For the life of me, I don’t understand why common sense doesn’t prevail when adults see a person with a service dog. I have a legitimate, skilled service dog, not to be confused with a comfort dog (no such thing), a therapy dog (used to perk up the elderly or children in a hospital), or a three-pound Chihuahua that resides in a pocketbook.
The moment a grown person sees my dog inside a market, they invariably come to a semi-squat position and squeal at her in baby talk. Years ago, I was a lot more tolerant but now it’s growing old. Once, I politely asked a woman who attempted to pet and hold a conversation with my service animal to please ignore her. The woman actually started arguing with me as to why.
Occasionally, as I’m making my way down an aisle, someone will look directly at me and say, “What a beautiful dog,” but those people are rare, indeed. My service dog is voice trained; in other words, she is never on a lead. There is a medical reason for this. Once, as we were crossing a street, a man actually called out to her loudly. I had to prevent her from stopping to look around and see who was calling her.
Another major problem is cars stopping to let us go. My dog is trained to sit at every curb. She knows we wait for cars to pass by, and then upon my command, we make our way across. I fully recognize that people stop their car to be courteous and helpful. But after I’ve waved my arm for them to pass, smiling and nodding the whole time; you’d think the driver would think to his or herself, “I get it, the dog has to wait until there are no cars before it can go!” But no; it becomes a showdown at high noon, with me waving my arm, grinning like an idiot.
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I can understand cars not gunning their engines when they see someone with a service dog waiting at a curb. But once I’m standing there for a full minute or so, repeatedly flailing my arm like a school crossing guard, you would think a person would comprehend that there is a reason the service animal has to wait until no moving cars are visible. Quiet the contrary, children glance over and read the patches on her vest. I engage them whenever possible and say, ``She really wants to play with you and get attention from you. But if she pays attention to you, then who isn’t she paying attention to?” I’ve yet to meet the child that doesn’t immediately say, ``You!”
The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.