The other day at work, I had a customer come up and ask me when we started letting dogs in the building after noticing a woman in the booth with a golden retriever at her ankles. Politely, I told him that the dog was a service animal and that it had a right to be in the area. He huffed, said I should have asked for verification and threatened to never come back.
Well, like I told him, I'm legally not allowed to ask someone for verification of their service animal and neither would I. What I didn't tell him is if a person's animal is wearing a vest, clearly they either need them or want them badly enough to come in, risking their presence if in fact the pet is not certified. Regardless, if someone is jeopardizing a lot to them have them, honestly, go for it.
Instead of heading back to his seat and accepting the situation for what it is, he proceeded to fight me and tell me that service animals are "bullshit" and while he was at it, so is mental illness. Once again, I politely accepted his opinion because:
1. People are entitled to their opinions and...
2. I will not act unprofessionally in my work uniform and give my employer a bad name.
Well, now that I'm out of my apron and the walls of the restaurant, here comes my opinion.
Sir, your ignorance is showing.
If you truly believe that service animals are "bullshit," walk up to that blind woman and tell her that she doesn't need help. Her eyes are open, right? Clearly, she can see! So why does she need a dog?
Let's just take it to another level and go tell the man with the prosthetic leg who fought in a war that he doesn't need his dog even though his PTSD is the worst thing in his life.
Wait, PTSD is a mental illness... that doesn't exist, right?
I noticed that when he left the restaurant, this guy who doesn't believe in service animals or mental illness had a pro-gun sticker on the back of the car, and I hate to jump to conclusions here, but I have a feeling that his excuse for school shootings is not because of the gun, but because the shooter clearly had problems. Mental problems. But also mental illness doesn't exist, right?
I deal with people like this too often – they can't keep their stories straight and they have no regard for the people around them. All this man knew was that he didn't want to eat around a dog but did not think about what that woman's life would look like without it.
She definitely wouldn't be at the restaurant alone eating. She would need to hire a person and pay a lot of money to have a permanent companion to help her throughout the day. And she would lose all sense of individuality and freedom if she needed to be followed around by a nurse. If she has gotten around this far with her dog, why can't she continue?
I understand that eating around animals in a public place might not be everyone's cup of tea, but if that animal is necessary to help someone live through their day, you need to put your preference aside for their necessity. If someone else in the restaurant is allergic to said service animal, as a worker, I will be more than happy to move some seats around or offer any aid.
But I will never and could never ask someone to leave who needs to have a service dog, cat, or any other type of animal with then. Those people in need have every right to be there, and if you don't like it, you can leave. No one is holding you hostage and you can do what makes you happy.
In this article, I'm not even going to touch on this guy's stupidity after saying mental illness doesn't exist. I'll tap into that another day but for now, we are only going to focus on service animals here.
If you're confused about ethics and basic human decency, well, I can't help you there but I hope you learn patience, understanding, and compassion for people one way or another. Perhaps watch this documentary about service animals or even, try having a conversation with someone who needs one. There's no better way to learn about someone than actually speaking with them.