Service dogs are essential for the people who need them, but the rest of the world doesn’t seem to see it that way. Many people have an inaccurate idea that all service dogs are Labrador Retrievers. They also tend to assume that all disabilities are visible, which again, couldn’t be further from the truth.
That’s why Brenda Osborne and her Chihuahua named Lucy are often shamed in public. Lucy might look more like an emotional support dog, but she’s a fully trained service dog that can alert Osborne before a dangerous panic attack.
A Visit to the Salon
Osborne wanted a quick haircut, so she put on a mask and headed to a Great Clips in Heath, Ohio. She brought Lucy along with her because she never goes anywhere without the little dog. Osborne is an amputee who suffers from panic attacks. Lucy will alert her 15 minutes before a panic attack by detecting a change in heart rate, blood pressure, and sweat glands. So, it’s essential that the little pup is with Osborne at all times.
Yet, the salon didn’t seem to think so. When Osborne entered, she was immediately shamed for having Lucy with her. Even after she informed them that Lucy was a service dog, they said that they didn’t allow dogs. The girl at the register then gave her attitude and humiliated her for bringing Lucy with her. Osborne said that another staff member apologized as she exited, but other than that, it was a frustrating experience.
“I was bawling on the way out the door. It was a humiliating experience and all I wanted was a haircut,” Osborne said.
Lucy has been by Osborne’s side for eleven years. The staff member had implied that Lucy was just an accessory, but the Chihuahua is nothing close to that. She’s a life-saver and a best friend. Osborne can’t risk going places without her.
Educating the World
Unfortunately, many people aren’t willing to accept all service dogs in society. People with disabilities are often shamed because they ‘look fine’ or because their service dog is a different breed than the norm. But you never know someone’s story. Sadly, people who fake service dogs make it even harder for those who need them to get the respect they deserve.
If Osborne is about to have a panic attack, Lucy curls up on her and licks her face to alert her. This gives Osborne enough time to isolate herself, sit down, and take medication. Lucy is also trained to get people to leave Osborne alone during panic attacks. Many people feel inclined to ask if she needs help, but people approaching her usually only makes it worse.
“Without that time or preparation, it just hits. A lot of people know a panic attack feels like a heart attack sometimes. Lucy gives me enough time to find a seat, take my medicine, or get out of whatever situation I am in,” Osborne said.
Osborne hopes that her story can help better educate people about service dogs. Too many people are quick to judge, which is heartbreaking. Why can’t everyone just learn to be kind?
The Salon’s Response
Debbie Tillery, the Great Clips’ owner, reached out to Osborne about the situation. She was mortified that her employees behaved in that manner.
“As a local business owner, I am proud to welcome all customers with or without service animals into my salons. This has always been our company policy. The misunderstanding that recently took place in my Heath salon was disappointing and unfortunate. I have spoken with the customer, conveyed apologies, and shared that she and her service dog are welcome to visit any of my salons whenever it’s convenient for her. I am also taking the appropriate steps internally to ensure that all customers are always made to feel welcome,” Tillery said in a statement.
Osborne appreciates that apology, but she knows more needs to be done. She even said that she would be willing to conduct training to teach the workers about service dogs. The world needs to be educated about the importance of all service dogs, not just the ones we consider “normal”.
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