This is not earth-shattering, but occurred today at the hairdresser. A woman showed up with her dog. The hairdresser told her there is a no-dog policy. The client’s response: “It’s a service dog.” The dog was an overweight beagle, which proceeded to whine and bark throughout the woman’s stay. He had no harness or ID as a service dog. I am a nurse and am aware of “invisible” health issues … fair enough. But I am also aware that service dogs are well-trained, patient animals. To me, the abuse of this system is akin to the misuse of disability signs in cars. How would you suggest dealing with such a situation in the future? I wanted to point the error of her ways out to her, but decided to stay out of it.
I try to be as “humorous” as I can in this column, but don’t normally tell jokes. Please indulge me this time, though, because your question reminds me of one of my all-time favourites:
Three guys are walking their dogs on a hot summer afternoon. Two have German shepherds, one a chihuahua. The guys are wearing sunglasses because it’s so bright out. They stop in front of a bar.
First guy: “You know what’d be nice? An ice-cold beer.”
Second guy: “But they won’t let us in with our dogs. And I don’t want to leave them outside.”
Third guy: “I have an idea. Let’s pretend we’re blind, and these are our service dogs. Then they have to let us in!”
So they go in, wearing their sunglasses, acting blind, groping their way to the bar, and so on – and order beers. As he serves them, the bartender eyeballs them suspiciously.
“Okay, I believe you guys with the German shepherds,” he says to the first two, handing them beers. To the third he says: “But you expect me to believe your seeing-eye dog is a chihuahua?”
“Aw, man,” the third guy says, “they gave me a chihuahua?”
To me that’s funny – but I don’t want to be guilty of insensitivity here.
As part of my plan to become a more thoughtful and soulful individual, I’ve been trying to exude, exhibit and express compassion when it comes to the phenomenon of service pets and “emotional support animals.”
An emotional support animal is defined as “a person’s pet that has been prescribed by a person’s licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist … [as] part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person’s emotional/psychological disability.”
Service dogs have done amazing things for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Men and women who previously couldn’t go to the movies (in the dark, with the whispering, they fear being attacked), couldn’t sleep, were emotionally numb and so on from the after-effects of battle are assigned a “service dog” and slowly start coming out of their shell-shocked selves. It’s a fairly recent phenomenon and it was an uphill battle making it legit.
Service dogs also really brighten up the days of senior citizens, people in hospitals – anyone, in fact, who could use a little love. And it’s not just dogs: Cats can be emotional support animals, so can ferrets, hedgehogs, rats, snakes, birds and even fish. Playing with dolphins apparently does wonders for people with autism. But I had to laugh and think maybe it’s gone too far when news surfaced recently of an “emotional support turkey” in the passenger cabin of an airline flight. At first I thought it was a joke, some kind of Photoshop prank. But, no, it was real: Apparently the airline had to let it on or face a fine up to $150,000 or a lawsuit. (P.S. I forgot to mention, in case you were wondering, the turkey was wearing a special custom-made diaper.)
At which point I’d say we’ve drifted into the arena of the absurd: You can’t live without your turkey for the few hours it takes to fly somewhere?
(Normally service dogs are allowed in the passenger cabin, but other animals must go below.)
It’s like a Monty Python sketch – British accent: “How dare you question my turkey, sir! This turkey must accompany me everywhere. I’ve got a note from my psychiatrist!”
And what about how it affects other people? Hey, I paid for my flight, too. Suddenly I have to sit next to some dude’s turkey? It’d probably be eyeballing my peanuts the whole time, and/or gobbling so loudly I wouldn’t be able to hear the dialogue of my movie.
Over all, though, emotional support animals have done so much good in this world, it’s extra-galling when someone tries to pass off a fake. In your case, I think the hairdresser is well within her rights to ask for some sort of documentation/verification of the beagle’s “service” status.
And in your sensible nurse’s shoes, I would encourage her to do so. If this woman’s beagle’s papers are in order, there’s not much you or your hairdresser can do (though I know of people who’ve faked these credentials – have extracted bogus prescriptions from obviously dodgy doctors so they could bring their precious pooches into the passenger area of planes), except show compassion for whatever invisible health issue this woman has.
If not? Bzzt: “No dogs allowed.” After all – well, I cut my own hair, but I’ve heard it said by more than one woman that the hairdresser’s is a place of sanctuary, of unburdening, of communion: a therapeutic space, if you will.
And you have a right to that space and the soothing effect it has on your soul, unviolated by a yappy, bogus service pet.
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Courtesy: The Globe And Mail