It all started because I was looking for a cute t-shirt to give to my buddy Andrew for his birthday. Because he’s such a fan of Ripley’s, I thought he might like a shirt that celebrated service dogs. But when I began searching online for shirts, what I found right away were a bunch of t-shirts instead that I would love to wear. All those things I wish I could say to people who drive me crazy when I’m out in the world with Ripley and they are being clueless. Shirts that said, “Keep Your Paws Off My Service Dog” and “If You Can Read This Shirt, You Can Read the Patches On My Service Dog’s Vest.”
I giggled and guffawed as I commiserated over all the obvious frustration that countless other service dog handlers must be feeling. Otherwise, why would these t-shirts exist? Although they made me laugh, most were a bit too confrontational for me to actually consider wearing. But I finally did choose a couple of tees. One is very subtle. It is the outline of a dog, made up of words in rainbow colors. It represents service dogs who are for invisible disabilities, and the words include seizure, diabetes, support, illness, lifeline, calming, ADA, love, strength, mobility, heart, access, etc.
The other two shirts listed service dog manners: Never touch a service dog without permission. Don’t distract with noises or food. Service dogs are not pets, they are medically needed and are protected by Federal Law. Service dog handlers are not show and tell exhibits, and they may not wish to chat. Service dogs are allowed in all places open to the public. The two shirts contained similar language, with slight variances.
So the shirts came in the mail, and I decided to do a soft test first, wearing one of the service dog manners tees out to dinner with a large group of friends. The inscription was on the back of the shirt. I took off my sweatshirt and said, “See my new shirt?” One of my friends started to read, and said, “Where’s number two?”
“The list. It goes from number one to number three. There’s no number two.”
Sure enough, when I got home that night, I took off my shirt and checked. Number two was AWOL. Since the shirt came from Zazzle, which custom prints each shirt, I thought maybe it was a printing error. But when I went to the website, it was wrong there, too. The list was ordered one, three, four, five, six, seven.
Now what’s the message there? Do I now have to divulge that I am mathematically handicapped as well?
Even Ripley can count to three. She knows she gets two spoonfuls of ice cream, and three small cookies, each at the appropriate time. And don’t even try to short change her.
I’ve written to Zazzle, but so far no response. Perhaps they are still adding things up in their accounting room. Which may not be going well, from the looks of things.