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A Dark Night, a Hearing Dog, and a Day in Court

By Cheryl Heppner

Galaxy, Hearing Dog
Galaxy, Cheryl's CCI Hearing Dog

On June 17, 2010, after taking notes at the opening ceremony of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) convention in Milwaukee, I went to dinner with some friends I’d made at past HLAA conventions. We had a pleasant and delicious meal at Coast, a restaurant on the shores of Lake Michigan.

At about 11:20 p.m., we left the restaurant. Outside were three cabs which had arrived to take those in our party back to their various hotels. As I tried to enter the first cab with some of my friends, the driver jumped out and vehemently said he would not take a dog in the cab. I tried to explain that Galaxy was a hearing dog, and told the driver that it was against the law to refuse us. I said that if he did not take us to our hotel I would have to write down his cab number and report him. Two friends, Pam Ransom and Marcia Finisdore, attempted to support me, to no avail. Still carrying my steno pad with notes from the opening ceremony, I flipped to the first blank page, grabbed a pen from my purse, and wrote the cab number.

Moving to the next cab in line, I opened the door and tried to enter. I was met with a second refusal, and despite a stern explanation by Pam Ransom about the law this driver also drove off without us. His cab number joined the first one in my steno book.

Thankfully the third cab driver, who had witnessed all this, agreed to transport us. He was from the same company as the other two, Yellow Cab.

The experience really upset me. Back in 1991 I routinely encountered discrimination like this, but as the 20th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act approached, I thought my days of having to advocate and educate about my hearing dog, if not completely finished, would never again be met with such animosity.

Searching for a Remedy

The next morning, before going to the convention, I walked to a nearby building that housed a police station. I wanted to see if I could get a referral to whatever entity handled disability-related complaints for the city. My goal was to see that Yellow Cab be required to train its drivers about nondiscrimination of individuals with service animals so that no other individual with a service animal would experience what I had.

In the building that housed the police station, I met and received support from Officers Angst and Halm. My request was pretty far off the beaten track for them, but they were enthusiastic about trying to help. I smiled when one of the suggestions they passed on was to call the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC. I explained that my intention was not to punish but to educate, as every single person I had met in Milwaukee had been nothing short of wonderful, and I didn’t want to bring potentially bad publicity to the city just because of the hurtful actions of two cab drivers.

Officers Angst and Halm introduced me to Julie Braun and Tom Arden of the Attorney General’s office, who also set about trying to help. While I waited for them to make phone calls, Galaxy enjoyed showing off some of her skills, and I enjoyed talking about the work she does for me. I also talked about Canine Companions for Independence, the wonderful program that trained us to work together.

Unfortunately that particular day was a furlough day so most of the city offices were closed and we could not find the right place for disability-related complaints. Eventually a call was made to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s office, where one of his staff conveyed how very upset the Mayor was to hear that the incident with the cab drivers happened in his city. Although I never did find the appropriate place to lodge a complaint and make my request for training of the cab company, I felt very supported by all the wonderful people who wanted very much to assist me.

Follow-up at Home

On June 21, my first day back in the NVRC office after HLAA’s Milwaukee convention, I received an email from Officer Walter Tyshynsky of the Milwaukee Police Department. He said he was sorry to hear that I had an unpleasant experience with the city’s taxicab service and would like to speak with me about the situation.

I replied with the details he requested such as the time when the first cab driver refused to take me and the numbers of the cabs that the drivers were using. After reading my account, Officer Tyshynsky said he would like to cite the two cab drivers who “failed to provide service.”

He said that what the cabbies had done was completely against city ordinance and that there was a $374 citation for refusing to convey an orderly passenger. He asked whether there were any local residents who were witnesses and could possibly be used as complainants. Unfortunately I did not know of any local witnesses. We’d spent a lengthy time enjoying the food and camaraderie at the restaurant and the streets around Coast were deserted except for our party when we exited the restaurant.

I did, however, tell Officer Tyshynsky that Pamela Ransom, who tried to intercede on my behalf and does not have hearing loss, would probably be the best witness from our group. He later followed up and asked her a number of questions.

Mayor Barrett Touches Base

Within a week I’d also heard from Shannon Hayes, staff assistant to Mayor Barrett, touching base on the cab issue and encouraging me to call the Mayor’s office if I had questions or concerns. I let her know that Officer Tyshynsky had been diligently gathering information from me. I asked that she tell Mayor Barrett that his very supportive response, and that of others from whom I sought help, had convinced me that Milwaukee is one of the friendliest and most welcoming cities I have ever visited.

