It’s hard to resist petting cute dogs, but of course, you should always ask permission before touching a stranger’s dog. And if that dog is a service dog, you will not be able to pet them even if you ask. For most dog lovers, this makes perfect sense. Service dogs are working and need to focus on their humans’ safety. However, there are always people who will make things harder for those who need service dogs.
One woman shared her horrific experience on Reddit. She went to the mall with her guide dog but was quickly accused of faking being blind. The situation only got worse from there.
A Regular Trip to the Mall
A young woman known as Len on Reddit, who goes by the user name u/Leckzsluthor, posted a story to spread awareness about guide dogs. Len is blind, so she always brings her guide dog named Gumbo with her. Gumbo is a Bernese Mountain Dog, so of course, many people want to pet his fluffy coat.
Since Len’s parents are more at risk of catching COVID-19, she has had to shop by herself a lot lately. So, the other day, she went to the mall with Gumbo. She has to ask for help a lot while shopping, but having her guide dog makes everything easier. As she was shopping, a young girl approached her and asked to pet Gumbo. She politely told the child no and was prepared to defend herself.
“Surprisingly, the child didn’t act entitled. But seemed surprised and excited about a dog having a job. She (I believe it was a she) asked me a few questions, and then left. I thought nothing of it and continued with my shopping,” Len wrote.
Len was pleasantly surprised by the child’s respectful response. But later, while she was sitting in the food court, she heard the girl again. This time, the girl was with her mom, and the mom didn’t sound pleased.
Entitled Parent Refuses to Give Up
The girl told her mom what Len taught her about service dogs, and not long after, the mom marched over to Len and Gumbo. Right away, she questioned why Len told the girl that she’s blind. Len politely replied that she is blind, but the woman insisted that she isn’t.
“You’re not blind. My cousin is blind, so I know what a blind person is like. You shouldn’t lie about that. I think you should let my daughter pet the dog, she likes dogs. It’s pretty [horrible] to refuse a child something like that,” Len recalled the mom saying.
Of course, Len was offended, but she tried to stay calm. She explained that not all blind people are the same. When the woman questioned why her eyes looked fine, Len said she doesn’t have a condition that causes cloudy eyes. When the woman questioned why she was looking at her phone, she explained that the phone is accessible to blind people and that she has basic light perception.
Yet, the mom refused to believe any of it. She said she would get security, and then she stormed off. Len wasn’t scared because she knew she hadn’t done anything wrong. She didn’t even think the mom would go through with it, but a few minutes later, she returned with a security guard.
Security Guard Makes it Worse
Instead of helping, the security guard only made Len more uncomfortable. After Len informed him that she is blind, he asked her to prove it. Len was shocked but told him that she didn’t know how to prove it. When the mom questioned her again, she explained to both of them why she doesn’t “look blind.”
Instead of telling the mom to leave Len alone, the security guard said that the mom probably knew what she was talking about since she has a blind cousin. At that point, Len felt unsafe, so she got up to leave. As she did, she felt someone grab onto Gumbo’s harness. It was the mom demanding she let her daughter pet the dog first.
“Now understand, grabbing my harness is akin to someone taking away your eyes. She was impeding my means of navigating. So I panicked. This has only happened to me once before and I panicked then too,” Len wrote. “I attempted to pull my harness handle back, all the while screaming. “GET OFF! LET GO! HELP!” The security guard was fumbling around fairly uselessly.”
Finally, a second security guard came to the scene and pulled the mom away from Len. The woman continued to scream that Len was a liar as Len instructed Gumbo to lead her out of the mall. She admitted that she should’ve called the police on the mom, but in the moment, she had been too panicked to think about that.
An Important Message For Everyone
Luckily, Len’s Reddit post got lots of support. Many commenters mentioned that she should’ve contacted the mall’s management because the first security guard didn’t do his job properly. Others said she should still try to press charges on the mom. Len replied, saying that she’s considering it.
Another commenter made a good point by mentioning that even if Gumbo wasn’t a service dog, the woman should’ve accepted no for an answer. Someone shouldn’t need a reason to deny people from petting their dog. The fact that Gumbo is a service dog makes the situation even more serious.
“I hate the type of people who “have a relative” with the exact same condition and so that means that they know everything about it. I also think that in general, even if you weren’t blind, when someone says no to someone else about petting a dog, they should respect that,” one user wrote.
Len posted the story to remind everyone that service dogs should not be touched, spoken to, or otherwise distracted from their work. Also, those who need service dogs should be respected, not harassed. Hopefully, stories like this will help more people understand the laws protecting service dogs and their handlers.