Saturday was a “unicorn” day for sure. I mean everyone (at least it seemed everyone) we encountered in St. Charles watched, stared, pointed, talked “baby talk,” followed, and even tried to take pictures of Memphis…
I wrote a post earlier about feeling as if people are staring holes through you, you know, really staring and watching you? We felt that on Saturday.
Sam and I made a mini-road trip to St. Charles on Saturday. We hoped to catch some of the Christmas spirit with the parade, carolers, festive decorations, and of course, shops. My Christmas spirit quickly dwindled as we walked around the streets, in and out of stores, and eventually to a spot for the parade.
I think my first indication of how it was going to be a unicorn day was when I heard four women baby talk Memphis.
“Pwretty wittle puppy wuppyyyyy.”
“Pwecious dog! A service dogggggggg.”
Don’t “baby talk” to service dogs, please.
Did I say that out loud? No. Did I say it in my head? You bet.
A few people would say “DOG!” very loudly as we walked down the streets. And when we saw people with their pets, no one shouted out “DOG!” to them. Odd.
We went in a few stores and people asked to pet Memphis…this was such a high stimulus area that Sam said, “no, I’m sorry he’s working right now.” We got a few scowls.
One woman even gave us “the look.” You know, like, “what on earth are you doing with a dog in here?” And then finally I realized she was watching us about to say, “no dogs,” and I said, “he’s a service dog” (with a smile) and she went away.
The icing on the cake was when Sam went into a dog treat/toy store. This shop was so neat, and so crowded on our first stop by that we were in and out (plus that’s where the women went goo-goo gaa-gaa over Memphis). He asked if I would sit across the street while he ran in real quick.
So, this is something that happens from time to time…if we are out together and Sam goes to the restroom, Memphis gets to sit with me, if Sam has to run out to the car, Memphis stays with me. This was no different. I had Memphis by me, he was sitting (being a very good boy), and a woman walked up to us and attempted to take his picture…
We both had our eyes fixed on the store, waiting for Sam, and then when I looked away from the store, this woman was standing almost right in front of us with her phone directly in front of Memphis.
Me: “I’m sorry, are you attempting to take a photo of my husband’s service dog?” (With a very confused look)
Woman: “YES! I AM!” (What the???)
Me: “I would appreciate it if you didn’t, I mean, I wouldn’t just stop in front of you and take a picture, let alone take it without asking you.”
Woman: “Well this dog looks JUST LIKE MY SISTER’S DOG! I mean, IDENTICAL! But my sister’s dog is a hoss, so much bigger and fatter! I can’t get over how little this lab is!”
Me: “Then your sister’s dog looks nothing like this service dog. Maybe your sister does have a lab, but this particular dog you are wanting to take a picture of is not like your sister’s. This is a working service dog for my husband who will be back any minute.”
**Side note: I swear it took Sam an hour to get in and out of this store…but really it was like 10 minutes. The longest 10 minutes of my life.**
Woman: “Oh a service dog! Well, what’s wrong with him?”
Me: (Assuming she means the dog and not Sam since he’s not around) “Absolutely nothing is wrong with this dog. He’s highly trained for my husband, and we are just out and about visiting the area trying to enjoy our day.”
At this point she put her phone away. I was so caught off guard by this because to my knowledge, no one has ever tried to photograph Memphis. Maybe they have and we didn’t know it, but I’d never encountered anyone who just held their phone out and made it very obvious they were trying to take his picture.
My eyes were opened to how difficult it can be for Sam to navigate daily life with Memphis. I know he felt uncomfortable at times and as if all eyes were on him, but I was so proud of him for focusing on Memphis, doing breathing exercises, and the looks that he would give Memphis and vice versa… and well…all that crap seemed to go away.
And in my head I was repeating these phrases Saturday:
“Not today Satan.”
“Not today annoying people.”
“Not today people who are staring.”
“Not today people who act like they haven’t seen a dog, ever.”
Sam and I had a saying before he got Memphis. If we were going to be in a situation that may have been difficult, we would try it. We’d often say: “Let’s try it, and if it doesn’t work out, then we try again another time.” This went for parades, concerts, games, events where there would be a lot of people and perhaps cause high anxiety…and I remembered that on Saturday.
Pre-Memphis visit to holiday St. Charles would have been bad. There were a lot of people in close quarters. I’m not sure that it would have been enjoyable for Sam. I think his anxiety would have been through the roof, and he probably would have tried to keep a coin in his hands. I think if people got too close he would have been ready to leave a store, or go sit and wait for me while I went to shop. There probably would have been a lot of pacing, maybe even talk of going straight home.
On Saturday I saw Memphis and Sam working together as a team. I saw them strengthen their bond. I even got teary eyed—(fyi, I’m a sap, a cryer, I can tear up at the drop of a hat) because Saturday was a struggle, but never once did Sam appear flustered. Sure, he was annoyed with comments, but we can tune those out. I know he wasn’t thrilled about some of the crowds, but he said it best, “it is okay–we made it–we are a team.”
Indeed we are. We are family. We take care of one another. My Grinch heart started to grow again, after feeling defeated and thinking this was a bad idea for a road trip…and sometimes you just have to say, “no photography, please” and go about your day.