In early August, I heard again from Officer Tyshynsky. He requested some personal information from me because it was required to make charges against the cabbies. I provided the information but said that more than a monetary fine I would appreciate a requirement that Yellow Cab educate its drivers on nondiscrimination of passengers with service dogs. In response he told me that the cabbies knew their responsibilities but had denied being told that Galaxy was a service dog, or that anyone had any kind of disability.

A Surprise in the Mail

Some weeks later, on September 27, I received three subpoenas from the City of Milwaukee. They required me to appear in Milwaukee Municipal Court on October 25, 2010 to give evidence in action against the two cab drivers.

I was completely taken aback. It had never been my intention to go to court, and the language of the subpoena was frightening – with “you are hereby commanded to appear in person before the judge” and “failure to appear may result in punishment for contempt, which may include monetary penalties, imprisonment, and other sanctions” – which made me feel like I was being a victim twice.

Everyone with whom I consulted about my options told me that if I did not show up in court it was most likely that the charges against the cab drivers would be dismissed.

I wrestled with what I should do. I didn’t like my options. I had invested a lot of time and effort in pursuing action, with the hope it would have a lasting impact through education that would end discriminatory practices. I wanted to see it through. Yet appearing in court would take away two days for travel and the trial, days I really needed to catch up on work at NVRC, and the round trip cost would not be cheap. An additional worry was the possibility that if I flew to Milwaukee and the trial was postponed, I’d have gained nothing and would face the expense of returning again.

I talked about this with my NVRC family and other colleagues. I got a lot of support from a group of hearing dog partners who, along with their dogs, had also graduated from Canine Companions for Independence. Some of them, bless their hearts, asked if they could send me money to help pay for the trip.

Time for a Decision

Those of you who know me well have probably guessed that because I am passionate about justice and have never been a quitter, I just had to go to court in Milwaukee.

The desire to have something come of my effort and that of all the people who tried to help, coupled with the knowledge that without the cab drivers would never have to learn and understand how hurtful they had been, was strong. I wanted them to have a clear message that their behavior would never be acceptable.

I set about trying to find a good deal on plane tickets and a hotel. Once those were set, I was tense whenever I found an email from Officer Tyshynsky, fearing news that the case had been postponed. The days leading up to my flight were long and challenging, as October was a very busy one at NVRC and I had been juggling a lot of advocacy activities on top of my usual packed schedule.

Preparing for the Trip

On Friday, October 22 and Saturday, October 23, I took a grueling trip with my husband Fred to New York for a memorial service honoring his parents, followed by a luncheon with family and friends. Those two days consisted of very little sleep and lots of driving. I thought that after years of enduring excruciating delays on our infamous Beltway I had been through the worst of traffic nightmares, but nothing beat the horrendous hours we spent on the New Jersey turnpike. Traffic ranged from dead stop to barely moving as ten lanes tried to merge into two. We’d hoped to be home by 7 p.m. on Saturday at the latest, but we pulled into our driveway after midnight, totally wrung out even before we started hauling in things into the house.

I got up very early Sunday, October 24 so I could pack for myself and Galaxy, get my papers and tickets together, and take a quick look at the mail that came in during our absence. The first thing I did was to put Galaxy outside to do her business. When she returned to the house and I got my first look at her in the bright lights of our kitchen, my heart sank like a boulder. She was carrying both her ears lower than normal, which I have come to recognize as a telltale sign of an ear infection. The stress of the trip to New York, both emotionally and physically, had affected her immune system.

The last thing any responsible partner wants to do when their hearing dog has an ear infection is fly off in a plane where there is bound to be more stress. Even though Galaxy looks forward to flights because of our ritual of sharing a banana after she carries it to the gate, the changes in air pressure are definitely not good for ears already under assault, and yet another change in her daily routine from being in a new location and different time zone was bound to add more stress.

A Depressing First

The timing could not have been worse. It had been more than 19 years since I traveled without a hearing dog. And how ironic that the one of the times I most wanted her to be with me Galaxy would have to be left behind! I had been confident that when I walked into the courtroom with my sweet, beautifully behaved golden girl it would make an impact. People would know that the cab drivers hadn’t been threatened by an unruly dog.

