Service Dog (harassment)

Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Anxiety plays a huge role in my life. At times, it is completely debilitating and leaves me in bed for days at a time or having panic attacks in school parking lots.* On February 14th, 2010, I became partners with my service dog, Liberty, for PTSD and general anxiety issues.

I have problems with people harassing me about keeping Liberty with me when I enter restaurants, grocery stores, or Disneyland. But today’s shopping trip at Pavilions had to have been the single most ridiculous and offensive experience I’ve had with Liberty.

Everything was great, up until the grocery store. I had rediscovered that the song Pop by N*SYNC was on my iPod, was nibbling on Chipotle’s delicious lime and salt tortilla chips, and the wind was in my hair. I walked into Pavilions with confidence, grabbed my milk, grape juice and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, then found my way to the nearest checkstand. The middle aged, blonde woman checking my groceries out gave me a friendly smile and asked if I had found everything okay.



“Absolutely. We’re here all the time,” I smiled back, sliding my card.

“Oh, what a lovely dog you have.”

“Thanks very much,” I replied. Then, turning to Liberty I said, “You hear that, girl? You’re lovely.”

She smiled, and I prepped myself for the usual next question. “Is it hard to give them up?”

“I don’t actually have to. She works with me,” I reply, not looking up from entering my phone number to the scanner. Usually people understand that, so I’m surprised when she keeps talking.

“Oh, so people just rent you and the dog?

My brain stopped working for a second, there. Rent me? Rent the dog? What the hell are you talking about, lady? I look her dead in the eye and say, “Um, no. She works for me.”

And then it happens. “Huh. But you don’t look disabled.”

My stomach lurches and I feel like I’m going to throw up. I literally start shaking with rage, completely forgetting that I have to select ‘credit’ and sign for my ice cream. The only thing I can think of to say is: “Oh. Well, I am,” with the bitchiest tone in my voice.



I leave the store with tears stinging my eyes and wondering if this company offers any sort of sensitivity training, debating whether or not to report her for such an offensive comment, or let it go because I know she’s just uneducated.

Which brings me to my point: I do not have to educate you. I do not walk through the grocery store for your entertainment. I do not have extra time to stop for every person who has a question about my dog, nor do I even like people to begin with. It is rude to assume that I am training my dog and it is rude to ask why I have her. If you make an assumption to my face, I will correct you. But do not push my patience. I am accosted by people every time I leave my house and my tolerance is wearing thin for ignorance. If you have questions about service animals - look them up. Do not assume I am willing (or even able) to stop and talk to you. The information is readily available without harassing me.

--x

Do any oth EF contributors have a service animal? Do you experience harassment because your disability is invisible? And, to tie this all back to sex, how does your animal react when you get intimate with a partner?
04/04/2012
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Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
When I get intimate and Liberty is in the room (very rare, because I won't even let a cat in the room when I'm making love to my beau, let alone my service dog. I dunno it's just.. Awkward), she lays down and watches. Then, when he/I reach a climax, she comes and licks our wrists to check our vitals.
04/04/2012
spineyogurt spineyogurt
That sucks..
04/04/2012
Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Quote:
Originally posted by spineyogurt
That sucks..
To say the least, it absolutely does.
04/04/2012
- Kira - - Kira -
I have very bad Generalized Anxiety and I didn't even know service dogs could be used for that disorder. No one has ever mentioned it to me and that's out of more doctors than I could possibly count and hospitalizations. Basically, I can understand that people might not know service dogs could be used in that way.

Now, that said, what she said was RIDICULOUS. Disabilities are not limited to those that can be seen with the eyes and assuming such is plain ignorant. If you're curious, keep it to your damn self. You don't owe it to anyone to explain why it is you have a service dog just because you're not disabled in a way that's visible. People piss me off.

I'm sorry you had to go through that. I know being out in public can be an anxiety trigger for many with underlying anxiety issues. I hate going out by myself. In fact, I now know I will never get a service dog because I don't want people to have an excuse to strike up conversation with me when I'm just trying to get in and out of somewhere without having a panic attack.
04/04/2012
Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Quote:
Originally posted by - Kira -
I have very bad Generalized Anxiety and I didn't even know service dogs could be used for that disorder. No one has ever mentioned it to me and that's out of more doctors than I could possibly count and hospitalizations. Basically, I can ... More
Most service dogs are not trained for general anxiety, but I assume if it's bad enough they could be. For me, Liberty is mainly for my severe PTSD symptoms, but she keeps my general anxiety in check. As for your doctors not telling you, I'm not surprised. Psychiatric service animals are relatively new and almost completely confined to veterans returning from combat. They're also fucking expensive.

