Friday, June 19, 2009

Educating Friends and Community Members

As a very active team Shiloh and I work diligently to present our community with an image of a happy, reasonable, and responsible team and recently our efforts have been paying off since people see us (all right me) as a credible resource for their questions.

Shiloh, myself, my roommate, and her Guide Dog Cammy went into a local bookstore to sell some books we no longer wanted for a little cash. As I entered the store I was pleased to discover one of our dog park friends worked there and that her little Boston Terrier, Little D, served as shop dog. She knew that our girls were on duty and quickly moved Little D behind the counter so that we could simply go about our business. (Not that our girls couldn't work with him around, it just gave her peace of mind that he wouldn't pester us.) As we finished our business she asked if she could ask us a question about our dogs. She wanted to know if service dogs had to wear harnesses, or vests when out in public. Not wanting to increase confusion or spread misinformation-nevermind how simple it is to dress one's service dog so people are not always pestering you about bringing THAT DOG in here- we told her no the law doesn't require that service dogs wear any kind of special harness of vest. However, we went on to say that most people will since it is so simple to do and cuts down on people hassling them. She asked because a lady had come into the store with a dog who wasn't dressed and not the best behaved and when she asked the lady about the dog the lady got offended saying it was a service dog. We also told her the questions that the DOJ has said businesses can ask. She thanked us and said she looked forward to seeing us again.
How about it readers (Those who are partnered with SDs) do you dress your service dog? Why or why not? leave a comment and tell others and me what you think. Those readers not partnered with service dogs how do you feel about harnesses and vests for service dogs?

We have a housekeeper who comes every couple of weeks to help with the deeper cleaning that neight myself nor my roommate can do very well and as I sat relaxing one evening I her voice come over the answering machine wondering if I might be able to give her some resources on service dogs who do seizure response, since she know that is what Einstein does, for a friend of hers who has epilepsy and is now living alone for the first time in years as her son just moved out. When she came over later that week I gave her the websites for ADI and IAADP to share with her friend since her friend is very new to the idea of a service dog. I was happy to pass on credible sources of information for her friend, since I know there are a lot of websites out there full of misinformation.


Flo said...

Duncan wears a mobility harness and a backpack because I need him to carry some things (handicap placard, pick up bags, textbooks, and whatever odds and ends don't fit in my pockets)
Since he's already got the backpack on, I labeled it.
We're actually switching to a slightly modified guide type harness ( has some great customer service, and is modifying the Sport style harness), since I need a dog to provide forward pull, not a walker dog. Once we get the new harness, I've got some smaller backpacks I'll be modifying to fit around the harness handle since I graduated college and don't need the backpack big enough for textbooks anymore.

If I needed a dog that could work without gear, say a hearing or medical alert dog, I'd probably still put a cape on them, because there's enough issues with access even with Duncan in a harness and a backpack.

Melissa Mitchell said...

First off congratulations on finishing college. I am so glad to read you are using a chest harness construction to provide the forward steady you need to stay balanced, rather than encouraging a taunt leash on a collar as I have seen some do. Your method is much safer for both you and the dog and does not send the mixed signals to the dog that the other approach often does.

Becky said...

I personally feel that service animals should be required to have an identificaton and certification. Sounds like you did a great job educating her on service animals.

Anonymous said...

Luigi is dressed in a very well identified back pack. As he is a Medical Alert dog he carries my required medical equipment and medication in his pack. Despite the pack, the identifying patches, the leash slider we still often have access issues.

I believe in identifying service dogs visually in some way that is appropriate to the work they do - a harness for mobility or guide, a back pack or vest for hearing or medical alert etc. I believe it not only cuts down the access issues, but is a matter of courtesy for the public around us that the dog be clearly identified as a working dog.

Katrin said...

James wears a guide harness as that is his main function for me when we are out in public. And so he is fairly easily IDed as a working dog by that. I also have a bright yellow velco slider on the handle saying "Do Not Pet" on one side and "Service Dog" on the other, that helps people as well.

I do think that having some form of visible ID on your dog does make it easier, but the top thing that will make it easy to ID your dog as a working dog is his or her manner while working.

Melissa Mitchell said...

I do agree that behavior above all denotes a true working service dog. What I fail to understand is why some people balk so at putting a simple vest on their "service dog".