As Kevin Steele describes how a City of Langley bylaw officer issued him a $100 ticket for not leashing his dog, his voice begins to rise.
That gets the attention of Ed, the three-year-old Pomeranian which drew the fine.
The small dog crosses the floor and lies at his owner’s feet, looking up.
Steele immediately dials it down.
“He’s my coping mechanism,” Steele says of Ed.
“Quite literally my coping mechanism.”
Steele, a 51-year-old former driller, barely survived a 2009 workplace accident that left him permanently disabled after a 1,350-lb. pipe fell on his head.
He suffered severe head, spine and other nerve damage.
One leg had to be amputated and the other is so numb he needs an ankle brace and two canes when he isn’t using his electric scooter.
Currently, thanks to one of his many falls, he has a broken thumb on one hand and can only use a single cane.
He suffers from chronic pain that requires “heavy-duty” medication.
He has survived six heart attacks and one stroke since the accident.
The struggle with pain and disability made him angry, he recalls.
“I had no reason to live, no reason to go on,” he says.
His psychologist told him to get a dog.
“You have to have a dog,” Steele recalls the doctor telling him.
“You have to have focus.”
Steele has a to-whom-it-may-concern letter from the doctor which says Ed is “more than just a typical pet” who has “become one of his [Steele’s] main coping strategies” for dealing with the loss of his leg and related pain.
“There isn’t anything on my body that doesn’t hurt,” Steele says.
“My dog gets me out every day. He’s my crutch.”
He insists Ed picked him when he went to select a puppy at a pet store.
Ed was the only one that noticed him looking and looked back, Steele says.
He waited a day to be sure and when he went back the next day, Ed was still the only one who paid attention to him.
Steele says Ed has a calm, laid-back personality that is soothing to be around.
“Everybody loves Ed,” he says.
Everybody, except, perhaps, the City of Langley bylaw enforcement officer who handed Steele a $100 ticket because Ed was not on a leash.
It happened the morning of May 13 near McBurney Lane.
Steele said he attempted to explain that he could not keep Ed on a leash because he needs his only working hand to hold his cane.
“It’s a physical impossibility.”
He does not want to keep Ed on a tether attached to his belt because the last time he tried, he tripped and fell on the 16-pound Ed, who couldn’t dodge the impact because of the tether.
As a result, Ed now walks with a slight limp.
On the day of his run-in with the bylaw officer, Steele says the officer was rude and dismissive when he tried to explain his situation.
“I wasn’t very nice, either,” Steele admits, “but I was angry.”
He was handed a ticket for having a “dog at large,” a violation of City bylaws.
Steele has contacted the BC Human Rights Tribunal and intends to file a complaint that he is being discriminated against as a disabled person.
“Something’s got to be done,” he says.
Meanwhile, Steele says his options are either go out with Ed, and risk another fine, or leave his service dog in his house.
Carolyn Mushata, the City’s corporate officer, said that Steele has not provided evidence that his dog is a service dog.
Asked what would constitute proof, Mushata was unable to say. She said she would have to look at what Steele presented before deciding whether to accept it.