much so that, according to Brown, his bond with Arthur is more effective than medicine.
“He does a lot of things. He wakes me up from nightmares when I have them. When I have anxiety attacks, he calms me down. He saved my life and I’m even off the drugs,” he says.
Considering how much Arthur and other dogs like him do for their handlers, the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has erected laws throughout the nation allowing for service dogs to accompany their handlers everywhere they go, with almost no exceptions.
A service dog is not the same as a registered therapy or companion animal.
Unlike therapy or companion animals, service dogs are required to go through rigorous, structured training programs. Such training ensures that all service dogs know how to behave in a public setting while still staying focused on the needs of their handlers. Once they pass, they receive special licensing and a registered service animal jacket to identify them as such at all times.
If a service dog is wearing this identification, all restaurants are required to allow them in with their handlers by law. Based on Brown’s experience recently, though, it would appear that at least one restaurant didn’t get the memo.
Brown lives in Colorado, and when he was readying himself for his trip back from the windy city, he decided to treat himself to a pleasant breakfast at one of Chicago’s finest French bistros, Cochon Volant. Brown and Arthur were quietly seated at a table, as per normal. However, when the hostess approached him she had no intention of taking his breakfast order. Rather, she told him that he wasn’t allowed to keep his dog in the bistro, service dog or not. Clearly, the young hostess wasn’t up to date on her ADA training.
Brown politely informed the waitress that Arthur is a service dog.
He explained that, according to federal law, he was allowed to have his service dog anywhere he went, including restaurants. Seeming to understand, the waitress went ahead and took his order. Unfortunately, though, Brown would never get his breakfast. Before his order came the waitress returned to his table demanding him to leave the premises.
“This is my service dog, he can go wherever I go, it’s the law,” Brown insisted.
The waitress’s ignorant response?
“I don’t care, you need to leave. We don’t have dogs in the restaurant.”
Being that he spent over 3 decades disciplining himself in the U.S. Army, Brown is an even-tempered man, and he knows how to get things done. When the waitress demanded him to take Arthur and leave the restaurant, he “kept his cool”.
Though he admits that he was humiliated by the waitress’s ignorance, he gathered himself and his service dog and headed back home to Fort Collins. The battle wasn’t over, though. The whole encounter ate at Brown, and he knew he needed to do something to make sure another vet wasn’t treated this way by the restaurant again. So, he took to Facebook (now private) to give an account of what happened to him.
“When I got home, I posted to my Facebook page, this is what happened to me and it went viral. Guess this would be a case of ‘No thanks for your service,’” the ousted veteran told CBS Chicago.
The former Major had no intention of getting the waitress fired or even disciplined. Rather, Brown sought to make sure that the restaurant management for Cochon Volant educates themselves as well as their employees regarding laws surrounding people with disabilities and discrimination.
His plan clearly worked. The owners of Cochon Volant reached out to Brown by both phone and email to apologize.
They wanted him to know that no service dog or their handler would be turned away again.
“The Cochon Volant family is both saddened and disappointed to hear this account of a veteran’s experience. Yesterday’s circumstance was not a true representation of our company policy and we have begun immediate internal review of protocol, training of staff and ADA regulations to ensure this will never happen again,” the restaurant wrote.
Not only did they promise to better educate their employees, but they also put their money where their mouth is. Cochon Volant made a generous donation to Puppies Behind Bars, where Arthur himself was trained. The program places puppies with prison inmates to be trained as service dogs for wounded veterans, first responders, and police work.
As for Brown, the good-natured veteran bears no ill will toward either the restaurant or the young waitress who humiliated him as a result of her lack of knowledge.
“It’s not my intent to destroy a restaurant but it is my intent to make them aware that they have violated a law that not only affects veterans with dogs, but other people with disabilities with service laws and that they need to be aware that it’s discrimination. They’ve stepped up to the plate and they are going to make some changes at the restaurant so I’m happy in my mind that it is resolved” he says.
As it turns out, the whole reason that Brown was in the windy city in the first place was to participate in a walk for No Barriers.
The organization just so happens to focus its efforts on helping veterans with disabilities. So, if anyone had a right to put the restaurant staff in its place, it was veteran Major Diggs Brown. Fortunately for them and Chicago, he isn’t one to hold a grudge.
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