How a ‘Can I Pet Your Dog?’ Tattoo Tackles Social Anxiety

'Can I Pet Your Dog?' tattoo
Credit: Courtesy of Subject

I don’t just like dogs—I LOVE dogs. Every time I see a cute pup I make a point of taking a picture or waving hello. (Because of course it can wave back, right?!) I’m one of those people who, without fail, greets the dog before I greet its owner. But I’ve never been particularly comfortable asking strangers to pet their dogs, so I’m usually stuck admiring from afar. A similar dilemma is what led 22-year-old Chase Grossman—who has an impressive collection of 17 tattoos—to get his most recent piece. 

When Grossman got his ‘Can I Pet Your Dog?’ tattoo, he wasn’t expecting it to go viral. “I thought about {getting this tattoo} for months,” Grossman tells Inside Out. After deciding on his ideal font and placement (it’s on his forearm, a location that he admits wasn’t particularly painful), Grossman brought the design to West Anchor Tattoo, a studio in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.  Resident artist Jacob Bowman, who along with the rest of the studio’s crew, specializes in the American Traditional style of tattoo, made Grossman’s piece permanent.

However, his plan only took him so far. “It was a walk-in appointment,” he says of his gamble to go for a new piece day-of. “[Since] I knew the font, size, and placement, I just wanted to make sure I chose a reputable studio.”

While Grossman is a long time dog lover—he’s had his own pup, Lily, since seventh grade—he’s always had some trouble approaching other people and their pets. “I really love animals, I work with wildlife, and I do a lot of interacting with the public, but if I don’t know someone well my general anxiety gets ahold {of me and} I shake,” he explains. He figured getting the tattoo would help him ask the question he doesn’t feel otherwise comfortable asking—and along the same lines, was the reason he chose his forearm for the fresh ink. “I wanted it to be one of the first things people see.” 

But with a ‘Can I Pet Your Dog?’ tattoo that asks owners outright if it’s okay for him to give their dogs a few good rubs, Grossman’s design not only connects him with new furry friends, it also serves a deeper, therapeutic purpose: helping to curb his anxiety.  

Grossman isn’t alone in his use of tattoos as a tool for managing anxiety and mental health: psychologist Ana Jovanovic says that tattoos are “a way to remind a person of their strength, their love for someone, or a new intention.””

“In a way I believe my tattoo would help not just myself but others,” says Grossman. “Random people love it and it brings a smile to their faces. It makes conversations a bit more comfortable—it’s something to talk about.”

If you liked How a ‘Can I Pet Your Dog?’ Tattoo Tackles Social Anxiety, be sure to check out our post 13 Disney Tattoos for the Ultimate Stan.

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