What to Do When You See a Service Dog Family

Service dog families are just like any other family trying to enjoy their day.

Yesterday, the kids and I went to a garden for some family time.

Partway through, a lady shouted at me, “Dogs aren’t allowed!!” She asked me to leave.

My service dog was wearing her vest and was well behaved.

I told the woman working there that she was a service dog. She asked if I had a “badge” for my dog and acted like I was trying to get away with something. Service dogs don’t have badges. She clearly didn’t know that she also wasn’t supposed to ask for one.

My heart was racing. I was shaking. I felt like I was going to pass out.

I handed her an information card our service dog trainer gave me. She read it and then I could tell she felt badly for treating us the way she did. Her whole demeanor changed to be incredibly friendly toward us.

 

Then, she asked if she could make friends with my dog. I explained that she’s a service dog so she can’t play with her vest on. She smiled and told us to let her know if we needed anything.

I don’t think she meant harm. She just didn’t know.

If you see a family out with a service dog in your store or place of employment, there are two questions you can ask:

1. Is that a service dog?
2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff is not allowed to request documentation for the dog or ask what the person’s disability is.

Conversational tone is good. Yelling can be so triggering and make the entire rest of the day difficult for people with a variety of disabilities affected by being startled, such as PTSD, heart conditions, epilepsy, etc.

All of this happened in front of my children. They were okay, but I was not- I had to sit down for quite a while to feel okay again. As I was sitting down to work on feeling better while Keiko did deep pressure therapy, some guests at the garden came and yelled at me that my dog was thirsty and I should give her water. Yes, she had water 10 minutes ago and would have water again in a few minutes. Again, my children saw this.

When you see a service dog family out and about, remember that they are just like everyone else. They want to enjoy their day. They are trying to go about their business. They’re not trying to cause anyone harm or break the rules. They know how to care for their beloved dog.

Service dogs are there to be able to perform tasks for their “person,” so please do not distract the dog, talk to the dog, or try to pet the dog. Depending on the person’s disability, distracting the dog could cause the dog to miss something about their person that leads to a life threatening circumstance.

I don’t mind when people smile and say hello or compliment me on my dog. I even like it when they ask what breed she is or share a quick story about a friend or family member with a Great Pyrenees. I don’t mind if people ask if she’s a service dog or what she is trained to do.

I didn’t mention the name of the garden or the person on purpose. I’m not angry, I don’t want an uproar. I’m pretty sure she learned a lot yesterday and already feels badly, so I don’t want to add to that. We all have bad days or act in ways we regret sometimes.

I just want to be part of spreading awareness and hope that you will, too.

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