Let’s talk about a sensitive issue. This is going to touch on a #MeToo topic, but don’t think you’re so insulated that it couldn’t apply to you. It’s about a situation that anyone can encounter in everyday life, service dog user or not.
There is a great post out there from another blogger about how you should treat service dogs like you treat boobies (or “breasts”, for those who don’t like the vernacular). That blogger recommends replacing the words “service dog” with “boobies”/”boobs”, and then see if it’s appropriate to say or do. For example,
“AAAAHHH!!!! BOOBS!!!!! “GET THOSE BOOBS AWAY FROM ME!!!!!”
“Look at that girl’s boobs! *points* Hey, everybody! That girl has boobs!”
In addition to treating service dogs as if they were boobs, can we please talk about little dogs being carried and being pet by the public?
If I am holding my service dog in my arms or in a pouch, if you pet my dog, you are likely going to brush my boobs with your hands if you’re not conscientious about avoiding this. It’s probably unintentional for most people, but some (guys especially) will repeatedly graze your boob with their hand while they are petting.
It seems like when you have a dog in your arms, people just don’t notice the parts of your body they are touching!
For some of us, it’s just gross. For others, it feels like sexual assault, and that’s a totally valid feeling. And totally not okay.
So in addition to thinking of service dogs like boobs to guide how you interact with them, please also remember that a dog being held by someone with boobs is likely to be next to boobs. So petting a dog in someone’s arms or a pouch, service dog or not, you are likely going to be petting a boob unless you are proactive.
So what can you do, those of you who wish to do the right thing and not pet the boobage?
First, as with any dog—even if you know the person—always get clear permission before petting. You should not only get clear and present consent to the question “Is now an okay time for me to pet your dog, or would later be better?”, you should try to assess whether the person’s actually comfortable or whether they’re uncomfortable, but trying not to cause a fuss. Notice the way I phrased the question allows more of an out than just asking “Can I pet your dog?”.
Next, be aware of where your hands are touching the person (if at all), consciously avoiding the boob area. You can try to pet just the dog’s head that is sticking out, or just the side of the dog farther from the person’s body.
Finally, don’t kiss the dog because that is really close to kissing my boob. Awkward! Even if you are not that close to actually kissing my chest, it’s way too intimate to have someone other than my romantic partner putting their head in that area to kiss something attached to me.
Remember, it doesn’t have to feel weird to you for you to respect that it feels weird to someone else—and why chance disrespecting someone and making them feel horrible when all you’re doing is satisfying your desire for a doggie fix? There’s really no good reason to risk this.
I’ll post some pictures below of times when people have been close to my boobs while petting my service dog. Thanks in advance to everyone who is now not going to be petting my boobs—or others’—when it’s very probably not wanted!
Do you have any stories, advice, or feelings about, um, “heavy petting”? Let me know in the comments.
Credit given to Brad Morris for his invaluable help writing this entry.