Also at all three guide dog schools where I've worked, there's the mall we do most of our training in and then there is The Nice Mall. The Nice Mall is the snooty one, the one where the rich people shop, the one with the shiniest floors and the fanciest stores, the one where you hope even more than usual that your dog doesn't have an accident inside. (Side note: in all the years I have been doing this job, I have had ONE dog have an accident in the mall. Said dog shall remain nameless, but it was at the very end of one of my training cycles at Seeing Eye. I was out of poop bags but had one dog in the string that had never, ever had an accident while in training, so I confidently took that dog in the mall. He had an accident. I was proud of my reaction time. I bent down and pretended to be tying my shoe while I body-blocked my pooping dog from view of the [thankfully few] passers-by. When he was done, I calmly picked up the poop in my hand, walked to the nearest trash can, dropped it in, and calmly walked to the nearest bathroom to wash my hands, telling myself, "It's only dog poop; soap and water will take care of it." I returned to the scene of the crime with wet paper towels from the bathroom but could find no trace of it on the floor. Thankfully the dog did not have diarrhea. I might have been a little less calm if it had.)
Anyway, at Guiding Eyes The Nice Mall was The Westchester, at Seeing Eye it was Short Hills, and at Leader it is Somerset. Actually the name is The Somerset Collection. Really? I feel like reminding people, We're in MICHIGAN, not the suburbs of New York City! How fancy does any shopping mall need to be? Anyway, I digress again. We go to Somerset sometimes at the end of the training cycle just for a different mall experience (most of our mall training is at Lakeside, which is the mall where normal people shop). Every time we go, I cannot help but feel a little grungy going inside. My clothes are covered with dog hair, I don't wear any makeup, my hair might be acceptable or it might be messed up from wearing a hat or from standing outside in the wind and rain, my comfortable work shoes are not the cleanest things in the world... without the dog, I definitely would not go inside The Nice Mall unless I had to. With the dog, I am excused.
The types of people we encounter in The Nice Mall are the same types we encounter in any mall. Most people professionally ignore us. Some people just have to stop us and talk, either because they love the dogs so much, or because they have some connection to Leader and want to talk about it, or because they are curious about training or about how the dogs work. I never mind talking to people or doing public education, so these people don't bother me at all. The only people who bother me are the ones who feel entitled to pet the dog. Either they themselves, or their children. I will say that this has gotten better over the years. Nowadays it is much more common for me to hear Mom explaining to her kids, "That's a working dog, you can't pet it," than to have to ask Mom to control her kids. This is a good thing! Society moves forward. (It is even better when I hear a little kid say to Mom, "That's a working dog!" Yay for education!)
The other day at Somerset I watched all of these women valet park their BMWs and Lexuses and go into Nordstroms and look at $200 purses and $600 dresses like they could actually seriously consider buying them. I don't think I would spend that kind of money on clothes or accessories even if I had that kind of money. I also wonder how there are so many people who are just free to shop at places like Somerset right in the middle of the work day. Are they all married to rich men? Who knows? But I do know that even if I could trade my life for theirs, I would not even consider the possibility. I would rather drive the dog truck than a BMW and I would rather buy new books on dog training than purses, shoes, jewelry, manicures, or any of the other stuff that goes along with having money. Who's the lucky one? I am -- even if I can't afford to buy anything at Somerset and have to do my mall shopping at Lakeside.