Knowing how awful your anxiety is, I don't know if I'd recommend one, but even with ignorant people and such, Liberty helps me so much. The good far outweighs the bad.
04/04/2012
- Kira - - Kira -
Quote:
Originally posted by Sex Positivity
Most service dogs are not trained for general anxiety, but I assume if it's bad enough they could be. For me, Liberty is mainly for my severe PTSD symptoms, but she keeps my general anxiety in check. As for your doctors not telling you, I'm ... More
I can see them being good for PTSD. Even if just as a comfort. I've seen studies with animals being used for cancer patients just as a calming type of thing and I know they've helped for that. I never realized they were expensive either. I had a client that had the cutest ever service dog for her partial deafness. I know she said she paid for her, but didn't ever mention it being crazy expensive.

I'm glad she helps. Animals are wonderful creatures. Sometimes better than people.
04/04/2012
Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Quote:
Originally posted by - Kira -
I can see them being good for PTSD. Even if just as a comfort. I've seen studies with animals being used for cancer patients just as a calming type of thing and I know they've helped for that. I never realized they were expensive either. ... More
Well, Liberty is a golden retriever who was trained to be a PSD (psychiatric service dog), so she was $6,000. They're a huge expense, really, but oh-so worth it.
04/04/2012
Zombirella Zombirella
Most places talk about this in job training. You aren't supposed to ask questions like that. At a couple jobs I've had they talked about this. They also say you shouldn't approach the animal or touch them. I love animals and I can't resist so I always ask if it is okay if I pet their dog. I don't ask or say anything unless the person invites that type of conversation.

It may just be me but I think the lady probably meant it as a compliment. Have you ever thought of it that way? It just depends on the tone used. Some people don't stop to think that there are disabilities that aren't out right apparent and physical. If she said it rude or with an attitude then you have every right to be mad. I just know there are times I have said something the wrong way as a compliment to someone and it came out wrong.

If someone does offend you purposefully then you can always call and tell a manager about it.

I just say ignore it and don't let it get to you or upset you. Ignorant people are all around, there is no escaping. I know it's easier said than done. I'm very opinionated and blunt and I have a HARD time shutting up if someone offends me, pisses me off, makes me mad, ect.
04/04/2012
RomanticGoth RomanticGoth
I'm very sorry that happened to you!

I have bad anxiety, too. My doctor wants me to get a service animal, but I just don't have the funds right now. When I worked retail, I would see things like that a lot and it always upset me, because I understand what the owners are going through.

I can see it from the woman's POV, too. These days you see a lot of people abusing disbility and government programs. Or the ones that lie and say that the chihuahua they have in their purse (that is wearing a collar that is worth more then my car) is a "service animal".

I've always had to ask people to take their animals outside, but you're supposed to check to see if the animal is wearing a service tag, collar, or vest before asking.
04/04/2012
Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Quote:
Originally posted by Zombirella
Most places talk about this in job training. You aren't supposed to ask questions like that. At a couple jobs I've had they talked about this. They also say you shouldn't approach the animal or touch them. I love animals and I can't ... More
Yeah, it's actually illegal for an employee to ask what my dog is for. The only question they are allow to ask is "Is that a service animal?" and "What services does the dog provide?" It is a violation of my rights if they ask what she is used for. It's bothersome when people try to touch her, but I'm always appreciative when people at least ask for. You'd be amazed at how many people just reach out and grab at her.

As for seeing her ignorance as a compliment, it's very hard. At best, she was being ableist. At worst, she was being completely degrading to people with disabilities on purpose. To assume all disabilities are visible is absolutely ignorant, and impossible to take as a compliment. Besides, what's so bad about "looking disabled"? What is disabled supposed to look like?
04/04/2012
Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Quote:
Originally posted by RomanticGoth
I'm very sorry that happened to you!

I have bad anxiety, too. My doctor wants me to get a service animal, but I just don't have the funds right now. When I worked retail, I would see things like that a lot and it always upset me, ... More
I hope you come up with the funds, soon. Service animals are wonderful. Liberty has certainly changed my life.
04/04/2012
kawigrl kawigrl
Some people are real idiots
04/04/2012
hyacinthgirl hyacinthgirl
I think some of it was just foot in the mouth syndrome. It's standard training to try to strike up conversations with customers, and on her end, she was probably back-pedalling like mad and trying to think of what to say... which is kind of like trying to change the subject after asking about someone's non-existent pregnancy.

