Last week, after Air Force veteran James Glaser and his service dog, Jack, were turned away from Big I’s diner in Oxford, Massachusetts, the Internet — and Oxford — erupted.
Much of the furor stemmed from owner Russell Ireland’s callous treatment of Glaser, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. When Glaser entered the restaurant, he heard someone say, “Get that f-ing fake service dog out of my restaurant.” It was Ireland.
“Just the fact he did it in public, I never felt so belittled in my life,” Glaser told NECN in an interview.
After being kicked out, Glaser called the police, who informed Ireland that he was in the wrong, but Ireland held his ground.
“This is not a needs dog to me,” Ireland said after the incident. “He did not come in with a harness. There’s no muzzle on it.”
He also made snide comments.
“How much emotional support do you need when you’re eating breakfast?” he said, according to the Boston Globe.
After Glaser wrote about the event on Facebook, Ireland’s world came crashing down. The story drew national attention, outraging veterans and service dog owners alike. A Boycott Big I’s Facebook page sprang up, which currently has more than 33,000 likes. Big I’s has received a steady stream of angry calls and even arson threats; Ireland has received death threats.
“It’s the talk of the town; you can’t go anywhere without hearing about it,” said Gordon Cook of Carl’s Oxford Diner.
Things came to a head this weekend at a veterans’ rally, which was staged at the Greenbriar Recreation Area near the diner to heighten awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder in light of the incident. The rally was organized by the state’s chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and more than 300 people attended — after first roaring past Big I’s.
Fortunately, one of those was Ireland. Stung by criticism — and probably looking out for his business — he attended the rally, got on stage, and apologized directly to Glaser.
“I stand before you embarrassed, ashamed,” said Ireland, addressing the crowd and Glaser. “I ask for your forgiveness.”
“I just want to thank you for the apology,” said Glaser.
After the rally, Ireland invited Glaser and his wife back to Big I’s for a free meal.
“I was very uneducated about post-traumatic stress disorder,” Ireland told the Boston Globe. “I now realize how important the love of the animals are to those who suffer from the disorder.
“This has been a living nightmare,” Ireland said. “I am an old-fashioned guy, and this seems to be part of the problem. I am not well known for being politically correct.”
As for Glaser, he is focusing on using his fame to increasing awareness of PTSD. On his Facebook page, he wrote:
“Just a reminder that the boycott is over and I wish people to eat at his establishment. The purpose of all of this now is education, and he says he is learning and learned. Now let us focus on a bigger forum for education of [the Americans with Disabilities Act] laws and PTSD.”
Via the Boston Globe