Should a Person Ask a Service Dog Handler What the Dogs Job is?
For those of you that are regular readers of mine you know I have PTSD and a service dog named Sparky who goes with me everywhere. There are educated people out there that know they are not supposed to pet, talk to or give treats to a service dog and talk with me like any other customer. There are others that have no idea what a service dog is outside of a seeing eye dog or visibly physically impaired making it obvious what the dogs presence is for.
Sparky and I are a little different as are hundreds of service dogs throughout the country. You can’t see PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and other “non visible” ailments like seizures, diabetics, mobility and anxiety. People are not as educated on how to respond to these type of service dogs in public places. In my own experiences, I’ve been asked to leave a business, asked to prove my dogs service paperwork which are both illegal to do. I’ve had children and adults just walk up to Sparky and start talking to and/or petting him and I’ve seen people turn around and walk away when they saw us walking down an isle. And on several occasions, been asked what his service is for or what service he is being trained for.
How should we handle these types of reactions?
Personally, I’m still working on how best to handle a couple of them. But when someone begins to talk to or reach out to touch Sparky, I simply ask them to please not, he’s on duty at the moment but if you would like to meet him you can out at our vehicle and I’ll take his “work uniform” off. I actually have had a couple people do it and I do encourage it because not only is Sparky a service dog, he’s also in the “pitbull” category so we have 2 responsibilities of education to offer.
When we were asked to leave a business and when we were asked to prove it I responded with appreciation for their concern and willingness to approach me rather than assume anything negative and/or call the police. Calling the police hasn’t been something I’ve experienced personally but I have heard of it happening. Then I respectfully explained the laws governing service dogs and where to find that information themselves to read. Then I expedited my shopping and left to express my respect for their concerns. My next trip in I approached the service desk to make sure everyone understands and is comfortable with my having a service dog inside. They said yes and there has been no questions since. Had they said no, I would have simply said okay thank you, left and found another store to shop at; simple as that. And I’m no angel, I most likely would have put them on social media blast. Just sayin.
The one I’m still struggling with is when I’m asked “What is his service for?” or “What is he service training for?”. On one hand, I think it’s just rude. It’s the same as asking a person physically different, “What’s wrong with you?” while standing in line at the grocery store. Would you agree that’s kind of rude? Then flip side of that, it’s an opportunity to educate. And to be perfectly transparent, how I feel; either uncomfortable and slightly offended or as an educational opportunity is usually based on my mood at the time. Hence why I still feel it as an internal struggle.
In the end, no matter what peoples responses are, respect should be number one from both them and myself. So, the question remains; Should a person ask a service dog handler what the dogs job is? If you would like a custom made “Service Dog” leather dog collar, be sure to let me know and I would be happy to make one for you. And as always, a portion of all sales profit from RackCityMT.com will be donated to a dog rescue. Who knows, the dog you save could end up being yours.