It was the year before last, toward the end of September when a community agency referred me to a prospective service animal client. She is someone who I’m aware of, contacted the agency that referred her to me and yelled over the phone, “Dennis Owens is Black! I didn’t know that he’s Black. If you had told me, I wouldn’t have met with him!” My client accused the referral source of being deceptive. After all, she failed to disclose my Blackness.
There have been instances, over the years. Comments about my voice – “He didn’t sound Black, on the phone! I’m usually very good at detecting them!” Once, and I won’t tell you what I did with this, internally… “It was weird! He seemed to really understand what was going on – he knew what my son needed from a service dog, without us knowing how to articulate it. Of course, when he showed up and we saw him, it kind of broke the spell!” This client gem was relayed to me from a colleague (who had referred me). Apparently, our (now) mutual client had called and gossiped about how I had shown up at their door in blackface.
Just yesterday, I was speaking to a ‘friend’, who is both of Dominican/Puerto Rican descent and disabled. She was speaking to me about a possible referral and said these words to me, “Well, when I speak to her, I’ll find out if it’s going to be a problem that you’re Black.” Did you hear the mic drop??? I started to think about it. Conversations about differences are all around me. I circulate among disabled person, frequently – and discussions of inclusion, bias and segregation are common. There are and have always been people with the outlook that certain ethnicities and cultures could be considered ‘disabled’ in the USA. I won’t travel too far down that path, but I have considered what task training for these dogs might be.
The person mentioned above, who called the referring agency and reamed the person for ‘hiding’ that I’m Black – she’s renewed contact and this time, she wants me to come to her home. In 2014, I had asked her to allow me to help her locate a candidate dog, that I would prepare for her particular needs. After the trauma of our meeting, she independently acquired two dogs – one is suffering from a chronic orthopedic issue and the other (the one that she wants to be her service animal) is an older puppy from an out of state breeder. Without going into specifics, and sans psychobabble, this client shared the various factors in her life that contribute to her prospective service animal candidate being “a total mess,” today. Her dog has been living as a pet in her home, for the better part of a year. I can imagine there being factors that contribute to the dog being a mess.
Anyone have any white makeup that I can borrow?