I love dogs to pieces, but usually go by service dogs with nothing more than an admiring smile, or a compliment if I'm in a position where I'm supposed to be speaking to the person the service dog is with (EX. Your total is $5.42. By the way, your dog is just gorgeous). I was raised that you never reach out for an animal in public, unless you have express permission. I've thought about doing some work training therapy-service dogs, and I'm more worried about the people than the dogs.
04/04/2012
Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Quote:
Originally posted by hyacinthgirl
I think some of it was just foot in the mouth syndrome. It's standard training to try to strike up conversations with customers, and on her end, she was probably back-pedalling like mad and trying to think of what to say... which is kind of like ... More
As much as I'm sure it really was her attempt at back peddling, it was still a completely inappropriate and offensive thing to say that violated my rights.

Your silence/admiring smile is really appreciated by people with service animals. At most, I was stopped 23 times in a 45 minute outing - I've got shit to do! At least, 5. It makes my life, and the lives of other service animal handlers, so much easier when others keep their distance and speak directly to us, instead of the dog.
04/05/2012
Zombirella Zombirella
Quote:
Originally posted by Sex Positivity
Yeah, it's actually illegal for an employee to ask what my dog is for. The only question they are allow to ask is "Is that a service animal?" and "What services does the dog provide?" It is a violation of my rights if they ask ... More
I think some people look for a physical disability, like trouble walking, missing limb, blind, older, ect when they see a service animal. I'm not saying disabled looks bad at all. Some people are still ignorant to or do not believe in mental disabilities. Just because someone physically appears "ok" most tend to think they are. It's just another reason not to jump to conclusions about strangers, you don't know what goes on in their life.
04/05/2012
Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Quote:
Originally posted by Zombirella
I think some people look for a physical disability, like trouble walking, missing limb, blind, older, ect when they see a service animal. I'm not saying disabled looks bad at all. Some people are still ignorant to or do not believe in mental ... More
I hope this doesn't come off as rude or mean or anything, but I respectfully disagree. I deal with people like her every day. Once is fine, but when it's happening every time I leave my house, it gets overbearing. People should learn to keep their mouths shut about sensitive subjects such as service animals, disabilities, appearance, pregnancy, etc. etc. etc.

My disability is not complexly invisible, but I am not liable to shove my scarred arm into her face and tell her "this is what she keeps me from doing." And, while I appreciate the support i am getting from the community, please understand that nobody who has commented on this topic has diclosed that they have/actually has a service animal, especially for an invisible disability such as mine. It's one of those "walk a mile in their shoes" sorts of situations, I think. The support I have gotten is great, but not exactly what I'm looking for.
04/05/2012
indiglo indiglo
I am really sorry for your upsetting experience in the grocery store. I can definitely relate to what you are saying, even though I do not have a service animal, I do have an invisible disability. People are often ignorant, clueless and rude, sadly.

I've had people make really ignorant comments to me over the years, even without a service dog, because I look "fine" (whatever that means). One that pops into my head was a woman that I met. We were chatting briefly and the topics changed, and eventually it rolled around to my job so I said I couldn't work due to my health. She said "Wow, it must be nice not to have to work." And I stood there, completely dumbfounded and without words. Sometimes, there is no response for such deeply ingrained stupidity. You cannot cause someone to rework their entire thought process or value system.

One thing that helped me (after dealing with such comments - "But you look so good!" - so many times) was to eventually come up with a standard response. I normally say now "Well, at least that's one thing I have going for me." or "If only I felt as good as I looked!" or something along those lines. Some days I handle those comments better than others, and that's normal too.


This also made something else pop into my head. I was reading a great little book not too long ago, it's called "Invisible: A Memoir" by Hugues de Montalembert. It's a very touching memoir, and one of my favorite quotes from it is at the very end:

"...Of course you can see what happened to me and you give me your compassion, but you know there are so many people much more wounded than me, and you see nothing and they don't receive any compassion."



If we could all just live our lives with a little more compassion, such things wouldn't happen that hurt us or make us feel bad. I am very sorry that happened to you today.
04/05/2012
Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Quote:
Originally posted by indiglo
I am really sorry for your upsetting experience in the grocery store. I can definitely relate to what you are saying, even though I do not have a service animal, I do have an invisible disability. People are often ignorant, clueless and rude, ... More
I'm sorry to hear that people are insensitive in all areas of the world, and that your disability, whatever it may be, interrupts your ability to work. I completely understand that, myself.

Thank you for your kind words. I really adore that quote, thank you for introducing it to me.
04/05/2012
Zombirella Zombirella
Quote:
Originally posted by Sex Positivity
I hope this doesn't come off as rude or mean or anything, but I respectfully disagree. I deal with people like her every day. Once is fine, but when it's happening every time I leave my house, it gets overbearing. People should learn to keep ... More
I was just trying to possibly make you feel better by trying to turn it around into a misunderstanding? I've seen people act ignorant about those with disabilities. Like getting stared at or whispered about. I've heard people bitch and complain when someone brought a service animal into a store. Ignorant people are just everywhere, yes someone with a right mind and some manners would shut up and not be rude or stare or do anything else offensive but not everyone has common sense....and it's sad. Even with a disability such as downsyndrome and it being well known, there are still idiots out there that will stare, whisper and even have the guts to open their ignorant mouths. When I was a cashier I saw it more than I should have. I have actually snapped at people who were being ignorant or I gave them "the look", the one that implies "shut the hell up now".

