Friday, 21 January 2022
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Dogs in grocery stores: Therapy for some, an annoyance for others

Dogs in public places may not be quite as controversial as, say, unruly kids, but many people have strong opinions nonetheless. I like dogs, so I’m happy to encounter them. But pets in grocery stores? Even I think that’s pushing it.

I heard various opinions from readers after I wrote about this a few weeks ago. A reader named Caroline said she recently came across a large dog “sniffing at apples in my local Harris Teeter, with its owner seemingly oblivious.” There was also a pooch in CVS — “sells food, too,” she noted (of the drugstore, not the dog) — and countless dogs dining alfresco with their owners in Old Town Alexandria.

(Well-behaved dog at an outdoor table? I gotta say, that’s fine with me.)

Last year, Caroline treated herself to a business-class flight only to find herself seated across the aisle from a flatulent dog. (“Barking would have been kinder to the nose,” she wrote.)

Caroline wrote to the airline, which sent back what she called “a ridiculously insensitive letter citing legislation about support dogs.”

Dog owners, she wrote me, “do not own airplanes, grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies any more than the rest of us.”

Tammie Gillums, 39, with her 1-year-old service dog, Cross, shops at Giant Food on March 22 in Gainesville, Va. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Jody Carlson of Fairfax, Va., is a big dog lover but doesn’t think they belong in grocery stores.

“Legitimate service dogs should, of course, be permitted, but not a dog that’s a pet,” Jody wrote. “Service dogs are well-trained and well-behaved and (in my opinion) cause no disruptions or health issues. I think the problem is that too many people either slap a homemade ‘service animal’ vest on their pet or else just claim the animal is a service animal and get highly offended when they’re challenged.”

But some readers were adamant that therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes, providing comfort for all sorts of problems. Some of those problems are easy to spot and some aren’t. They said that to question a dog in a store is to question a person’s disability.

A reader named Dan said that since he’s retired and his kids are away in college, he takes his black Lab, Lucy, practically everywhere. “She prefers to be with me in the car than to stay home alone,” Dan wrote. “While out running errands, I often stop at Giant on the way home to get provisions for dinner. What to do?”

On cool days, Dan rolls down the windows and runs into the store. “But when the temp rises above 75, the car is no place to leave a dog,” he wrote. “I worry about what would happen to her if I keeled over in the store. . . . Of course, I would like to be able to take her inside, but I realize that not all dogs are as nice and well-mannered as Lucy.”

Dan said he once asked the cart guy to hold Lucy’s leash while he went inside. He thinks that’s a service that grocery stores should consider, a sort of dog valet. That seems like a lot to ask of a cart guy in a busy parking lot.

So we’re back where we started. Some people wish they could take their dogs everywhere. Service dogs are allowed everywhere. Not all dogs are service dogs.

We’re in the position of having to trust humans to do the right thing. And you know what that means.

If you use a therapy dog and have been confronted about it in a public place, let me know. I’d also love to hear from people who cart their pets around everywhere even though they know they probably shouldn’t.

Start your diet now! These area schools are planning reunions in the coming months:

Anacostia High Class of 1978 — Sept. 22. Email Justine Briscoe Middleton at

Falls Church High Class of 1968 — Weekend of Sept. 1. Email

Gaithersburg High Class of 1978 — Sept. 7 and 8. Email Greg Mills at

McKinley Tech/Technology High — All classes from 50 or more years ago. Oct. 6. Email Bill Butler, Class of 1951, at or visit

Sherwood High Class of 1968 — Sept. 29. Email Larry Lauer at

Woodrow Wilson High Class of 1968 — Oct. 5-7. Email John Burwell at

W.T. Woodson High Class of 1968 — Oct. 5-7. Email

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit


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