Thursday, August 6, 2009

Media potryal of Service Dogs: What does it do for people perceptions?

When I think of how media portrays service dogs the words "Wonder Dog" immediately come to mind. Most stories you see and read about service dogs are look how amazing and wonderful they are and this person, this poor disabled person had no life before their dog. Unfortunately, while this stories can be nice to see and read; they also perpetuate beliefs about service dogs and their human partners that can do real harm. Some beliefs that are commonly upheld in service dog media coverage:
1) The dog makes the person with a disability more of a person.
People are people no matter their disability and should be treated as such with or without a dog. Sadly, most people with disabilities often feel and are ignored on a regularly basis. The dog gives the people around the person with the disability something they can all comfortably talk about.
2) Service dogs are not dogs and never do doggie things.
This is part of the wonder dog scenario. People are amazed that service dogs are generally calm, quiet, clean, and well behaved. Teams regularly here the phrase "Wow, I did know a dog was here." Truthfully, though service dogs are just that highly trained dogs who just like any dog are capable of barking, getting dirty, playing a good game of keep away, getting into things they are not supposed too, and having off days where they just don't feel like working. The human partner of the team is responsible for ensuring the dogs half has everything he/she needs food, good care,love, play, down time, and continued training. In spite of everyone's best efforts it is possible for a service dog to be surprised by something and let out a bark or do some other doggie thing occasionally while working.
3. Service dogs never get time off.
This is so untrue. People who partner with service dogs understand everyone needs time off in order to keep at their best. Sure the dogs live with their partners and are their pretty much 24/7 but that does not mean the dog never gets to play, nap, or chew it's favorite toy.

Here is an example that leads people to some of these beliefs:House 97 Seconds
Here is and example of a good story-however- I think this story left some holes for instance no one ever said why you shouldn't pet a working service dog.
What are your opinions on media portrayal of service dogs? Do you know of other example good or bad that would interest the readers here?

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