A disabled Walmart shopper spotted a mom and her rowdy children. Instantly, the shopper braced herself, knowing she would have to pass them in the aisle with her service dog. That’s when the little girl reached out and smacked the dog on the back. Standing up for herself and others, the disabled woman hit back with the last response they ever expected.
Laura Joos was simply trying to finish her errands at Walmart when she encountered a family who needed an important lesson after their mistake could have cost the woman her life. Almost right away, Laura noticed the family coming down the aisle towards her. It was a mom with her three kids in tow.
The woman’s youngest child was in the cart, but the older two were walking next to her. As they moved towards Laura, they noticed she had a dog with her, but it wasn’t just any dog, it was her service dog. From far away, Laura heard the mother point out the animal to her children, and almost immediately, the children started walking faster toward her, their arms excitedly stretched out.
“I was dreading it, I knew your kids were going to try and pet my dog. I knew you had no intention of telling them, ‘Don’t pet the dog. It’s working,’” Laura recalled. Although she did what she could to avoid it, her efforts failed and Laura was forced to walk slowly past the woman and her kids.
“Your daughter reached out and SMACKED my dog. Hard, audible thud as her hand hit her back,” Laura wrote in a Facebook post addressed to the “fellow mom at Walmart,” hitting back with a reality check for this mom and those like her.
“She’s a service dog, please teach your kids not to pet them,” Laura told the mother, who lashed out with an unbelievable reaction. With a snotty tone, the mother snapped back with an “Excuse you” aimed at Laura, but she wasn’t having it. “Yes, excuse me. Excuse me for expecting YOU as an adult to teach the children you are raising to be respectful of disabled individuals,” she shot back.
Then, Laura laid out what this mom didn’t see. “Five minutes before I saw you, I got an alert from my dog, my heart rate was steadily climbing, my chest was becoming tight, my vision was going fuzzy, I felt like I was underwater,” she recalled. “You couldn’t tell my hip was sliding in and out of place and every step I took was painful, agonizing.”
She continued, “You couldn’t see that your daughter’s actions caused my dog to miss a second alert. My heart rate now nearly 120, I felt like I was going to vomit, luckily I made it to my car before the full effects of my heart rate hit me — like a ton of bricks.”
Laura almost lost consciousness. “Luckily, my kids didn’t have to stand over their mother in the middle of the grocery store waiting for her to wake up. Luckily, your kids didn’t have to see some woman hit the ground. It can be scary for young kids, and even some adults. I’m sorry that my ‘tip’ to help you help your kids, and help the service dog community, pissed you off,” she hit back at the woman who berated her for giving sound advice.
“I’m sure you wouldn’t allow them to grab someone’s cane, or yank on their nasal cannula that supplies their oxygen,” Laura pointed out, driving her point home. “My dog provides life-saving assistance to me every day. She keeps me alive, and safe so that my kids, can enjoy their mother,” she wrote.
“I’m not asking much. I’m just asking you to give the same respect you would expect, had you been the disabled mother and service dog handler. So Mom, if your reading this, know I’m not mad, just disappointed,” she added.
“Disappointed you didn’t apologize, disappointed that I can’t shop without fear of your kids hitting my dog, disappointed that as a mom to another mom you reacted the way you did,” Laura continued before concluding, “However … I’m safe. I’m home, and I’m alive, because yes it could have ended completely different. I could not be.
Just like that.”
Thankfully, Laura’s condition didn’t require a trip to the hospital, but it was enough to cause her concern and rightfully frustrate her deeply. All parents should know and teach their children this important and simple rule when it comes to service dogs in public: Service animals aren’t just fluffy friends who keep their handlers company. They serve important purposes, are a lifeline for people with severe health complications, and they are working. Give service animals plenty of space and don’t distract them.
Focusing the animal’s attention away from its owner’s needs even for a second can make them miss an alert. Apparently, some people need to learn this lesson. Hopefully, they can do so by reading this post rather than by having to witness the negative ramifications of their ignorance, like almost happened here.
There’s a reason service animals often wear “Do Not Pet” and other patches and vests to indicate they are working. Remember to show respect, and remind others to do the same. Not only are these situations annoying for owners, but they are also dangerous. So, share this valuable information because it might just save a life.