Have you ever felt like someone is staring holes through you? Or, have you noticed someone watching (let’s be honest, staring at) you from a distance? Did you catch someone following you just to see what you were doing? It is an uncomfortable and awkward feeling, right?
Sometimes when when we go out in public, this is how my husband feels. We’ve been out in public with Memphis and sometimes we notice that people will just stare at us. In my head I’m thinking, “maybe they’ve never seen a dog before.” In my heart, I just want to go out and spend time with my husband. We just want to have a nice dinner out (if that’s what we are doing), or we just want to go to the store without having this feeling.
If you think about it, dogs have been around for quite sometime. This is nothing new…but to some, a service dog is a new object, a pretty thing, something to stare at, and something to see.
One day Sam was in Paducah, Kentucky for work. He texted me while he was at lunch and said, “Today is not a good day, I feel like a unicorn.”
That has always stuck with me…and you know what, Sam can sense when it is going to be a “unicorn day.” It happened a few weeks ago when we went to breakfast and EVERYONE turned around to watch us walk in and get seated. We even heard a table say (rather loudly), “Do you think that service dog will eat that food? Oh my goodness, that man has a service dog, did you see?”
And then it happened again when we went to the grocery store. I thought someone was going to run into us with their cart because they were watching Sam and Memphis.
We’ve had moments where we’ve just wanted to leave a store because people are pointing at Memphis. Talking about Sam. Looking to see what we are doing. Looking at Memphis. Can you imagine what that is like for someone who was uncomfortable in public before having a service dog?
Sure, it would be easy for us to stare back at people, or make a rude comment back, but we can’t do that. We have to smile, ignore, or walk the other way. We may decompress in the vehicle after, or remember what someone said when we are home…but for the most part, it is important to continue on with our daily lives…we aren’t going to hide just because we hear something rude, we aren’t going to stay home because people make look at us.
So, just a little bit of advice…if you see someone with a service dog, please try not to stare. If it is a Veteran, please be mindful of them, their family, and try not to state the obvious like, “that man has a dog!” Also, please don’t make a comment like, “well why does he need a service dog, he looks fine.”
My husband is not a unicorn…please don’t make him feel that way.