Service dogs are not pets! One more time for the people in the back: Service dogs are not pets! You should never approach and pet a service dog that you see out in public. Those are dogs with jobs that are on the clock. They're working, they're not there to say hi to passersby.
One young, disabled woman was recently at a farmer's market with her service dog, a border collie named Kujo. She explains in a post on Reddit's "Am I the A-hole?" that she is the dog's owner / handler and that he is still in training. Kujo was wearing a vest that clearly labeled him as a service dog in training when they went out on an excursion to the market.
She was working with Kujo on several tasks, including making sure he didn't become distracted by outside stimuli, "blocking or circling," which is used to maintain personal space, guide tasks, interruption tasks, and more. He's still a young dog, still learning how to work with his owner, who has PTSD.
OP explains, "This morning we were in a rather crowded farmer's market and I stopped to ask a few questions at one of the stalls. Another customer and her toddler (maybe 4?) came up beside us and her son immediately squeals, 'Doggy!' trying to grab at Kujo's tail.
"I turn and at first calmly say, 'Please don't do that. He doesn't like that, and he's working.' But his mother just said, 'Oh, it's OK. He loves dogs.' I tell her, 'I understand that, ma'am, but he's a service dog and your son is distracting him from his tasks.'" She tried to explain herself reasonably. The fact that the toddler's mom wouldn't accept her explanation that this dog is working is so not OK.
Then, it got worse. The kid grabbed at Kujo's harness, and that's when OP lost her cool. "I told her son to stop touching my dog and [that] she needed to control her freaking kid," she writes. "I did raise my voice but I didn't cuss."
That's when this mom got angry, told OP she doesn't "look disabled" and that her kid is "just a toddler." OP started panicking and hyperventilating. She ended up flipping off the mom and telling her, "if she couldn't keep her child when in public then maybe she shouldn't bring him out." Then, she left the situation.
Kujo handled the situation well, but it was clear that this mom and her toddler didn't respect the fact that he was a working dog at all. And commenters sympathized with OP. "This is extremely inappropriate to do," one person wrote. "The mother should have immediately told their child not to touch the service dog. It doesn't matter if someone 'looks' disabled or not, you can tell by just looking at the massive signs that say 'service dog.'"
We could spend a whole 'nother article talking about how some disabilities are invisible and you should never judge someone based on whether they "look" disabled, but this is about the dog. Even if the dog was just working with a trainer who wasn't disabled, it's extremely inappropriate to touch a service dog without express permission from its handler.
In fact, you shouldn't let your kid touch any dog without asking first! One astute commenter wrote, "It doesn't even matter...if it's a service dog. You teach your kids not to go up to other people's dogs. They must ask first. This is how kids get bitten by untrained dogs."
It's about respect for the animal and for its owner. This mom is failing to teach her child common courtesy, and one day, it's going to catch up to her. Some people pointed out that Kujo's owner could have, perhaps, reacted better, but she was anxious, she'd already tried to be calm and respectful, and she was met with total disregard for her words and feelings.
So I officially support the flipping off of this terrible woman. Toddlers make mistakes; but when this mom was repeatedly told to stop letting her kid harass a service dog, she did nothing about it. She more than deserved that middle finger.