Before we begin, I would ask you not to throw stones at my house if you disagree with today’s column. I spent a lot of money last fall to have the house painted; it has some very expensive new windows as well as a new front door with retractable screens but i know how sensitive and irate pet owners can be.
I will also be completely transparent in telling you that I have had dogs and cats for most of my adult life and would never want to be without them. I have researched and written a long magazine article on the breeding and training of service dogs and fully believe in the power of emotional healing, companionship and peace that an animal can bring. All that being said, I have a question. Are you fucking nuts?
Not all of you, I know. But there’s a scam going on out there whereby people go online and without filling out any paperwork can buy a collar for their pet that reads, “Emotional Support Animal” or “Therapy Dog.” They can’t wait to put it around those furry necks so they can feel like they now have both license and permission to bring this animal to any store or public place they want.
I’ve seen everything from a squirrel in a cage (aren’t they rodents?) to a ferret draped around the neck of a weirdly tattooed man (couldn’t figure out which was scarier), to a child with a goldfish bowl in a pushchair rolled up mindlessly by his father (I wonder who the “headless” one was)? I saw a cute miniature horse tied to a bike rack outside a big box store and a big dog wearing sunglasses brought into the cabin of a commercial plane.
I am 100% in favor of animals that have been trained to provide physical or emotional assistance and support to those who need it most. There is an undeniable animal-human bond that has worked wonders in hospitals, nursing homes and in crisis situations. Dogs are often used in family courts to calm children who have been victims of domestic, sexual or emotional abuse; in airports to calm and center passengers who are afraid to fly; and are invaluable for people who are blind, hard of hearing or otherwise disabled. Horses play a major role in helping people with mental disabilities, autism or cognitive problems. It is therefore not these animals or these situations that I question.
I do, however, question the woman stocking shelves at a Walmart northeast of Westerly who for the past seven years has been allowed to bring her dog to work. Not in an office or the back room, but right in the middle of the aisle without a collar or leash or restraint, just standing there watching his person work. It’s a heavy traffic place, a place that stores food, a place where just over a year ago we were all gloved and masked before WE were allowed to enter.
I believe in solutions, therefore, I would like to apply to be someone’s comfort or therapy person. I would be good there too. I’m pretty small and could fit in the overhead. I do not eat a lot; God knows, I’ve had all my injections, I’m not losing much and I’m reasonably obedient… most of the time. Read to me, stroke my head, pay to get my nails done (I’d love that!) and buy me a pretty necklace. I like navy blue or dark green, and rhinestones wouldn’t hurt. Sterilization is not a problem.
In the meantime, friends, it’s summer. it’s hot. So please don’t leave your dog, cat, iguana, gerbil or anything else in your car, not even “just a minute while I run fast”. That, however, doesn’t mean you have a free license to bring Cujo into Walmart where he hangs out from a shopping cart pinching and growling at passers-by. Here’s an original idea: leave it at home. If it’s just for a little while, he won’t mind. Really. If you’re worried he’ll be lonely, leave the TV on, schedule a harmless game show or daytime talk show co-hosted by a bunch of left-wing swaggering idiots who yell at each other. Cujo or Fluffy will be so happy to see you when you return that they’ll be drooling with gratitude, their heads in your lap.
After all, what other kind of therapy do you need?
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her “In Their Shoes” articles. She can be reached at [email protected] or 401-539-7762.