Did you know that my mom and I are educators? We educate or help others learn about service dogs. And just what it means to be a dog who has a job that gives independence to its partner.
We don’t have formal education to be an educator or teacher. But we do have the knowledge and a good understanding of service dogs. And the important qualities of a service dog team.
My mom has been a service dog user for twenty-six years. And before being disabled, and a service dog user herself, she was a certified guide dog trainer and instructor. She trained the dogs and then gave that gift of independence to their new partner, who was blind or visually impaired.
And since I was a wee puppy, I have been part of the service dog community. Early on, as a puppy in-program to become a service dog. And then in professional training to learn the advanced skills that were needed.
Which all led to me being a fully trained service dog. And my mom’s partner! So we have the background to help others learn more about service dogs.
But any service dog and their partner can be educators. And share their first-hand knowledge about service dogs with people they encounter.
Waiting for my dad to pick us up from my mom’s appointment!
When people see us out in public, we may be the first service dog they have seen in real life. They may have seen a news story on television. Or read a magazine article. But never encountered a real team in person!
And they may not even know what a service dog can do to help their partner. So they often have many questions. And not always a good understanding of proper service dog etiquette.
You might be wondering what questions people ask. Some are the more common ones, where people want to know what my name is or my breed, or how old I am. And what I do to help my mom.
There are also other questions that, to some, may seem unusual. But they really aren’t. Some people want to know if I’m a guide dog. Which may make you wonder why. But many have only heard about guide dogs. And not dogs who are trained to help with other types of disabilities.
And sometimes people will ask if my mom is training me. Which again, may seem unusual. But it might be because the person isn’t sure what to ask. Or it could be that they have never met a person with a disability. So to ask if I’m being trained is an easier or more comfortable way to start a conversation.
Sometimes people feel uncomfortable approaching a person who has a disability. Especially if they look different. Or are using special equipment like a power wheelchair and ventilator, like my mom.
But my soft expression, golden-colored fur, and sweet eyes draw them right in. And helps increase their comfort level. Although, sometimes too much! They want to reach out and pet me. Or talk to me. And engage with me.
Who could resist me?
So this allows me and my mom a chance to educate. And help them understand why they shouldn’t distract a working dog. My mom loves to tell people about me. The many tasks I perform. And the various things I do that make her days easier.
But sometimes we are on our way to an appointment. Or in a hurry to finish up our errands. And don’t have time to stop and chat.
So she gives them one of my cards. And a brochure from the service dog organization where I was trained. That way, they can read my blog to learn more about me. And check out the website to learn even more about service dogs.
So if you see a service dog team out in public, be respectful. And don’t try to pet or distract the dog. I am very friendly. I love attention. And giving kisses! But I need to stay focused on my mom. Because I never know when she might need my help. And I always want to be ready!