I wasn't trying to be mean or anything. I guess I just like to try to make people feel better. I don't like to see people hurt like that so I guess I'm one of those people always searching for the right thing to say or the best advice to give to try to make them feel better. I'm very sensitive and get my feelings hurt easily so I know how it feels and I just hate to see other people hurt .
04/05/2012
Sex Positivity Sex Positivity
Quote:
Originally posted by Zombirella
I was just trying to possibly make you feel better by trying to turn it around into a misunderstanding? I've seen people act ignorant about those with disabilities. Like getting stared at or whispered about. I've heard people bitch and ... More
I'm sorry, of course. Didn't mean to hurt your feelings - you certainly didn't hurt mine. I'm just the sort of lady who wants someone to say "aww, damn that sucks" instead of trying to change my perception of things.

Actually, my perception of things is something I'm working on changing in therapy, so carry on. :p
04/05/2012
Zombirella Zombirella
Quote:
Originally posted by Sex Positivity
I'm sorry, of course. Didn't mean to hurt your feelings - you certainly didn't hurt mine. I'm just the sort of lady who wants someone to say "aww, damn that sucks" instead of trying to change my perception of ... More
Oh no, you didn't hurt my feelings, I thought I hurt yours lol! well that is good that is all cleared up. I didn't want to offend you with any of my comments .

And I get what you are saying. I am like that too. And I am working on trying not to be so negative and jump to conclusions (usually the worst conclusion). It's a process. With depression, some days it is easy, others it isn't.

Many things are easier said than done. Good luck on the therapy though and I hope you get the most out of it!

And I do think it sucks that you get questioned often, I mean I can only imagine it gets old and annoying. You handled that situation better than I would because when someone insults me I usually fire back with something meaner than I can think to say and use my bitchiest tone...or I have my 'look of death' I give them.
04/05/2012
Zombirella Zombirella
Also, you have every right to let a store know about an employee that was rude and I think you should. If they don't have a policy about service animals then maybe having someone confront them about an employee would get something started in that direction.
04/05/2012
meezerosity meezerosity
I'm sorry that happened to you. The employee was completely out of line. I don't have a service animal but I do have an invisible illness. I've been glared at for parking in a handicap space in a parking lot despite having a sign that my doctor approved for me. People seem to think because I'm young I borrowed or stole the sign from my grandparents or something just so I could find a better parking space when out shopping.
05/10/2012
cheesewizz cheesewizz
Quote:
Originally posted by - Kira -
I have very bad Generalized Anxiety and I didn't even know service dogs could be used for that disorder. No one has ever mentioned it to me and that's out of more doctors than I could possibly count and hospitalizations. Basically, I can ... More
that is so true what you said 'Disabilities are not limited to those that can be seen with the eyes'

ive been living with ADHD for years and when it does come up in a conversation, people usually take two sides: either im lying for sympathy or for an excuse, or they see me in a new way as being somehow mentally inferior.

ADHD is a disability for sure, and im tired of having to hide it and pretend like that part of me doesnt exist. i wish people could just accept a person as they are, no matter what handicap they might have.
05/22/2012
maxwe maxwe
Quote:
Originally posted by spineyogurt
That sucks..
it DOES sound pretty hard
08/29/2012
GONE! GONE!
That's horrible! Anyone who ever utters the words "But you don't look disabled!" should just fall into a volcano.
08/29/2012
KrazyKandy KrazyKandy
That would of made me mad as well. I think people should not ask unless they are very close with you. I believe that she should of stopped at cute dog.
08/29/2012
LadyDarknezz LadyDarknezz
I don't have a service animal but I am 24, disabled and most people don't believe me. Having an incurable rare as all Hell pancreas illness is not just physically painful, but mentally painful when people don't believe me. I'm sorry that the cashier woman was an idiotic twat; unfortunately, we'll always have to deal with people like that.
08/29/2012
KrissyNovacaine KrissyNovacaine
Quote:
Originally posted by GONE!
That's horrible! Anyone who ever utters the words "But you don't look disabled!" should just fall into a volcano.
Yea basically. I don't have a service animal, but I do have an invisible disability and I get so sick of hearing "but you don't look sick" to which I always think "and you don't look like your head is shoved up your ass"

I am not a patient person.
08/29/2012
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