Last week the boy who service dog Dancer helps, our son Zander, was sick, toppling a few dominos in our dog and family routine.
For Dancer that meant puppy-maintenance power walks were harder to come by and we missed out on two of the happiest places on earth for us: Nazareth House (where we go for training with Patricia and Love Heels teams) and our local Trader Joe’s.
Today, however, we were back at our favorite grocery store. Let me tell you, everyone there missed Dancer because everyone there loves Dancer. (There may be a few miscreants who don’t appreciate a dog in a grocery store on a Monday morning, but I just don’t see them and, frankly, I don’t want to know them.)
We saw friends we’ve met before on a our weekly Monday morning trips: mothers we know from school, cashiers who need a doggy fix the way some people need coffee, the store manager with a bad knee and a bright smile for Dancer.
We met new friends, too, like a dog lover who invited Dancer to smell her fur-scented shoes, a cashier who used to work with autism families who marveled at how engaged Dancer was, and the owner of another Love Heels dog, 12-year-old Hannah. (All used their best people manners to ask whether they could pet Dancer before approaching her.)
At one point, Dancer had a swarm (well three) groupies waiting to have a turn with her in the checkout line. Helping to bag was another mom of a special needs tween who I’ve spoken to before. She’d lost her dog recently and too needed some doggie time.
As I looked at how happy Dancer was making her fans, I told this mom, “This is one of the best things a service dog does for a family. She makes us approachable. Sometimes people are scared or just don’t know how to act around my son, especially if he’s having a hard day. She makes people want to be around us.”
I left the store buoyed, proud and amazingly grateful for Dancer. I am always delighted by the doors she opens for us, both in helping Zander and in helping the rest of us. She has opened so many conversations for me about the power of pets, the role of service dogs, autism and people with special needs. She just spreads the love wherever she goes.
So yes, everybody loves Dancer, especially Zander and me.