Jeff Jardine

Guide dog gets cold shoulder

From the e-mails and voice mails:

NO DOGGIE BAG -- Every so often, folks need a refresher course on the laws regarding guide dogs for the blind.

Recently, a restaurant owner in north Modesto denied Evelyn Burris and Colusa, her guide dog, entry to the eatery. I wrote about Burris and Colusa in November 2004. They've since made 37 appear- ances to schools and groups to extol the virtues of guide dogs.

Burris, 70, and friend Sue McClelland of Modesto planned to meet at the restaurant for lunch after Burris' hair styling appointment at a salon nearby.

McClelland arrived first, and asked for a table in the corner that would have allowed Colusa to remain at Burris' feet.

The restaurant's owner, McClelland said, "was very rude to me. I tried to explain that this isn't any dog. It's a guide dog. He said, 'You get out.'"

She left the restaurant and went to the salon to tell Burris what had happened.

"She decided to try it on her own," McClelland said.

Same result. The owner refused to allow the dog inside.

The women called the Modesto Police Department. When an officer arrived, the owner claimed that Burris never showed him anything that identified her as being blind.

Colusa, however, was wearing the standard vest identifying him as a certified guide dog.

"I was more stunned than angry," Burris said. "I got angry later."

The state penal code states that no blind, deaf or disabled person shall be denied admittance to any place the rest of the public can go.

Had Burris chosen to pursue legal action, the restaurant owner could have been fined up to $2,500.

Instead, a representative of Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, a training and advocacy group, wrote a letter to the restaurant explaining where it had erred and spelled out Penal Code Section 365.5 in its entirety.

The women chose not to identify the restaurant.

"But I can promise I will never try to go there again," Burris said.

They simply want to educate the owners of all public places about the law when it comes to guide dogs.

"It must have been a little bit embarrassing to have a police car pull up in front of his place," McClelland said. "Our intention isn't to embarrass him any further, but to get him to understand the law. If he had been halfway pleasant about it, and said 'You can't come in,' and we could have had a conversation about it, I wouldn't have as much of a problem with it. We never got that chance."

It's the first time Burris has experienced that kind of treatment in a restaurant.

Some places, in fact, are very accommodating. Mimi's Cafe, for an example, prints menus both in oversized type and Braille for its visually impaired customers.

CROSSED ROADS -- Bee reporter Michael R. Shea's story (July 13) about Turlock's goofy streets clearly caught the eye of Nancy Chambers, a dispatcher for the Turlock Irrigation District.

In March, she wrote a letter to the city pointing out that some street names either are misspelled or are close enough to create confusion.

"These three are place names which could have been easily looked up:

Niagara Falls; we have Niagra Street.

Tehama County; ours is Tahama Lane.

Humboldt County; in Turlock it is Humbolt Court."

Another misspelling, she said, required a thumbing through Webster's Dictionary.

"Serenade: to perform a love song for somebody. Our street is Seranade Drive."

She also found a Freitas Court that is nowhere near Freitas Park.

Throw in streets named Niel (Neil?) and Yalonda (Yolanda?), Ray Court, Casey Ray Court and Leerae Court, and four other streets with the name Linn or Lynn somewhere within, and you've got a potential nightmare for police, firefighters and mail carriers.

"When you have (street) names as similar as Fenn and Penn; Silvia and Sylvia; Montara and Montana in different parts of town, it's just a matter of time before confusion reigns," Chambers wrote in an e-mail to The Bee.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or 578-2383.

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