Let’s Talk with Cheryl Hollon

Service Dogs are Professionals
By Cheryl Hollon

One of the subjects I address in my Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries is that service dogs are professionals. There’s Suzy on the cover of the first book in the series. She’s a beagle just like the one my family had when I was a little girl.

I have a friend in my Yoga class who uses an electric chair and a service dog to permit her to live a full and rich life here in downtown St. Petersburg. We had a conversation that I thought might be helpful

Don’t distract a service or assistance dog when they are working. – in any way. That’s right. No petting. No talking. No scratching. No eye contact. NOTHING! That dog is working.

Most people are aware of that but are unable to resist. RESIST! Why? Your interference in the service dog’s attention could cause his disabled human to get sick or injured. It would be YOUR fault.

The dog is there to keep his/her partner safe. Yes, service dogs are trained to ignore distractions, but they’re STILL dogs. Lovely, loving, loyal dogs with very important jobs, but dogs. You get that, right? DOGS.

So, what should you do when you encounter a Service Dog team? You should simply ignore the dog completely. Pretend that he or she simply isn’t there. Interact with the human partner as you would any other person.

“But, you say, shouldn’t I at least say hi? Isn’t it rude not to at least say hello?” NO. Read that again. NO. JUST PRETEND THE DOG IS NOT THERE. Rest assured that the human partner will not think you are rude for ignoring their dog. Instead, they will marvel at your stellar Service Dog etiquette!

So what have we learned? When it comes to Service Dogs, the rule is NO DISTRACTION. No touch, no talk, no eye contact. Why? So that, quite simply put, the human half of the Service Dog team does not end up broken and bleeding.

If you encountered a Service Dog team today, could you pretend the dog is not there?

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