Writer left in tears after her therapy dog was refused entry into an Edinburgh AA meeting

Catherine and four-year-old toy poodle Lucy left out in the rain

Monday, 16th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 16th December 2019, 8:09 am
Writer Catherine Winchester was hoping the group at Edinburgh Christadelphian Church in Gayfield Place would become her regular haven.
Writer Catherine Winchester was hoping the group at Edinburgh Christadelphian Church in Gayfield Place would become her regular haven.

A RECOVERING alcoholic has told how she was turned away from an AA meeting w in the pouring rain because her therapy dog was refused entry.

Writer Catherine Winchester was hoping the group at Edinburgh Christadelphian Church in Gayfield Place would become her regular haven.

But instead Catherine, dry for 14 years, ended up walking home to Newhaven in floods of tears with four-year-old toy poodle Lucy.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Catherine and therapy dog, Lucy

“It’s a good job I had so many years dry under my belt, if I hadn’t you can bet your bottom dollar my first trip would’ve been to a bar which is why I think it’s so appalling,” said Catherine, 42.

The historical novelist said she tried to call three times ahead to check if Lucy was allowed as a courtesy but no one answered so she had no alternative but to just turn up.

“It was pouring with rain and the first thing I said when they opened the door was ‘is she all right’,” said Catherine.

“She was wearing her service vest which marks her out as a therapy dog and they immediately said ‘no’ and I said ‘she is a service dog, you can see that’ and they said the Christadelphians don’t allow dogs.

Four-year-old toy poodle Lucy.

Diagnosed with PTSD, Catherine got former rescue dog Lucy two years ago to help her through panic attacks and flashbacks after being stalked by an ex-boyfriend.

"I burst into tears, unfortunately and howled all the way home"

“I didn’t really have a lot of choice, I had to go. If they’re not going to let us in, I’m not going to leave her out in the rain. I burst into tears, unfortunately and howled all the way home.

“It’s one of the things Lucy is helping me with so she was trying to get across to me to stop crying and I just want to get home and into the warm.

“They blamed the Chritadelphians so I contacted the church - they have a very dog friendly police, they even allow pets into services.”

Ms Winchester set out for a meeting after two years of stress culminated with her 69-year-old mother going into a home with dementia.

“I was hopeful now that I’ve got time for myself I could make this my home group which is the one you attend most often because it used to be my safe place, somewhere I could completely relax and unwind and get rid of all my stress.

“I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable going there again. What really annoyed me is that for a lot of people that could’ve been their first meeting, their first contact with the AA and that would’ve put them off for life probably.”

Ms Winchester said Lucy is hypoallergenic and she would be willing to coordinate different meetings with any attendees scared of dogs.

The pair previously attended an AA meeting at Royal Edinburgh Hospital without any problems.

“What I want to know is why they banned her?” Asked Catherine. “I do realise there are some reasons why dogs aren’t allowed but they won’t tell me what those reasons are so I don’t know if they’re valid.”

The AA have been approached for comment.