Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Please Don’t Ask: We May Not Want to Tell: Service Dog Etiquette In Public Places

“What does she do for you?” I hear this question from total strangers every time I walk into any building, for any reason every day all day all year. --This question never takes a holiday!
One might think this question is about an Executive Assistant, A therapist, or a maid. Actually, it’s about my Service Dog Goodee.
Goodee does lots of things for me. Many of the items she does are included in the occupations I mentioned above. However, I’m sure she would tell you herself:
1. We don’t have a maid
2. Goodee picks up things.
3. Goodee IS an Executive Assistant of limited scope
4. Goodee does not do windows.
It is odd to see a dog where dogs don’t usually belong. It’s a childhood game we learn. Our brain may automatically ask: “Which one does not belong?”
I know it’s funny to see a dog in: a church, an office, a restaurant, a pay phone, or public rest area—So why not ask?
I know animals that do human things fascinate people. —So, why not ask?
In certain legal situations limited questions may be necessary. The legal reply is limited in scope and purpose. ---The purpose is to assist the disable human with their needs.
You may want to help the disabled person the best way you can so why not ask?
You may want to ask: “May I help you?” that would be great but please not---
“What does she do for you?”
This question nearly always requires a follow- up (or two).
If the Service Dog Team stops to reply to one question it appears rude to not reply to a follow-up (or two, or three, or four)
If the Service Dog Team replies to your questions it appears rude to the person behind you to not reply to theirs.
If people behind you don’t have questions frustration sets in. You stop people. (Often in a narrow passage.). –--Then starts a public traffic jam that resembles a circus.
Think of the things you need to do each day. The Service Dog and their human are trying to do the same things in the same amount of time that you are. –Often at a physical disadvantage.
The Service Dog is paired with the human so that disability becomes ability. The impossible is now possible.
What happens when “the circus” comes into the picture?
The disabled person experiences a barrier, an additional disability. ---
Now the disabled person has to navigate themselves and a Service Dog through “the circus.”—Why? : because someone asks “the question” and “the follow-up question(s)”

“What does she do for you?”
This is an opportunity for teaching. —So why not ask the question?
There are many resources that allow you to learn about Service Dogs.
You will find there is not an exhaustive list of replies for the question: “What does she do for you?”
Each dog is different. Each handler’s need is different.
Imagine if someone asks you: “Why do you brush your teeth?”
Not such a personal question. You won’t mind doing a quick reply.
Now, imagine if someone asks you: “What do your glasses do for you?”
Oh and “May I wear them?”
“Oh please! Just for a minute”
Well, that’s still not so hard.
You may not mind allowing a trial fitting
After all -- --“shades” are cool and they may remind someone of old “shades.”
Remember, they may never get to see another set of “shades” like yours.
Now, image if someone asks you: “Why don’t you have children?” and “ Well have you tried to have children? “
This question is a little more difficult and personal, right?
In the examples above the reason for the glasses may be obvious, but the reason a person is childless is not obvious at all.
The follow up question about glasses doesn’t require much and may even be fun The follow up question about your childless status may be complex, painful and sad.
It’s the same with disability
Just like you a Service Dog handler has his or her own comfort level.
Your question may remind someone of life long barriers.
Your question may remind them of a perfect life disrupted by injury,( often in the line of duty to their country).
Your follow up questions may require medical detail they are not even legally required to share with businesses or employers. --- So, they may not want to disclose it to a total stranger in at a crowded mall,
Service Dogs are fantastic. Your admiration is appreciated. However, please understand: There is a proper time and place for everything
In public we often say: “NOT NOW WE ARE WORKING!”


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