Hairy Squatter and the Dogly Shallows

dog fanny packLike most horror stories in my colorful past, this one started with a positive thought …

“Hey,” I said. “The movie might not be that crowded. It’s been out for what now? Six or seven weeks? Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

We were finally getting around the seeing the final chapter in the Harry Potter saga. We were on our way to an actual movie theater. Yes, I love my wife that much. She wanted it, therefore I was going. And I was feeling – dare I say – a skosh optimistic.

Oh, shit! That’s the danger sign. Get the hell out of there!!!

Too late. We were already in. Tickets in hand, we headed for the little choke point from the lobby where a TSA employee would subject us to a full body scan and verify our boarding passes before letting us onto the concourse.

Perhaps I exaggerate a bit. But it sure felt that way.

As we angled towards the gatekeeper, I noticed another group of people inbound from the right. They were angling to get there before us. What the hell, I thought. I’m in a good mood and feeling positive and shit. I slowed my pace to ensure there was no doubt they’d go through first.

Then I noticed it.

The dog.

OMG. They had a dog. I don’t know much about dogs, but it was obviously a poodle of some sort. And it was gigantor. And scraggly as hell. And ugly. And it was wearing an ancient thoroughly worn out piece of dog clothing that, although faded, still said, “Service Animal.”

Don’t get me wrong. If someone has a legitimate disability, I’m all for service animals. I think they’re great and I’ll go out of my way to accommodate them. At the same time, and I don’t mean to offend anyone, but the number of fake service animals has exploded in recent years. This is because people figured out that the wording in the Americans with Disabilities Act was vague enough to allow anyone to call their dog a “service animal” and therefore take the pet almost anywhere. Shopping malls, grocery stores, and yes, even movie theaters.

Again, I’m talking about the people who call their dog a “service animal” just because they like to bring him along, not people with legitimate disabilities. The problem is that there is no official governing body for this sort of thing. It’s a self-regulated industry. So there is nothing to stop people from saying, “Fluffy is now a service dog. Let’s go to the mall, Fluffy.” Retail staff doesn’t know how to handle this, either. You can’t exactly go up to a stranger and say, “I see you have a service animal. What is your disability?” Not unless you want to get your ass sued for violating someone’s civil rights.

Thus we have the perfect breeding grounds for abuse. A vaguely written law, social discomfort, a lack of education, and, of course, selfish asshole people who want what they want.

It’s not just dogs, either. I’ve heard about cats, goats, monkeys, parrots, and even reptiles being called “service animals” by their owners. Urban lore even tells of a pony in the WalMart. Or so I’ve heard.

It used to be that service animals were automatically accepted because the owner had a disability like impaired vision or hearing. These days, though, pretty much all you have to say is that you have a “psychiatric” disability and the animal performs some function for you, perhaps “calming” or alerting you when you need your meds.

It’s hard to see how a system like this could ever be abused.

I have no idea about the dog owner I saw at the movie theater. Perhaps it was legitimate or perhaps it was this sort of fraudulent abuse I’m taking about. It’s hard to be sure just by looking.

They made their way to the gatekeeper who dutifully ripped their tickets in half and said, “Theater 12 is down the hall to your right.”

It was our turn. We stepped up and handed our tickets over. I’m not a praying person, but I was praying now. “Please, God. Please oh please don’t let it be theater 12. Anything but theater 12. Hear me!”

The gatekeeper handed our stubs back and said, “Theater 12 is down the hall to your right.”


Disability or not, I wasn’t looking forward to watching a movie with some stranger’s dog. The dog at work does things like jump up from his nap, trot across the room, sit at my feet, then fart his ass off. No, I was now decidedly worried. My earlier optimism had fled.

We briefly debated whether or not we wanted to pay $6 for a popcorn (we didn’t) and then made our way down the long hall and into the movie maze. The people with the dog who had been in front of us had somehow disappeared. We entered theater #12 and the people were not in sight.

Even though the movie had been out for a while, the theater was still about 25 percent full, with all the people clumped together in center seats in the mid to upper area. We picked an area where there were several open rows and sat in the middle.

After waiting the obligatory 20 minutes for the movie to start, I was just about ready to relax. Perhaps things would be okay after all.

Then two things happened like a Mike Tyson body shot followed immediately by a nibble to the ear.

