Saturday, February 5, 2011

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A Cultural Perspective

By Fred
Yesterday I took Berkeley with me to see a client in Tampa. She was such a magnet of good will at our last meeting that I was eager to take her again.

We arrived early, so I had a few minutes to wait in the lobby with the receptionist, which normally is awkward for me, but soon we were talking about guide dogs and the SEGD facility in Palmetto. She told me that her daughter learned about SEGD at school and that they planned to visit there soon, which of course I encouraged her to do.

"Yes," the woman said. "Since we cannot have dogs at home, I thought this would be a nice thing for her."

Well, I don't mind prying into people's private lives if they leave the door open a bit. "Why can't you have dogs?" I asked, with a look of shock on my face.

She explained that she just never had dogs in her house. Her husband felt the same way: "It's just not part of our culture," she said.

Normally I would not care to speculate about a person's nationality, but for the purpose of this narrative I would guess, based on her slight accent, that the receptionist was born in China. Whether people in China are more or less likely to keep dogs in the house, I have no idea. So I will keep my remarks to my home state, Arkansas, a place that comes through in my own accent now and then.

Many people in Arkansas have dogs, but as you get out into the country--if you get way out there in the sticks--you will find that many people believe all animals belong outside. Raising dogs indoors, and keeping them indoors for most of their lives, is not as common as in, for example, New York.

Anyway, I attempted to convince the receptionist that she should get a dog, and this tickled her and caused her to come up with her concerns: that the dog would pee on the floor, etc. I asked her, "Do you let your daughter pee on the floor?" She let me know that this also was not culturally permitted.

We talked about discipline and training, about how these dogs are so faithful and obedient and smart, and I could see a spark in her eyes. And these particular dogs, I told her, like to work, they like to have a purpose and a real job. The idea was growing on her.

My meetings went well. Berkeley was very patient and good. At the end, several people escorted us back to the lobby to say goodbye, inching closer and closer, hoping that they could finally touch her. But I noticed the receptionist watching us from behind her desk. "Sorry," I said to the group,"we're still working."

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