People Who Bring "Comfort Animals" to Restaurants Are Self-Centered Douchebags

Twice a month, legendary bartender/chef/restaurant insider Dave Mau pops by Stick A Fork In It to chime in about a random OC food or drink musing of his choice. Enjoy!!

Two recent events prompted this week's post:

The first was a South Coast Plaza dog fight incident worthy of a Sam Peckinpah movie where I witnessed two overly-groomed pooches locked in bloody battle as stunned shoppers looked on and the dog owners bickered over who was at fault instead of pulling their animals off each other. By the way, news flash: both of you are at fault for bringing your canine somewhere it doesn't belong. The second is the now-infamous “comfort turkey on airplane” incident where someone actually had the audacity to bring a live turkey onto an aircraft because it made them feel better. (That’s what Xanax is for.) I hope they had gravy on the flight. And stuffing.

Listen, we in The Biz have to deal with a lot of nonsense from the general public—that's no secret. It's not anyone's fault. Some people are jerks and we decided to work in an industry where we have to manage all their weirdness. There's the angry customer, the needy one, the annoying, the touchy, the whiney, the miserable, the strung-out or just plain messed-up ones. But hey: it's our job, and complaining about it is about as productive as a mechanic bitching because he has to work on cars. It's a reality as sure as gravity and the quicker you get used to it, the better off you are. Period.

HOWEVER!

The latest in customer craziness has taken an absurd new turn: people bringing their dogs into restaurants as "service animals" even though Fido is clearly about as much a service animal as I am an astronaut or Buddhist priest. We are seeing it more and more: guest who brings their prize Pomeranian or award-winning poodle to sit with them for a meal. The punch line is......(drumroll).......We can’t even ask! It’s a classic example of government regulations gone horribly awry: health care privacy laws prevent us from “shaming” someone because they have an animal in our shop. There is a big difference between “shaming” someone and holding them accountable to behave like a rational human being. The kicker is, even if we could query them about the therapeutic legitimacy of the suspect creature, there are a ton of online sites that will “certify” your pet (insert species here) as a service animal.

Whoa! Wait a minute! Before you start hating me, listen up. I'm not talking about people that legitimately need an animal to see or hear for them or maybe, just maybe, to help manage an anxiety disorder. I even hear there are dogs trained that can sense insulin levels. That's fine. What I am talking about are the people who just can't bear to be away from their poochie woochie for a few minutes while they enjoy ceviche and a glass of wine at Las Brisas. And I get your dog may or may not be as germ-free as the clean room at Lockheed Martin, but it's way more likely he's spent the day sniffing other dogs’ rectums and eating clay-covered cat feces out of the litter box like it’s almond roca.

I love my pooch Rascal and, yes, I feel much better when he is around. But the cold, hard truth is that—in a purely evolutionary sense—I am a glorified treat dispenser who provides comfort and security for him and he satisfies my need to have something to take care of. That’s perfectly okay. The difference is I can leave him at home for 45 while I get the best molcajete ever at Rancho d'Mendoza in my hometown of SanTana. It’s also pretty insulting to real service dogs—or, even worse, the heroes that sniff out IEDs and search for trapped skiers—to pass off your animal as vital to survival when it isn’t.

So feel free! Bring your pooch, cat, lemur, crocodile, boa constrictor, narwhal, ferret, prairie dog or jellyfish to eat with you! It's a service animal, right? Between pretend food allergies, insane dietary restrictions and now this, it seems bringing your pet out to eat is the latest status symbol to prove how much of a self-centered douchebag a person can be.

See you for dinner!


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