First, a lone dude who looked like a greasy super nerd walked up the steps, avoided all of the open rows of seats, and made his way directly towards me. With tons of seats to choose from, he had chosen to sit one empty seat away from me. I was … irritated.

Well, what the fuck, I thought. I guess I can handle that.

But then…

The group of people with the dog finally made their appearance. In they came. Like Mr. Greasy, then ignored all of the empty rows of seats. They trudged up the other flight of stairs and headed towards my wife. They didn’t even try to maintain the charade by scanning around and pretending to look for seats. They simply headed right for us.

I looked to the heavens. “Really?” I asked. “Not even the pretense of making it look believable? What ever happened to to style? What ever happened to being subtle?” I think it’s safe to say that, at that moment, I did not have a suspension of disbelief.

The lady with the dog, of course, was the first one in. And unlike Mr. Greasy, she didn’t obey the social mores of an empty seat between strangers in a mostly empty movie theater. Oh no. Not her.

She plopped down in the seat directly next to my wife, her dog at her feet, and she settled in for the long haul. She affixed my wife with a steely glance that said, in no uncertain terms, “I am prepared to go all the way in the Great Armrest War.”

My wife waited gallantly for about six seconds before taking action. She turned and whispered in my ear, “Holy shit. That animal fucking smells! Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

The house lights went down. The movie had started. And that’s how, at that exact moment, we abandoned our seats and began hunting in the dark for new ones.

Looking back, I can plainly see how all the laws of probability were broken during our experience. Statistics – bad luck – can’t even begin to explain it. Using numbers, the odds of what happened were about 1 in a trillion. Yet that’s exactly how it happened.

No, there was a higher power at work. This was deliberate.

It’s what I get for trying to go to the movies.

9 responses

  1. Recently, I had the loud talking and frequent getting-upper family. They exchanged seats so many times before the movie, during previews and into the movie that I moved TWICE.

    It ended up being 5 of them: mum/ dad and 3 teens. They talked to each other, too, and texted on their phones (lighting up the place).

    I said “shh” a couple of times but after the 2nd move, was far enough away that I could force myself to ignore them (although every time one stood up to walk in or out again, their standing height was still in my view).

    I probably should have complained to a manager but I figured those 5 versus me meant I’d get my arse kicked. Hence the moving twice. It sucked, though. They were basically “all adults” and should know better. I mean, did they ALL have diarrhea? What was up with that?


    1. I bet that’s it. I bet they were all sitting around the house complaining about diarrhea. “I have diarrhea.”

      “So do I.”

      “Hey! Me, too.”

      All together now: “Movie time!!!”


  2. Our movie strategy has devolved to going to the non-ultra-super-surround-sound-stadium plex at 11 a.m. on Sundays. We are so old. Otherwise, I just get so annoyed with texting and talking that I get a little twitchy.

    I love dogs, but I have a friend that has a crappy little mini-dachshund that has a “service dog” vest and patch. She bought it on eBay. This is so she can fly back and forth to the east coast with her dog rather than kennel it. What a scam.


    1. I’m with you! I go to the most run-down place I can cos the 20 multi-plex (or whatever) is well, worse.


    2. That’s EXACTLY the sort of thing I’m talking about. “I want to take my pet on the airplane with me. Viola! He is now a service dog.”

      Lying about that sort of thing, in my opinion, is akin to parking in the handicapped space. It’s offensive to every person challenged with real disabilities.


  3. You have your own unique gravitational field. Like all that space junk orbiting Earth, you attract all kinds of strange shit. 🙂


    1. Well, you know what they say about gravity. I guess I went and made a mass of myself.

      I am a negativity gravity well. Nothing escapes, not even the Light.


  4. Well, the person could have epilepsy, panic disorder, or severe diabetes, all of which the little puffball could alert to, just being devil’s advocate. Oh man, do9 I hate people invading my personal space. That woulda p’d me off royal. Hope the movie was good though! Hilarious!


    1. I do believe there are legitimate reasons for a psychological service animal. I’ve heard that some can warn of impending seizures and they can also do things like help with PTSD episodes. Obviously conditions requiring those sorts of assistance are not visible to the naked eye, so I try to resist the urge to always assume it’s a fake service animal.

      I do think that conditions other than loss of hearing or sight should be regulated by the government to prevent abuse.

      And, whether an animal performs a legitimate service function or not, all establishments should have the right of refusal if the animal reeks. That dog was just gross!


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