“You are going to pick that up, aren’t you?” The man nodded sharply at the package that Destructo had just deposited on the lawn of the hotel.
“Just need to get a bag.” My husband popped the trunk on the car where we now keep huge quantities of plastic bags for cleanup duty.
“Oh! You can have one of mine!” The man’s wife yanked at a cartridge she wore on her belt and produced a plastic bag. With a flourish, she handed it to Squints. “What a cute little puppy.” She bent down and scratched Destructo’s ears.
“He’s a service dog in training,” Squints replied.
“Wow, that’s nice.” The woman straightened. “Really nice.”
“You know I didn’t have my dog’s tail docked.” The man indicated his own dog’s stubby tail. “He came like that.” He turned and watched my husband pick up Destructo poo. “Thank you for taking care of that,” he said once the area had been cleaned to his satisfaction. “We all need more responsible pet owners.”
“Yes,” his wife added. “We’re tired of walking around and seeing dog poo everywhere.”
And he and his wife and their dog with the stubby tail turned and went into the hotel.
I was angry at that man, representative of every person who now feels the need to inform us of the rules. Despite the fact that we ask—and receive—permission to take Destructo into public buildings, other people assume that we’re breaking the rules, that we’re one of those types who simply cannot bear to part with our precious puppy in order to run our errands. They, having chosen to follow the rules, feel it’s their duty to educate us; to point out the error of our ways.
But I wonder: Would the man with the stub-tailed dog tap a gun-toting robber on the shoulder and say, I’m pretty sure what you’re doing goes against the rules? There are greater crimes than not picking up after your pet; bigger concerns than the woman taking the dog into Target. And besides, as a law-abiding citizen, I have no need for this man to park his conscience upon my shoulder.
Or do I?
Well, there was that time we sneaked Destructo into the hotel to avoid paying the hundred dollar surcharge on pets. And, well, yeah, that other time when I took him into Starbucks in an Old Navy duffel bag. But…
But what? I tell myself I’m a law-abiding citizen. I get angry when someone tells me how to follow the rules. And yet, I readily break them. What gives?
I’ve thought about this during the four weeks we’ve had Destructo. And this is what I’ve come up with: I have no problem breaking rules I consider inapplicable to my situation. Destructo is a service puppy in training. Why should I have to pay the additional hotel costs when he made no mess?
What I’m uncomfortable with is getting caught: I don’t like other people knowing (or believing) that I’ve broken the rules. I don’t like people thinking I’ve done Something Bad. So whenever someone comes into the library and asks to pet the dog, I immediately explain away the dog’s presence in the same way the man with the stub-tailed dog felt compelled to explain that he wasn’t the one who docked his dog’s tail. Don’t blame us, our actions seem to say. We’re just the innocent bystanders here.
And all this thinking about rules and the fact that I’m willing to break them leaves me wondering: Was the guy with the stub-tailed dog one of the good guys or a major pain in the neck?
Labels: Culture, Rules, Service Animals