What Are We So Afraid Of?

Last Saturday, I stood behind a woman at IKEA who had a black poodle strapped to her back. The dog was cute, small, and curly. He blended into the woman’s raven tresses. He was only noticeable from his slight head turns and pointing snout peeking out from a blue backpack.

This was not an unusual sight. Lately, it seems I’ve spotted dogs everywhere from lounging beneath a table at Starbucks, to an apple-sized head peeking from a purse in a bathroom stall at the Mall.

The reason for the canine invasion in every public facility is presumably due to a rash of fears coming from someone being in said public facility. But why? What are we so afraid of?

I’m a stress-case. I know this. I come from a long line of nail-biters, hyper-ventilators, and jittery stock. It’s what I know. It’s what I’m used to. However, I have not once, not ever, considered bringing my pet with me when I go into a store.

I’m not talking about the crazy bitch I live with now, NO WAY! Zoey’s the last thing in the world that would calm me down in a stressful situation. But I did have another dog, Benjamin Thomas, a miniature longhaired Chihuahua-Shih Tzu mix, that was sweet, calm, and I adored.

Benjamin Thomas was easy. He didn’t charge people when they came to the house. He didn’t attack Trick-or-Treaters, bark himself hoarse whenever the doorbell rang or lunged at other dogs when I took him for walks. He sensed whenever I was depressed or sick and wouldn’t leave my side.

Still, I would not have ever thought to stow him in a purse and have him escort me to the most stressful of places such as Walmart or Costco (a maze of endless stimulation, and choice-making, of mountains of excess not fully unpacked, and all crammed in a large warehouse). To be clear, I am not reprimanding everyone who brings their pet with them into a public arena, I’m questioning if everyone really needs a pet to help them through a checkout line?

Once, while researching the psychology of infantry soldiers during a war, I came across an Iraq Veteran while at Home Depot, who held the leash of his three-legged golden Retriever named Moxy. As I asked him questions about his war experience, I noticed Moxy would reach out with her one front paw and place it on the man’s boot and stare up at him lovingly.

I asked the man if he was okay talking to me about his experience? He said he was, but that sometimes he gets upset, and Moxy senses it.

After the third reach out of her paw, I ended the conversation and wished the Vet, and his canine companion, a good day. That was a man who needed a service animal, and probably not some stranger asking him personal questions that threw him into a tailspin! Sorry, Moxy’s handler! Still, I wonder what’s up with everyone else? Why are pets everywhere nowadays?

I see them sitting in the grocery cart basket in the section once reserved for babies. I see them loaded onto airplanes and in movie theaters. I see them inside restaurants and among clothes racks at Nordstrom’s.

It makes me wonder, are we that scared all the time, or are we using this movement as an excuse to show off designer pets in designer sweaters? What’s next wearing blindfolds and using canes at crosswalks just because the blindfolds are Gucci? What if we start using wheelchairs because the chairs are supped-up with Mag-wheels and great for off-roading? I don’t know. I hope not. But consider this, Disneyland no longer allows people in wheelchairs at the front of the line. Why is that?

And don’t get me started on the kinds of pets deemed service animals! Can a fifteen-foot python be that calming for someone? I can’t imagine it’s all that calming for the person sitting next to it on a six-hour flight!

I don’t want to accuse people with dogs in public as fakers. Still, I wonder if Fluffy the Rottweiler, or Taz the peacock, is necessary for a Target trip, and if not, what that does to people with disabilities that need a pet to navigate?



  • I always assumed it was more about companionship than fear. Full transparency…I don’t own a dog so may not understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Maybe if there was more widespread acceptance of dogs, normal well behaved pet dogs in public, people would stop the charade of calling them service animals, although I don’t doubt they do full fill a meaningful function for their owners as companions. Real certified service animals, like the one you described with the veteran, are not normally the kinds of dogs that fit in bags or are dressed in designer sweaters. I wonder about the phenomena of hand bag dogs, I would love to take my dog everywhere with me, unfortunately as a german shepherd ridgeback cross she does not conveniently fit in a handbag. I don’t take my dog shopping but I do enjoy being able to stop for a coffee or breakfast at a cafe after taking her for a walk. I confess I am a big fan of therapy dogs being used in places like schools and hospitals, again they are rarely designer dogs. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

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