On Saturday morning I was enjoying the breakfast buffet at a local hotel. I chatted away to family. The leather leash of my Service Dog Goodee comfortably fitted to my wrist. Suddenly my conversation was disrupted as I hear Goodee rise from under the table. She came out and shook her head briskly. The rattle of her dog tags stopped all conversation.
“Goodee, what exactly are you doing?” I questioned. --Her brown eyes looked back at me as if to question why I was so oblivious to my surroundings. Then, the man Goodee had been observing finally got my full attention.
I had a stunned look on my face,looking first at the stranger then down to the patch on Goodee’s vest
“Sir please, don’t touch my Service Dog.” “She is working. “ I gave another gaze to the large words displayed in red: “DO NOT TOUCH.”
Maybe the well-meaning stranger missed the 24- inch type. Maybe he couldn’t read English. These situations are possible I told myself.
The stranger gestured to the word WORKING and rolled his eyes. “Well, the dog was just laying here.”
The man finally moved away and gave us space when I said Goodee is not use to being stroked while wearing her vest
Goodee’s vest has two patches clearly announcing “WORKING DO NOT TOUCH.” Yet, I receive between 30 and 100 request per day to “pat,” “touch,” “feed,” or otherwise distract Goodee from her job.
There are also a few that boldly touch without asking usually resulting in Goodee having to brace and prevent my fall.
Perhaps the boldest encounter I’ve had was at a local grocery. The associate began scanning my items. She glanced at Goodee’s vest slowly as if to read every word.
“Oh no, here it comes” I thought to myself. I got out my discount card in hopes that that would become the topic of conversation.
Like a title waive it came—The batting eyes before reciting the familiar and tiresome inquiry, “Oh can I pet her?”
“Sorry not right now. She is working.” I replied.
The girl raced around the counter. Pushing me into the cart, she began petting Goodee strongly. It was as if I was invisible and had said nothing.
For a person who has never been dependent upon a Service Dog these are gray areas:
How do I know if a Service Dog is Working?
Like many of their human counter parts Service Dogs are specialized labor. They move, maneuver and progress throughout a day doing things which on-lookers may not understand. The whole purpose of the service dog team is to allow the human to do normal tasks that were impossible before. The dog may mitigate something obvious to on-lookers such as vision, or something less obvious such as seizure alert. The fact is you don’t know when a Service Dog is working but their handler does.
What does it hurt if I pet the dog” (I could always ask)?
Petting (or asking to pet) disrupts the Service Dog from their primary function of assisting their human handler.
We get stopped as many as 100 times just making it through our day. We love to educate people about the joys of Service Dogs and seek out opportunities to do so. However, Please understand if we are not responsive to your questions.
You may hear a collective sigh followed by the phrase NOT NOW WE ARE WORKING!
--DD & GOODEE