I had to fight back tears when I woke Fred and told him the news that I could not take her with me. Then, because Galaxy is so quick to sense and react to my emotions, I reined them in tightly and finished packing. I wanted to head out as if it was nothing out of the ordinary and she was in for some fun while I was gone. Fred dropped me off at National Airport and then headed with Galaxy to an after-hours veterinary clinic to have a look at her ears.

Nothing was going right about this trip. I checked my bag, made it through security, and found a seat at the terminal. To take my mind off my sadness, I decided to do some work while waiting for the flight.

Unexpected Friends

Just as I was setting up my laptop I saw someone on the other side of the terminal looking at me. I thought she looked very familiar but wondered if my brain was playing tricks. Then we made eye contact. She smiled and waved. Oh yes, of course! It was Eloise Schwarz, who had been one of the participants in the Wisconsin advocacy training that Claude Stout and I taught two years ago.

Eloise was just returning after a weekend training at Hearing Loss Association of America’s office in Bethesda, MD. She was full of ideas and resolve to make a difference. We talked for a while and I learned about some of her advocacy and education projects.

Also in the terminal were two other women who had traveled to the training that Eloise attended. They were equally wonderful and I enjoyed talking with them as well. One was Brenda Neubeck, who works for DeafCAN! in Sylvan Lake, Minnesota. The second was Marisa Sarto, a student at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Exploring Milwaukee

The flight on Frontier, complete with its famous warm chocolate chip cookie, was uneventful but I felt totally lost without Galaxy. When the plane landed in Milwaukee, I followed Eloise long enough to meet her husband before heading to pick up my bag and find a ride to my hotel. I had chosen to stay at the Hilton, which had been the convention hotel for Hearing Loss Association of America. Their service had been outstanding, they were close by the courthouse, and also, cruel irony, I favored them in large part because they have a lovely outdoor courtyard that is perfect for exercising and relief of a working dog.

Since not so nice weather had been predicted for the following morning, I decided to immediately head out to find the courthouse so I could gauge how long the walk would be. I have a terrible sense of direction so I wanted to leave nothing to chance. My cases were on the docket for 8:30 am and I planned to arrive as early as possible to ensure I would find my courtroom.

I headed out from the Hilton and eventually found the courthouse, but something about it felt wrong. Clearly it was a courthouse and a large one at that, but the address did not match the one that was on my subpoenas. I wandered, and then wandered some more. After about 90 minutes I was cold, tired, battered by the wind and frustrated so I started asking people on the street if there was another courthouse. Most apologized that they didn’t know and pointed me to city signs, which gave me no more clues.

Finally I stood at the intersection of one street, my gut telling me something was missing, and mentally walked the streets again. I was out there so long, and with such a look of concentration, that a nearby shop owner came out and asked if she could help. When I told her that I found a courthouse but it didn’t match the street address on my papers, she said that the city streets are just funky that way and that there was no other courthouse.

Settling in for the Evening

Relieved, I called it quits and headed back to the hotel, where I finally took the time to check my BlackBerry for messages. I found photos Fred had taken of himself with Galaxy resting nearby, dosed with ear drops after her trip to the clinic. He also had an update on the Redskins game, now in its third quarter. That reminded me of the sports bar at the Hilton – 100{31ab897a4370feb218155abc15d7b38f5bba01528a749bd66fe114ec092a63fc} smoke free, another reason why I love Milwaukee. The bar gets big bonus points as well for the flat screen televisions showing different games, with a volume below the blaring din of your average sports bar. It appeared that each game had at least one screen showing captions.

I immediately decided it was a good time to have my lunch/dinner. At my request, the kitchen whipped up a special salad for me. I chomped on it while trying cheer discreetly for my team, this being enemy territory until the game’s end. Occasionally Fred and I would text each other with our opinions about a play, and when the Redskins won we did a high five by BlackBerry.

The Night Before

I spent the evening before the court hearing in my hotel room, on a date with my laptop to reduce the email that had piled up since my trip to New York. Ending the day was discombobulating without my usual routine; no uplifting play time with Galaxy, no last walk outside for fresh air to and from a pet relief area, no final cuddle before brushing her teeth and hitting the sack. I also felt drained from sleep deprivation and stress.

That night I didn’t have much that resembled sleep. As the hours ticked by, my discomfort morphed into a raging cold with a monster headache, constant postnasal drip, and total absence of energy. But what made the night most difficult was that I feared I would not wake in time to make my court appearance. Without Galaxy I felt very vulnerable. I would not have any alerts to the clock alarm or a door knock. As a result, I repeatedly dozed off for 15-20 minutes at a time, always awaking with a jolt to look at my watch, in panic that I had overslept. Finally at 6 a.m. on Monday morning I gave up and dragged myself to the shower.

