My Pet, My Privilege

A few years ago, I was at a suburban dinner party where highlight of the evening was a dog named Larry. He was a big dog, some sort of boxer as I recall, and a decent fellow, as dogs tend to be. So special was Larry that he’d been flown in for this gathering with his owner, an unemployed millennial of means.

“That must have been expensive,” I noted, “flying him out for a party.”

“Not really. I just told the airline he was a service dog and he flew for free! Sat right by my feet the entire time.” She proceeded to prattle on about how it was so easy, her large bright diamond ring glittering in the candlelight. All you had to do was go online and print out a certificate and voila!

I wanted to punch her, but I couldn’t mostly because, ugh, society. So, stifling my irritation, I said, “Huh. He didn’t even have one of those little red coats?”

“No. I really should get one,” she mused.

I was pretty sure you could buy fraudulent handicap parking tags, too, somewhere in the dark recesses of the internet. Didn’t mean you oughta.

I could see where this was going. Just like you can’t buy Sudafed in the decongestant aisle or open a freaking container of Johnson’s Baby Powder without having to break a seal, just like you can’t answer your phone these days if you don’t know who’s calling, or go trick or treating without checking for razor blades, this service dog scam was going to result in more hassle for the most innocent. Like, oh, I don’t know, the legally blind.

And why? This woman, for instance, had money. Lots of it. There was no reason why her dog couldn’t have stayed at home with a house sitter like most pets. Or, god forbid, put in a kennel. A doggie spa even.

She reminded me of an acquaintance my mother knew in Bethlehem, a rich, pampered Steel VP wife who every once in a while stole a little something. A can of hairspray from the country club locker room. A hand towel or unwrapped guest soap from a swanky hotel. Even, rumor had it, a small ivory sculpture from a rival wife’s mantelpiece. (Though, personally, I’m cool with that because fuck them for having ivory.)

When my mother asked her why, the wife supposedly responded, “It’s fun. And, besides, I’m not hurting anyone.”

Mm, not quite. The recent episode of a passenger trying to convince United that her peacock was a service animal has fulfilled my predictions. From now on, airlines will require more stringent guidelines for the blind, the anxious, the deaf and the elderly who want to bring their service dogs. Great.

Meanwhile, my millennial noted she would have to up her game. At the airport, a woman had actually had the guts to grill her about her dog being legit. The gig was up. Kinda.

“I guess I’m going to have to go on Amazon and get one of those vests. I would have done it earlier, but I’m lazy.”

Here, kid, I’ll make it easy for you.


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