I have always loved dogs since I can remember. I especially have a soft spot for Service animals. They are a very special select group of canines. Did you know they begin their two year training from day 1 as puppies? I once asked a trainer who had a puppy “in training” if every dog is chosen. She said “No, many of the dogs aren’t chosen to carry on the specialized training required”. Very interesting.
Another fascinating aspect is the varied types of handlers the dogs will be paired with and equipped to assist. Dogs may be required to work with:
- People who use a wheelchair;
- Those who are blind or limited vision;
- Remind those with diabetes if their sugar level is getting high;
- Remind their handlers who have a mental illness to take medication;
- Sense impending seizures of their handlers;
- Offer comfort for PTSD sufferers having an anxiety attack.
These hardworking animals and their handlers would like us to be aware of the following etiquette if we or our children should have an encounter.
My Service Dog is working
When you see a handler with her dog, know that her animal is providing a vital service even if it’s not obvious. Let the dog alone to do her job. Handlers often refer to their service animals as partners which is so true. Please refrain from touching the dog or even approaching the animal. Just ignore them both unless the handler smiles first and says, “Hi”!!
My Service Dog is my lifeline
Often the dog is the link between life and death for some handlers. Even if the dog seems to be “not working”, you don’t know the exact nature of the training involved. Perhaps the dog is detecting a epileptic seizure, for example. Any distractions for the dog could be life-threatening!!
My medical history is private
If it’s not intuitively obvious why a handler has a service animal, definitely don’t ask any nosy questions. “So what happened to you?” “Why do you have an animal?” The medical history of the person is totally off limits.
I don’t always want to answer questions
Never be offended if a handler seems unfriendly. Likely, he has fielded lots of questions about his animal. For example, the breed; the training of the animal; the length of time of training; the age. The person may want to run a quick errand or get to an appointment so let’s be respectful of their time.
My Service Dog is loved
Unfortunately, some people remark to handlers that they feel “sorry” for the animal having to work all of the time. This is simply not true, of course. Handlers deeply love their animals and give them “time off” to be a dog. Lots of time at a dog park along with treats are part of their daily routine. These canines are incredible pets due to their high level of training and socialization.
My Service Dog is medical equipment
Another reason why service animals are never touched is because they are necessary for the life of the handler much like a wheelchair or white cane is for other people with disabilities.
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