This is my post for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. I’ll link to the Carnival post once it’s up!
The theme for this Carnival is ‘Reactions’.
One of the things they warn you about when you go to get a service dog is that you’re about to become a lot more visible, and they’re right. They’re so right that even when you expect that, it’s a little overwhelming. You can’t so much as go pick up your medications at the pharmacy without someone making a comment. Maybe they’ll ask to pet him. If you have a dog like mine, who isn’t definitely of a recognized breed, they’ll ask you what breed he is, and often make suggestions as to what they think he is (some of which will be truely absurd). They’ll comment on how well behaved he is, and some of them will talk about wishing their dogs were as good. They’ll tell you you have a handsome dog. They’ll comment on your gear. They’ll point you and your dog out to their children. The vast majority of them will say your dog is a guide dog, because the use of other types of assistance dogs isn’t as well known.
It’s kind of exhausting, and every now and again, I find myself wanting to say one simple thing to them: he’s not here for you. I don’t get to, though, because as a service dog partner, I am treated as an ambassador for all assistance dog pairs out there. I have to make nice, because a bad interaction with a service dog or their partner might make someone stop letting assistance dogs into their businesses, which amounts to not letting people with disabilities into their businesses.*
So here’s what I want to say, when it’s been a long day and I’m just trying to finish up and get home. Please be warned that the rest of this post is extremely sarcastic and a bit angry.
Yes, I know every dog lover is happy to see my dog out in public.
Yes, it’s very nice that you’re not petting him, good for you on reading part of the signs on his gear. I wish you got the ‘do not distract’ part, though, because your bending down and babytalking at him is getting his attention and I’m going to have to give my dog a verbal correction for something that isn’t entirely his fault so that he doesn’t learn that he can pay attention to other people like that.
Yes, I’m sure your dog looked just like him, except small and white and not so fluffy. How very similar.
Yes, you know what? My 65 pound dog is part ‘scotty dog’. How ever did you guess?
Oh, by all means, please distract my dog from what he is doing and damage his training by petting him. That is ever so good for us. I will remember you the next time he dashes down the stairs and knocks me over so someone can pet him.
Please, give my dog human food! It’s not like doggy digestion is a bit on the delicate side and human food isn’t designed for them. I’m sure I won’t be dealing with diarrhea for the next two days.
Why hello stranger, it is ever so kind of you to take pictures of us without asking me if it’s okay! I love being an object of curiousity for you!
How wonderful it is that you let your children run over and pet strange dogs without asking the owner first!
Please, ask me if you can ride my dog. Yes, that harness on his back there is for your entertainment, and I haven’t heard that one before.
Do you really need to know what breed he is? How clever of you to guess.
I’m so glad you approve of his haircut. I’m not sure if you’re asking if I groom him myself because you are impressed by what the widdle crippled girl can do or because you want to show off your own dog grooming knowledge. Maybe you’re looking for the name of a good dog groomer.
Why yes, he does wear boots when it’s snowy out. Gee, no one has ever told me how cute they are before.
Please, don’t feel like you have to ask if I mind talking, even though I’m near collapsing and exhausted and flushed in the face. I’m sure you could tell that I came here specially to chit-chat with you while I wait for the trolley to come.
What this all adds up to is one little thing: I’m tired of getting singled out by people who are looking for any excuse to talk to the girl with the dog. Yes, I’m sure that I’m a curiousity, and you rarely see other assistance dogs, and you’re curious. But please, take your curiousity online the next time. Even if you go to another service dog user’s blog, they have the luxury of answering you when they have energy and patience to do so.
I don’t want to be stared at, any more than I did when I used crutches. I’m a normal person going around doing normal person things, and while I love the furry little pants off Hudson, I don’t want my every public interaction to be about him or about the disability that causes me to need him. I just want you to treat me like anyone else. Do you know how long it’s been since anyone commented on anything other than my dog and my braces?
* This sentence originally said “…someone stop letting dogs into their businesses.” Sharon pointed out that it’s not about the dogs, it’s about the people with them. You see, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it isn’t the dogs who have rights, it’s the people-with-dogs who have rights. It’s a pretty important difference, which is why I thought it was worth correcting.