chronic illness · coping methods · Service Dog

Service Dog Etiquette-Rant

Okay I’m about to go off a little bit so bear with me…

Something that REALLY makes me angry is when people just don’t know how to act around service dogs. I cannot even tell you the amount of times I have caught people petting my service dog while I wasn’t looking, or making kissy noises at her (those are the WORST by the way) or trying to call her over to them. It drives me NUTS. ALso, you would be surprised at the amount of people who have come up to her and just started to pet her or even PICK HER UP without my permission or even asking for it. This is so extremely frustrating. Yes, she is a puppy and still has quite a lot of training to go through, but she does know her seizure alert command and when I have her out in public SHE IS WORKING. I understand loving dogs and wanting to pet all the dogs that you see because, trust me, I love dogs and I do love to make new doggie friends whenever possible BUT you have to realize that if you see a dog wearing a very clearly marked service dog vest that you should not be distracting that dog or trying to pet it, that dog just cannot be your doggie friend. Also, most of the people will come up to me and  say ” oh it’s a service dog and I can’t pet her” and just stand there awkwardly watching me and Disney until I either break and let them say hello or walk away. I have even had multiple people just pick her up while I’m walking her.

The people who do this are not children, they are full-grown adults. Yes, I have had a handful of children come up to me and do these things but they really don’t know better and I was fully expecting this upon making the decision to get a service dog. I did NOT expect adults to be completely clueless on how to behave around a service animal. Even with non-working dogs, I was always taught to go up and ask the owner for permission before attempting to pet a strange dog. That just seems like common sense to me. The dog is unfamiliar and could not be friendly, it could be scared of people and not react well or it could be completely friendly but my point is, you never know. Even service dogs who are so well-trained can have off days. It just is so rude not to ask anyway, especially because you distracting my dog could put me in a dangerous situation. If she is too distracted she could miss an alert and I could have a seizure. I do appreciate people who come up and ask me to pet her and I try to allow as many as I can to do so, but sometimes if I am having a bad day or not feeling 100% I will say no, this only for my safety and my health and I don’t think that people understand this because they get so angry when I say no (which is a rare occasion). I really think that people need to be more educated about service animals and service animal etiquette.

This last one is probably the most awkward and just plain out rude thing ever. There have been multiple times when I am walking with my service dog, whether that be in the mall, at a store, or even in front of my own house, that I will get stopped and be called a faker. I have been told on multiple occasions that I do not have a disability and “how dare I have a ‘fake service dog’ (my service puppy is not fake) when there are people who really need one”. This is such an awkward situation for you to put someone in and it is also very hurtful. Every time that this has happened I have found myself having to defend my diseases and my disabilities because people are rude and think that just because I look “healthy” or “normal” that I am. Let me tell you something, I am absolutely not healthy or normal. I don’t function like a typical person. I have seizures, I have vomiting fits, there are days when I cannot move parts of my body and cannot even go to the bathroom on my own. Please think before you speak and realize that invisible illnesses exist and are absolutely illnesses. Never tell a person that they are a horrible person for having a “fake” service dog or even a handicap sticker for their car because you cannot see why they need one. Most of these service dogs that you are calling fake are very much real and are helping people with invisible illnesses like me. Remember: Just because you cannot see someone’s disability does not mean that it isn’t there.

… Okay I’m done with my rant now

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