Laws are Just Words on Paper

notwelcomePeople live longer than dogs.  Knowing that never makes it easy when your four-legged one dies.  You’re never truly prepared for the grief of losing such a pure heart that never judged, criticized or disappointed.  A heart that only knew how to love.

Losing a service dog is devastating.  The grief is overwhelming.

A safety line has been cut and there’s a freefall into an abyss.

You become lost at sea in a boat without a motor, oars, compass or GPS.  Your lose your bearings and can no longer navigate a course.

The safe haven becomes vulnerable.  Doubts, fears, anxiety and stress return.

When he came into my life I still had a salaried, full-time career.  I no longer had to set my alarm clock 45 minutes earlier than needed to compensate for the days I didn’t hear it as soon as it went off.  It was his job to hear the alarm.  And I could sleep in the middle of the bed instead of the edge knowing he would get me up on time.  If I forgot to lock all the doors, I didn’t need to worry.  He would wake me while I slept if he thought I needed to be aware of a sound  — even if it was just a thunderstorm.  He always got ready to bring me to the door whenever he heard anyone pass by the house, even when it was just the mailman stopping at the end of the driveway…

It’s taken a year to retrain myself to living without the help of my four-legged partner.  Came close to destroying the teakettle twice in a single week.  Burnt dinner another night, but thanks to Heloise saved the pot.  Without the little guy I have to stay in the kitchen and stand by the stove.  I don’t wake up at the same time every morning.  And I’m back to waiting by the door for service people, missed some completely, missed phone calls.  UPS delivered unexpectedly a day early and I had to wait three days for the package to thaw out and hope there was no damage from sitting on my porch in zero degree weather…

At the time of the first layoff (creatively called outsourcing), employees had the opportunity to make a hardship business case to be retained and not put out of work.  My supervisor laughed in my face.  She made a deal for herself since she was a year from being eligible to leave with her pension intact.  And she made a deal for a colleague whose hardship was apparently being a father.  Imagine the massive obstacles a dad with 20 years’ experience who’s confident, capable, possesses all the marketable skills in demand and is merely another casualty of downsizing would face to gain new employment.  I certainly can’t.  I don’t believe my business case went any further than her wastebasket.

And the doors kept closing.  I lost track of how many interviewers escorted me to the building lobby to conduct the interview.  Seriously, you don’t have an office?  Is this protocol for prospective employees not to get past reception?  Is it that you don’t want current employees to realize you’re not really an EEO employer?  Or is it just that you think we have cooties?

Then there were the petty jealous ones who were miffed that they couldn’t bring their dogs to work.

There were those who suspected my résumé and credentials were completely fabricated when I arrived for the interview with a dog.  Yes, I got my degrees/certifications out of a Cracker Jacks box.  Doesn’t everyone?  Peanuts, popcorn and a prize.  After an hour and a half at one interview, trying to find a lie in my qualifications,  Sneakers got up and looked at me. “He’s not going to give us the job, no matter how much skill and talent we have.”  And the punchline:  the interviewer had already accepted a transfer out of state and would never have been my department head.

Bonus: Supervisor and staff looked past the dog and wanted my skills and talent to add to their team.  However, for two weeks HR was never available for a meeting to ink the deal.  A headhunter had given me the lead.  Last I heard from him he was going to call his client and find out why the deal hadn’t been finalized.  Neither the company nor the headhunter would return my calls after that.

When I told unemployment that I was facing discriminatory practices, their response was “Oh no. There are laws against that. It would be illegal.”  There are laws against murder too and still it happens every day.

Not a single state agency, labor or otherwise, cared or attempted to take action.  The State’s Advocate Office, upon hearing about the lobby incidents said “That wasn’t right.”  No shit Sherlock.  What are you going to do about it?  Enforcing labor laws is apparently in no one’s job description.  I was asked if I had retained a lawyer.  Seriously?  The unemployment checks didn’t cover my living costs.

So the laws become just words on paper when there is no enforcement, no punishment, no threat of any penalties, sanctions or repercussions.  This is how bullies are allowed to thrive and multiply in the workplace.  They can scoff at laws with impunity, smug in their knowledge they can circumnavigate laws that aren’t enforced.  And it empowers them.

There were a couple of contract jobs, but then there were budget cuts…And as the time I spent being involuntarily unemployed stretched between jobs and interviews, my credentials and experience became…worthless.

Would I ever have believed that I would lose a pension and career long before retirement age due to petty juveniles?  Would I have ever conceived of the notion that when I was at the peak of my career and should have my choice of jobs that people would only see a dog instead of “Wow, we’d be fools not to hire someone with these qualifications.”?  If I had ever thought a service dog would trump brains and talent would I have traded him in for a job?

Not for a single second.

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