I recently was standing in line at the airport to board a flight home. Fortunately, because I fly so much, I had been upgraded and was in the first group. They, of course, invite folks who need a little extra time to board first, so a few people in wheelchairs, along with the elderly and those with other challenges, go to the head of the line. When Bill was boarding his last flight last year he had enough strength to walk down the jetway, so he didn’t particularly look like he needed help, but he did.

That experience gave me greater compassion for those who “need a little extra time.” I’m more than happy to wait for them, and I anticipate that you might have to wait for me someday. What struck me on this trip, though, was the attitude of a woman with a small dog that she was pushing in a baby stroller. She presumed her right to board first, before even the elderly and infirm, then proceeded to block the rest of the boarding process while she folded the baby carriage in the doorway.

Today, it was a black lab puppy being passed around in a restaurant. The owner, a buff young gay man, claimed it was an emotional support animal … that he brought to happy hour to take selfies with the dog and his friends. Now, I appreciate that pets can be healing for people with post-traumatic stress disorder and other struggles, and that we can’t always tell by sight that a person needs additional support. Also, since Bill died, I am hopelessly attached to his dog, Brix. I think, however, that this is too often little more than a narcissistic scam.

My mother is an old-fashioned cook who wouldn’t tolerate dogs in her kitchen, and Bill’s father was a health inspector. The combination makes me intolerant of dogs in grocery stores and restaurants. I also have friends who are allergic to dogs and have known people who are deathly afraid of even the smallest, friendliest dog. This would not be a significant challenge if the tiny percentage of the population who need and have authentic service animals were the only ones to use them. However, tolerating the abuse of the excuse insults those who actually need service animals and disregards the needs of the many to indulge the indulgent few.

Frankly, I’m surprised at least one of the Trumps doesn’t have an emotional support animal. The rank narcissism that is displayed on Pennsylvania Avenue is staggering. My theory, though, is that it is simply the most recent expression of what is going on in our culture. Self-indulgence reigns supreme, so who should be surprised that the epitome of it got elected? From now on, I’m going to call all these fake “support” animals “Donald” and their owner “Mr./Ms. Trump.” You have to start pushing back somewhere.




Rev. Michael Piazza