Yesterday I went to the grocery store and a woman was there with her dog. Now this dog wasn’t just an under dressed service dog with an owner who forgot to put on his vest. By her own admission this dog was just her dog.

Before you point out that I used the J word, please calm down. I know. He’s not “just” a dog. He’s her child, her best friend, her therapist, her companion, and so much more. My dog is the same. But, when it comes to traipsing into a grocery store or restaurant, trust me, it’s just a dog.

People walked around to avoid her and mumbled and whispered to each other. But no one did anything. I watched the interaction between the woman and the other customers and thought it could actually get pretty ugly right there in the produce aisle.

No employee approached her though there were seven wearing their employee vests. I walked up to the woman and started the oh my he’s so cute routine. How old? What kind? You rescued him! That’s so wonderful. And then I told her she had to leave.

I looked around and no one walked over to support me. Before she started whatever exclamation that wasn’t going to matter anyway I told her that only service dogs are allowed. She needed to leave now, take her dog home, put him with sitter, or get her food delivered. But her dog was leaving now.

The dog was not misbehaving. Put give it a few more minutes and people would have started misbehaving for sure. She started talking fast and loud justifying her dog’s right to be with her since he was her emotional support dog and that he really helped her get through the stress of being around other people.

This is when I wish I had a card like this I could have handed her and sent her on her way. The produce manager finally stepped in and off the lady went with proclamations that she would never spend one penny there again. I’m sure she will.

I love my dog and spending time with him outside of my home is fun. Coconut loves people and they love him. Same with dogs. He’s that rare unicorn of a dog who fits in no matter where he is. He’s a very good boy. So what?

I know I’m preaching to the choir when I post things like this. You all know the difference. Why do I care? Because if people break the rules, if they bring dogs into places where only service dogs are allowed, pretty soon dogs won’t be able to sit on patios this summer while I sit on the water and eat some horribly unhealthy but delicious calorie-laden burger. He won’t be able to shop with me at TJMaxx which has the best doggy treats and toys. He won’t be able to lots of things I love doing with him and both of our lives will be smaller.

That’s why it matters. And it matters because if there is a service dog in the store and the wrong dog approaches it might turn into a bad situation.

Here’s a quick chart showing the difference between a service, therapy, and emotional support dog. They all matter and our lives are made better because of them.

And, none of them is just a dog. I know that.