Morning Preparations

Revived a bit, I dressed and gave notice to my body’s adrenaline supply that it needed to rise to the occasion. I reviewed my email conversations with Officer Tyshynsky to refresh my memory, and then headed to the Starbucks in the lobby for some oatmeal. I ate in my room while watching local weather reports and reading the newest arrivals on my BlackBerry.

At 7:15 a.m. I was ready to wrap up and head for the courthouse so I could be there when it opened at 8 a.m. I stopped to pull back the drapes on my window for a check on the current weather, and was astonished by how dark it was. That’s when it dawned on me that I had been looking only at the time on my watch, which I hadn’t adjusted for the time zone difference in Milwaukee! I killed another hour by slowly drinking a second cup of tea, deleting more from my BlackBerry, and doing a mental critique of the captioning on Milwaukee news programs.

I had a crisp morning for my walk to the courthouse. Once inside, I asked at the information desk for directions to the Branch 3 courtroom and showed the officer one of my subpoenas because his face expressed that he was a bit perplexed. He perused a grid on his clipboard and told me to go through security and then take an elevator to a courtroom on the sixth floor. I found that particular courtroom locked, so I sat outside the room on one of the benches that looked like church pews to wait.

Waiting for Court

Traffic for the other courtrooms on that floor picked up as the minutes ticked by, but I was the only one waiting at mine. It was a bit unnerving because I have never been to court and everything I know about it is from Perry Mason, LA Law, Judge Judy, Boston Legal or another TV show. What I hadn’t expected was the constant stream of prisoners in handcuffs and chains walking by with guards or police escorts, some of them in groups chained together and many of them wearing day glo orange garb.

After 20 minutes I was still alone on the bench and growing more and more concerned that I was in the wrong place. I walked down to talk to one of the people waiting at a nearby courtroom and was told not to worry. Fifteen minutes later, with alarm bells getting louder in my head, I stopped an officer going by and he said the same thing. At 8:20, ten minutes before my case was to be heard, an officer finally walked to the courtroom, unlocked the door and went inside. I was giddy with relief but still anxious, so after counting a good minute on my watch, I opened the door, walked in, and showed him my papers.

“You’re in the wrong courthouse,” he said. I told him that every single person I’d talked to assured me this was the right place. He calmly but firmly told me that I would need to go to another courthouse.

A Moment of Panic

His words unleashed a flood of thoughts inside my head. I’d come all this way, made all this effort to be on time, and got confirmation from so many people that this was the right courthouse. Now I was not even going to make it to court in time!

I fought those thoughts, focused hard on his face, and asked the officer where the other courthouse was. He told me it was nearby, just a block away. I took a deep breath, thanked him, and raced to the elevator, where I died a thousand deaths as it worked its way down six floors with stops at every one. Nearing the ground floor it suddenly hit me that the officer had told me the courthouse was a block away, but he hadn’t told me in which direction the block was.

It’s There, But Try to Find It

Nobody in the elevator knew where that other courthouse was, so I went outside the building and started running to find it. After fruitlessly checking blocks on two sides without success, I was already passing the time for my case to begin. Accepting defeat was just too painful, so I rearranged my priorities and decided to make an appearance anyway. At least that way someone would know I cared passionately about being denied a cab ride due to discrimination, and had tried my best to be there.

That decision made, I asked a man passing on the sidewalk whether he knew about a second courthouse. He smiled and said that indeed there was one; that people made the mistake I had all the time, and many residents never even know it’s there. He invited me to follow him, as he was going in that direction.

I will never forget this man’s kindness; during our brief walk he told me that the courthouse I was heading to was a nicer one to be in and gave me a glimmer of hope that they might be accommodating of my tardiness.

As we approached his destination, he stopped and coached me to go to the end of the block, turn right, and then look for the building. The reason people can’t find it or don’t know it’s there, he warned me, is that it doesn’t look like a courthouse. “What is confusing is that the front of the building where the entrance is located is white, so look for that, he said. “Most people only go there if they are paying a traffic ticket in person instead of sending the money or coming for traffic court.”

Even with his directions, I wasn’t at all confident I had found the correct building until I got closer and walked inside. I somehow managed to head in the right direction, and Officer Tyshynsky found me as I was preparing to head through security. I told Officer Tyshynsky why Galaxy wasn’t with me as he led me to the courtroom.

