Sunday, December 4, 2011

Give us ROOM!: Social Distance & the Service Dog Team

Recently in research I found humans value social distance. Harvard University Business Press has many publications about the importance of managing the correct distance in business dealings. The amount of “personal space” needed varies from situation to situation and culture to culture.
The need for a “zone” is also true in social settings. It is noted Americans like a distance of greater than 12 ft between themselves and the next person. —Only our “intimate zone" is less than 2ft(See Social distance (nd) retrieved 12/4/11 from

“Boy lots of people like to get intimate with us”

“Oh hello Goodee, the Service Dog. I didn’t know you were blogging today.
” “GoodeeWorks Productions, Goodee that’s me!”

"OK Goodee, I know as a working dog you must have an opinion

“How much space does a Service Dog & their handler need?”

“Well it depends on lots of things mom”
“Oh I see Goodee, you mean the human's needs change from time to time?"

“Well yes and only the Service Dog & their human (handler) will know how much space they need at any given time”

“Hmm, this is a tough situation Goodee.”

“How are others supposed to know the correct amount of space to put between themselves and a Service Dog and their handler?”

“I don’t know mom even you got that wrong!”

Ok thanks Goodee the Service Dog. Don’t you have other work to do?”

“NOPE! I’m YOUR Service Dog and I’m always working for you. Even when you and other people don’t know it”

My Service Dog Goodee is correct. I recently advised friends to allow us a space of 6 Ft .in all directions. I then found we often need more space.
It is ALWAYS a good idea to give the Service Dog & their handler lots of SPACE. —12ft or more is wonderful.


Goodee the Service Dog is specifically trained to help me with items, both visible and invisible. Her help is visible to all when I need balance. It is possibly less obvious to the untrained eye when Goodee calculates distances and signals me that it is safe to step downward. It is totally invisible when Goodee alerts me to the onset of migraines as much as 4 hours before I feel the symptoms
Service Dogs are often trained to guide their handler around obstacles (that includes any human) in their path. The dog has no way to know that you just want to stop and chat.

I know Goodee looks friendly and loveable. People naturally want to squeeze her like a stuffed toy. —“

"You mean like the soft Charmin tissue.

“Goodee no specific product endorsements in our Blog.”

"Ok, Squeezable, irresistible.”—“BUT”


“Correct, Goodee!”

"you are not a normal dog for people to approach.” “You look like other dogs but you don’t interact with people like other dogs.” “You don’t seek out treats people, or other dogs.” “You are on a mission.” “You don’t expect people to touch you when you work. “

“Oh mom, you should tell our friends not all Service Dogs wear clothing or identification in public.”

“Oh you are so right Goodee. Most Service Dog Handlers do have signs on their dog indicating they are a SERVICE OR ASSISTANCE DOG but not all do.

“So it would be a good idea for our friends to avoid all dogs they see in public?”

I think that’s a good rule Goodee.”

There seems to be an unwritten expectation in our culture that all dog owners are friendly and want to talk endlessly.
Service Dog Handlers are people with captivating, intelligent dogs. The Service Dog Handler is often a special individual who has overcome life-long or sudden adversity. --So why wouldn’t they want to stop and talk to you?-- After all, you are a friendly on-looker, you want to be polite and ask to pet their dog?



On a recent shopping trip I had ignored Goodee the Service Dog all day as she signaled that I might experience a migraine attack. “No, we aren’t having a migraine today. I won’t allow it, I told her.” Parental tapes played in my mind. “ my imagination..!” “It will get better just continue working!..”
Team Goodee navigated through the suoer-center. I said, “let’s get mom a cool rag. I’m not feeling well.”

Goodee’ looked expressively, SO I HAVE BEEN SAYING ALL DAY!”

We found cool water. I wiped my face.
“Better,” I thought to myself.

We exited the restroom---

along comes a mother and daughter pair....

“Oh doggie!” “Ask if you can pet the doggie.” “Look at the doggie!” the mom says excitedly. Her voice begins to ring in my head as I see an aura.
Goodee the Service Dog, right again I am in fact having a migraine attack.

Well!...” HMM HMM HHHAT HMM “ the strange mom type says in obnoxious tones echoing in my head.
“MY DAUGHTER IS ASKING YOU A QUESTION!” The stranger continued –Her attempts to get my attention grew LOUDER & LOUDER inside my migraine wrapped head.

Goodee the Service dog attempts to back up but there is simply no place to go. The strange woman and her daughter have us pinned against the wall.

I am looking at the strange twosome blankly. All I can process in my head is a high-pitched noise. I finally realize the little girl wants to know if she can pet Goodee.

Goodee the Service Dog has a vest with two clearly visible patches announcing SERVICE DOG WORKING DO NOT TOUCH. —Yet the stranger exceeds intimate space standards in hopes that she and her daughter are the exception to my written request.

Goodee was finally able to position herself between the strangers and myself. We moved forward to a couch... The room was in a spin. I tried to speak to the stranger several times but words would not come from my mouth.

In this instance, Goodee the Service Dog worked without my verbal commands. She is observant and skilled.

She needs SPACE. She is a WORKING DOG not a WELCOME DOG.

she needs to be left to her tasks.

Later, I told friends I regretted the situation. In four years of working with Goodee I have never before just been unable to speak.
I love to talk about service dogs and what they mean to the lives of others... Unfortunately, We are unable to be an interactive “Show & Tell” exhibit.


A recent trip found us (Team Goodee) in a busy airport during a weekday morning commute. The line at the security checkpoint was both long and busy.
A TSA Agent called to my attention that I had forgotten to remove my coat. I attempted to spin around quickly. Despite the efforts of Goodee the Service Dog I lost my balance and fell to the ground.

Goodee immediately went to work keeping people away from me. She looked at me awaiting a preparatory word,. She knows I will advise her when I want her to accept my weight and help me up.

However, this time I was unable to speak.

Suddenly six people were trying to circle me. Goodee was doing her job keeping them back. One by one the strangers offered a hand up.

Finally I was able to catch my breath:

“No, please don’t touch me! Don’t touch the dog! I said in an excited tone. ”

Team Goodee stood up, bruised but not broken.

A TSA Supervisor came around and asked, “Do you need anything?”

In frustration, I looked at him and said:

“Yes. I need to get on the plane with my dog and get to my destination on time.”

The Supervisor continued his inquiry,

“Do you need medical help?”

“Oh no," , I thought I can’t spend an afternoon here trying to get another flight.

"I want to go home. Let me have my chiropractor!"

"No sir," I said aloud "We just need to go."

In this instance on-lookers thought we needed them to move closer but we needed: ROOM, SPACE, A “ZONE” to execute our plan.


There are places to pet dogs.
There are places to gain education about Service/Assistance dogs.

In these specific locations people and dogs are ready for you to pet and ask away. , In normal day-to-day travels it is best to put space between you and any dog you see.

If you must travel near a Service Dog … Please, do so silently and allow at least 12 ft between yourself, the dog, and the handler..
Feel free to comment or email. If you see us out & about we may have to say:

“Not Now We Are Working”

GoodeeWorks Productions

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