Monday, September 14, 2009

Tell Tail Signs of the Culture and Concern Over How a Service Dog and Handler Should Behave

It is the day to day things and the little interactions that at once make me proud to be a half of a working service dog team; while also worry about our future. Shiloh and I will celebrate our one year anniversary in a little more than a month and we have come a long way in that time. I needed to send a package FedEx today for my second job, so Shiloh and I boarded the bus. Shiloh is very uncomfortable riding the lifts and it is not absolutely necessary that she does so, so in the interest of both safety and keeping her happy about working I send her up first when boarding. She waits for me at the top of the stairs and then we go to the wheelchair spot and settle in. When de-boarding she waits on the bus, until I call her after getting off the lift. I always tell the drivers how we board and de-board so they will feel confident that me and my service dog have a plan. Today we had a driver we have had before and she remarked how well behaved Shiloh is and it's too bad not all the "service dogs" are that way. She said two of them got in a fight once. I said it's sad because it makes it even harder for responsible handler and owner trainers. She agreed heartily.  
The second thing that happened today that gave me solace (instead of grimacing like the above) happened just ten minutes later as Shiloh and I were working to enter the Fed-Ex store. I knew these doors were the heavy glass type and so I brought along our special door hook (for most doors our leash works great as a door pull). I really wanted Shiloh to work the door, so when a woman came along and offered to help I said Nno thank you, I would like my dog to do it, but you can go ahead of us if you like." The woman said she wasn't in a hurry and let Shiloh and I work the door. I really appreciated her patience as this door was HUGE and HEAVY, it took Shiloh and I working together to get it open. She allowed us our independence and space. As we went it the door I thanked her for allowing my dog to work. This made me feel great!
The third thing that happened today once again gave me cause to worry. Shiloh and I were walking back to the bus depot I passed a local antique mall with a sign on the door that read "Service Dogs Only" Great right? Yes until you read the second line of the sign that read "Must be on leash." Why would a service dog not be on leash, service dog handlers must comply with leash laws same as everyone else.
The final vignettes from today happened on the bus on the way home. I got on the bus and there was another woman in a wheelchair who wanted to know what Shiloh does for me and as soon as I mentioned picking up dropped things and counter retrieves her interest was piqued. She then wanted to know what it was like having a service dog. I did not sugar coat it in the least I gave her the great parts as well as the harder parts to consider. We had been on the bus ten minutes by now and another women who had been standing right in front of us turned and blurted out "I didn't know there was a dog there!" She had been standing within six inches of Shiloh the whole time! I casually said, "That's right a good service dog can be all but invisible sometimes."


Clive said...

A really interesting post Melissa. Thank you.

- Fiona

Melissa Mitchell said...

I'm glad you liked it!