In the Courtroom at Last

What a pleasure it was to meet the man with whom I had been corresponding. Officer Tyshynsky’s news was ever better. Despite arriving at least 15 minutes past my required time, I wasn’t too late! The judge was not yet seated and the court wasn’t in session. A great weight lifted from me.

I hadn’t been sure I would recognize the two cab drivers if I saw them again, but after entering the courtroom and taking a seat I immediately found them. They were sitting together and I recognized which one had been the driver of the first cab and which the second.

Communication Access in the Courtroom

I’d requested a sign language interpreter for the hearing, although I mentioned CART was my best choice. Officer Tyshynsky had confirmed before my trip that I would have a “translator” so I wasn’t entirely sure what I would be getting. I had come prepared to ask people to repeat or write things down if I did not understand them.

I was overjoyed to learn that I would have not just a very skilled court interpreter with legal certification but also a certified deaf interpreter. When my request for an interpreter had been passed on, it was unclear what my communication needs would be, so both were sent. I was hugely impressed.

The city attorney asked me and the interpreters to follow her to another area, where she briefed me on the hearing process and asked me some questions about what had happened with the cab drivers that June evening. Then we all returned to the courtroom.

The Court Session Begins

Within a few minutes, Judge Philip M. Chavez walked in and court was in session. He first heard two cases involving drunken driving. I was impressed with both the efficiency in how the cases were heard and with the judge’s personal comments to each defendant during the sentencing.

One of my cases was next. The interpreter was sworn in, and then those of us giving testimony were sworn in.

I was the first person called to testify and was told to enter the witness box. The attorney asked me a series of questions such as the location of the cab incidents and a description of my interaction with the cab drivers. At one point I was asked if the first cab driver was in the courtroom, to which I responded yes, and then I was asked to identify the first cab driver and describe what he was wearing. Later, I was asked the same questions about the second cabbie.

I tried to be terse in my answers and stick to the facts, but at least twice the questions touched my emotions and I briefly veered off. The first time was when I was taken off guard by a request to describe Galaxy. I said that I was so sorry she was unable to be with me and talked about her sweet and kind nature before describing her physically. The second was when relating the facts about the cab drivers’ refusal. I mentioned how bad I felt for the friends who were planning to ride with me or in the other cabs. Though I didn’t elaborate beyond that, I still carry the strong memory how they stood up for me. I love them for it, yet I am sorry it marred the evening for them and that it delayed the return to their hotels.

Office Tyshynsky Takes the Stand

Officer Tyshynsky testified next. He chronicled what he had done since getting the case, detailing his follow up with me, Pam Ransom and the cab drivers. Using the cab numbers provided by me and Pam, he had obtained the names of the drivers from Yellow Cab. He discovered that they lived at the same address.

On visits to their house, he talked separately with each of the drivers. They both told him they didn’t pick me up that night. One said it was because he had a dog phobia and the other said it was because he was allergic to dogs. Officer Tyshynsky asked to see their trip records and they said they had no trip records showing a trip that night to Coastal restaurant.

The Cab Drivers’ Turn

As the first and then the second cab driver took the stand, I became more and more concerned. They were like twins in giving many of the same answers to questions, and some of their testimony put in dispute mine and Officer Tyshynsky’s.

Officer Tyshynsky was brought back to the stand for further questions,. He elaborated on how he had conducted his investigation and what evidence he had gathered. This included more information about statements the cab drivers had made in answer to his questions.

Judge Perez asked some questions in regard to the trip records. The cabbies had no trip record showing they had gone to Coastal, yet Yellow Cab’s records showed that there had been a call requesting a ride and both cabs had responded to it. The judge questioned Office Tyshynsky about the requirement for cab drivers to keep trip records. Officer Tyshynsky explained the purpose of these records and gave examples of how they had helped him in this and other investigations. He was also asked about how the records are generated. He explained that Yellow Cab’s recording of calls for rides is done by computer, and said that the cabbies keep their own trip records.

More Questions for the Cabbies

There might have been a somewhat different outcome with the cases if things had ended there, but both cab drivers were individually called back to the stand for further questioning. The two cabbies’ testimonies began to take some twists and turns, and if I hadn’t trusted my interpreter I would have thought from watching her signs that she had gone completely off her rocker.

One cabbie said he had his trip record with him. He pulled a paper with the record from inside his coat; the judge asked to see it and it was placed in evidence. Both cabbies admitted they had been to Coast. And then a Mr. Johnson entered their stories for the first time.

