Sunday, August 19, 2012

Distractions In the Life of a Service Dog

Child safety. It is a huge responsibility for parents. When a child goes out into the world parents trust schools, organizations, even manufactures with the safety of their children.
Everyone who reads this blog (even individuals who are not parents) can probably identify with the importance of child safety.  Child-guard containers, warning labels, crossing signs: from morning until night society recognizes the importance of child safety. We know what is necessary to keep children safe.
 Now consider something with which you may not be familiar--- The life of a disabled person and their Service Dog (AKA: “assistance dog” or “helper dog”)---
The dog looks just like the cute companion animal people call a “pet.”  However, in reality the dog is not a toy but a highly trained tool to assist the disabled person with their needs.  The dog is a caretaker and may have to work on a 24-hour basis.  Unlike children the person who needs a Service Dog does not “grow up” or “out “of their need for help and protection.  The responsibility of a Service Dog extends for years.
“Don’t forget to tell them not all Service Dogs are alike. “Oh yes,” thank you Goodee the Service Dog for reminding me. “It’s just one of my jobs mom.”
“You provide reminders Goodee?” “But… You are a dog.” 
“Yes mom but I am still trained to tell you things such as  “the curb is broken or too high,"  ”take your medicine”, or “lay down.” “ You are right Goodee that is one of your Service Dog tasks, and it’s probably not something people notice when they see us.”
As Goodee the Service Dog pointed out, every situation is different.  It is difficult to know when a dog is a “working dog” because there is no universal uniform. The Service Dog gear must vary depending upon their job.
“But mom, it would help if people would recognize the signs they are given.”
“Right again Goodee the Service Dog.”  “Some people completely disregard signs or verbal instructions they are given by the Service Dog Handler.”
“Our survey confirms that mom.”
“Thanks for the reminder Goodee,”
Team Goodee did an informal survey using social media.  Participants said people disregard signs saying, “DO NOT TOUCH” or “ASK BEFORE TOUCHING” over half the time.”
     Perhaps people don’t realize the importance of leaving the Service Dog to their task I’m sure there are some who always disobey signs for example, the young lady who poked Goodee the Service Dog right in the face saying:  “I know your not suppose to touch the Service Dogs but I always do!”
“Mom we have a whole list of distractions our friends helped us put together. Let’s get it out and provide some examples“
Good idea Goodee. Not touching a Service Dog is a good first step but there are other things that can cause a disturbance.
“Ok one week on Facebook, Three Service Dog Community Lists surveyed and our top six answers are included with examples.”
“Good introduction Goodee. All the replies we got fit into one of six categories. Some have more than one example so our readers can understand the many distractions Service Dog teams encounter every day.
If you notice a Service Dog please do so quietly
Example: Insisting upon talking to the Service Dog or their handler
The Service Dog Handler is a person just like you who may not have time to stop and make conversation with a total stranger. - Try offering your contact information if you want to talk to them later but don’t talk to the handler or the dog unless you are invited to do so.
Example: Talking over the Service Dog Handler or interrupting the Service Dog Handler. Team Goodee often has individuals come up and start talking while we are on the phone or completing purchases. These disruptions create a “circus” for the Service Dog Team and many around them who are trying to transact business.
Example: Telling a person they can’t have their dog in the area when they are specifically allowed to do so by law.
 Team Goodee has encountered this awful distraction at airlines, hotels, and eating establishments. When a Service Dog Team has to deal with discrimination day after day it becomes a form of mental anguish. Life would be much easier if everyone just knew and followed the law.
Example: Giving the Service Dog directions or corrections.
Every Service Dog Team has their own methods. What seems like strange behavior can be a signal to the handler. Don’t provide any corrections to the Service Dog or advice to the handler.
Example: Being too close to the Service Dog Team
Even if you think it’s helpful, being close to the dog may hinder the Service Dog Team.  The dog is often trained to find a way around obstacles (including humans).
Example: Waving  hands or placing hands in front of the dog in an effort to capture the dog’s attention. The Service Dog is ALWAYS WORKING and shouldn’t respond to you so don’t continually insist upon attention from them. Remember, the Service Dog is a tool for the service dog handler not a toy for your entertainment.
Example: Talking about the Service Dog Handler like they are not there.
One day Team Goodee went into the drug store to  look for pain reliever. We went to the counter for assistance. The clerk picked up two boxes looked past us to a stranger and said “Which of these does she need?”  Don’t make assumptions. Service Dog handlers are able to conduct their own business and deserve respect.
Example: Talking to the dog but not the handler
Some people need glasses to see.  Do we say “We don’t see you as an individual without glasses?”  “Do we jump up and down when we see their glasses?   Do we grab at people’s glasses even when we are asked not to do so? No in all cases we recognize the glasses are a necessary tool to assist the person with sight function.
Why can’t people recognize the Service Dog as a device that is just an extension of the human handler?

“Wow mom we have given people a lot to think about. Yes Goodee I think it’s time we sign off with some references.

Service Dog 411
Service Dog information for persons looking for a Service Dog and resources for Service Dog owners.
U.S. Department of Justice ADA Hotline
800 - 514 - 0301 (voice) or 800 - 514 - 0383 (TTY)
Service Dog Access
The life-changing effects of a Service Dog
“Until Tuesday “: a Wounded Warrior & the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him
A New York Times Best Seller by Former Capt.
Luis Carlos Montalván. with Bret Witter
Allergy Alert- “peanut dog”
Autism Service Dog
Service Dogs  & Invisible Disabilities
Service Dog Tasks for Psychiatric Disabilities
Mitigation of mental impairments through the use of a Service Dog
Things people say to Service Dog Handlers

We list these resources to educate.  We welcome feedback by email. When you see us out and about we often must say, “Not Now We Are Working!”
GoodeeWorks Productions
DD & GOODEE the Service Dog wish to remind everyone our friend Teddy (age 9) suffers from life-threatening tree nut allergies. Lucy the labradoodle is currently in training to keep Teddy away from harm and carry his needed medical supplies.
Service Dog training is expensive. Your support is appreciated:
Donations can be made directly to Angel Service Dogs:
Mark your payment “Training for Lucy”__________________________
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For the love of Lucy/ Teddy’s Service Dog