Treated Like Dogs

PATTI Lawson


I developed a love of books early and a trip to our local library was always a wonderful event in my life. That’s why now, whenever Sadie and I are asked to participate in an event at a library, we always say yes. It’s been rewarding seeing the expression on kids face’s when they meet a dog in the library and to hear their dreams of writing. That was until this past Saturday in a small West Virginia town. From now on, I’ll make sure the library REALLY wants a dog there, because if they don’t, then they don’t want me either.

You can learn a lot about hospitality and decorum by watching Sadie and probably most dogs as I learned at this event. Sadie is always the star at our book signings. Ever personable, she kicks it up a notch or two when she is “working.” Everyone stops to see Sadie…beautiful…tail wagging…ready to beg for a stomach scratch at any moment; she’s out front doing her job. But even dogs can sense when they are not welcome and she was not her usual self at this gathering.

When we arrived, there was an area of long white tables set up and most of the authors already seated and smiling. However, we were shown to a table quite a distance away, at the back of the room, with the explanation…”The director felt you’d be more comfortable near the door with HIM.” HIM! Did these people even read the jacket of my book? How could anyone not know SAIDE is a SHE! I politely told the woman that Sadie has probably traveled more than then entire staff put together and would be most comfortable where the other authors were set up.

A table was procured for us and we set up our poster and books. I asked for a bowl of water for Sadie, one of her few requirements while she works. It seemed to cause quite a bit of consternation among the library staff and about 35 minutes later, a plastic container with ONE HALF inch of water was produced with the warning that the “Director” didn’t allow water in the library and didn’t want Sadie to spill it on the carpet. As a matter of fact, we were told that the DIRECTOR was being “generous” and “allowing” the authors to have their own bottles of water today just as a FAVOR. Who would expect people or a dog to sit for four hours with NOTHING to drink?

About an hour into this ordeal, I noticed Sadie. She was lying very still, very flat under my chair and she remained there the entire time except when coaxed out to meet a few people. This event was not well attended and it was no wonder. Who wants to come to a library fraught with such inane rules?

A “reception” was planned afterward for the authors and we noticed some preparations coming together outside in a little courtyard. A staff member came by to tell the authors that the reception was going to begin early and we could go out and have some food, but we could not bring any of it back to our table…and she would “watch” Sadie so I could go. That was the last humiliation….want me…want my dog. We both declined the opportunity to stand out in the hot sun and gobble down some food, opting instead to take our books and come home.

Sadie realized the stress swirling around this place and it was foreign to her. Libraries are places that should foster the love of books….places where you feel free to dream….to reach for the stars… not be afraid of spilling a drop of water on the carpet. I thought of the dozens of book signings where Sadie and I were welcomed, both provided with something to drink and often to eat as well. I had flashbacks of the generosity and love given to us in strange cities where people treated us with kindness and we both relaxed and had a great time. Sadie reacted like most of us do to restrictions and feeling unwelcome…she retreated…she became as invisible as she could possibly be. She couldn’t be herself and that made me very sad. Just when I thought I knew everything about my wonderful, little dog, she amazed me again.

I apologized to Sadie on the way home and promised her I would never take her anywhere again where she wasn’t welcome. We put the top down on the car, cruised through a fast food place and got a couple of hamburgers and some bottled water…which we ate in the car oblivious to the crumbs feeling the freedom of more than just the wind in our faces.

Patti and Sadie Lawson are available for any event that promotes reading, the welfare of animals, and kindness to all creatures.