One cab driver said he didn’t pick me up because he had been called there to pick up “Mr. Johnson,” and I was not Mr. Johnson. Then the other cab driver testified the same thing. There was also a claim by one cabbie that he didn’t see me and another claim that I never got near his cab. One cabbie expressed indignation that Yellow Cab never told him he was going to be picking up a disabled person, and later another comment was made about how I never told him I was disabled.

Judge Perez Makes His Decision

Judge Perez didn’t waste any time making his decision on the cases. He called both cabbies to the front of the courtroom, and as they stood watching him, he gave a recap of the testimony that continued for several minutes. He told the cab drivers that they had not been credible, while calling my testimony and Officer Tyshynsky’s very credible. Judge Perez also made a comment about how I had gone to a lot of trouble and traveled a great distance to be at the trial and noted that the Yellow Cab records are not easy to falsify, unlike the trip records from one cabbie that were put in evidence.

Looking sternly at the cabbies, Judge Perez told them that they had done a very despicable thing to me that was a black eye on the city and that they had embarrassed me in front of my friends. He pointed out that I had spoken my testimony and that he could understand me clearly; saying that they should have talked with me that evening at Coasl but did not even try.

Then he talked about the Americans with Disabilities Act’s importance and what it means to so many people with disabilities and why. As Judge Perez moved to raise his gavel to close the cases, the city attorney requested an additional $500 fine for both cabbies, which the judge granted immediately.

Suddenly it was over and I felt a great weight lift from me.

The Costs

Each of the cab drivers was fined $374 for failure to convey me, and an additional $204 for not having the required trip records. Then there was that bit tacked on at the end.

There was a cost for me too. I was given two slips of paper for “witness fees,” for which I’m told I’ll eventually be sent about $6 per case. As Officer Tyshynsky said it’s “enough for a couple cups of coffee.”

But the round trip flight and fees, along with transportation to and from the airport and the cost of the hotel room was just shy of $600. I also gave up two days of my life.

In return I have something priceless.

The Court Experience

At the end of the trial I joined the city attorney and Officer Tyshynsky at the front of the courtroom. I suddenly saw both of them look to the rear of the courtroom and followed their gaze. A man was standing there, looking very alarmed and saying something I could not make out. After exiting the courtroom I learned from Officer Tyshynsky that the man at the back of the courtroom had the next case before the court, and this man was also a cab driver with a violation. He had become so unnerved by the judgment in my cases that he wanted to change his plea to “no contest’.

Office Tyshynsky and I have exchanged some emails since I returned home, and he said that he expects the case to resonate within the taxicab community. Somehow I feel certain that if it doesn’t he’ll be happy to remedy that.

I have nothing but praise for my first court experience. Officer Tyshynsky did an awesome job with his investigation, his testimony, and helping to put me at ease in a situation I’ve never before had to navigate. The city attorney demonstrated great efficiency and professionalism. Judge Perez was an inspiring role model, with his keen understanding and his ability to deliver hard judgments with compassion and encouragement for those at fault to become better human beings.

The two interpreters had fantastic skills, informing me of everything that transpired and giving me confidence that they would be my voice if my own couldn’t be understood. Just as valuable to me was how they made me feel less alone in the courtroom; I would have been much more anxious without them.

I returned from the court to retrieve my bag in my hotel room, then parked it and worked on my laptop in the Starbucks. There I sipped herbal tea until the Airport Connection van picked me up. I was glad I’d arranged that transportation in advance, because the block in front of the hotel had as many as five Yellow Cab drivers parked and waiting out front every time I checked. I didn’t feel quite comfortable using one that day.

The Return

I had a lovely return to National Airport at the tail end of rush hour. Darkness had fallen and the flight path took us along the maze of interstates and highways; the red and white brake lights and headlights of vehicles packed bumper to bumper looked like a giant holiday display. It felt like I was getting a special, festive return. And I was. Fred had dressed Galaxy in her vest and put on her orange leash. He didn’t tell me he was bringing her to meet me. As I was walking, he waved to catch my attention. I was startled, and then I saw her. I crouched low, held out my hands and called her name. Fred let go of her leash, and as she came rushing to me .I was so happy that I burst into tears. For two days Galaxy was somewhat tentative as if afraid we were no longer partners, but now we are again two very different bodies that are one being.

Cheryl and Hearing Dog, Galaxy
Cheryl and Galaxy