The following is an opinion piece by the disabled veteran whose service dog you are about to pet despite the clearly printed warning against that on his harness.
Pay no attention to the large embroidered letters that read “SERVICE DOG: DO NOT PET” on my dog’s blood red vest. I want you to pet Max. Go on, do it.
It’s fantastic when you distract him from his one job, making sure I don’t lose my shit in public. The truth is, I desperately want you to pet my service dog so that I can just melt down in this grocery store while you block him from getting to me. I come alive when anxiety floods my veins, sweat pours down my IED-kissed back, and my highly-trained service animal’s face is being lovingly smooshed by a stranger in a "Support the Troops" shirt. Don’t mind Max’s squirms to get away from you and back to his job. He’s just excited to get manhandled for the fiftieth time today.
I get it — Max is so cute. He can pick up my dropped pills when my nerve damage kicks in or plop his heavy head in my lap to lower my blood pressure. But his true purpose in life is to respond to you cooing at him and announcing that he looks just like your dog Charlie.
If service dogs really weren’t designed for petting, disabled vets like me would hobble around with a honey badger or chihuahua — anything but an adorable black lab.
Also, I am so grateful you donated to Hero Dog that one time (I got Max from Puppies Behind Bars, but whatever, they’re all the same). It’s almost like you paid for him. Max is practically your dog! Get a selfie! Or better yet, just let me take the picture for you.
What kind of selfish prick would I be to deny you? Your tax dollars paid for my military service, injury, and delayed VA benefits. Max is our service dog. So go on, scratch his ass. You’ve earned it. I’ll just be over here riding this panic attack alone until you’re done.