People love dogs. There’s no faster way to make friends than to take a sociable dog out and about: The faces of people around you will light up at the sight of your furry friend.
But people can also be thoughtless and rude, grabbing or patting at strange dogs without asking. A dog that looks calm may not actually be calm, and reaching for an unfamiliar dog could easily land you in urgent care.
The importance of proper protocol only increases when the dog in question is a service animal. Many true service dogs have vests with patches explaining their affiliations, training or purpose — and many of them have a “do not pet” sign.
This isn’t because the handlers want to annoy people. It’s because when these dogs are out and about, they’re working. Any distraction, even from well-meaning people, could be the difference between life and death for their owners.
Laura Joos has a service dog named Polly who helps let her know when she might lose consciousness. The dog goes everywhere with Joos, outfitted in her spiffy, informational harness.
In June, Joos posted about an incident at Walmart that involved a mom and her kids who demonstrated very clearly that they didn’t know or care about how to handle themselves around a service animal.
Joos was at the Walmart with her two children and her niece. She saw a rambunctious family ahead, and they saw her. The kids exclaimed over the dog, and, according to Joos, their mom said, “yes look doggy, woof woof!”
“With people behind me, shelves on both sides,” Joos recalled. “I had no choice but to pass you.”
“I was dreading it, I knew your kids where (sic) going to try and pet my dog. I knew you had no intention on telling them ‘don’t pet the dog, it’s workings (sic).'”
Joos did everything she could to mitigate the situation, but despite her efforts, contact was made. “Your daughter recached (sic) out and SMACKED my dog, hard (sic) an Audible thud as her hand hit her back.”
The dog moved away quickly but didn’t retaliate, and as Joos passed the mom, she told her “she’s a service dog, please teach your kids not to pet them.”
“And maybe you where (sic) having a bad day, maybe you think your the worlds best mom, maybe you just think your kids are angels and can do no wrong and allow them to do whatever they want. I don’t know. I have never seen you before, I may never see you again, but I hope that if I do, you have done a better job at trying to help your children, how to behave better around service dogs.”
From the outside, it may have looked like Joos was being overprotective, but that was far from the truth. She explained just what her dog does behind the scenes that is so important, and how even though it might not be visible, it was a matter of life and death.
“5 minutes before I saw you I got an alert from my dog, my heart rate was steadily climbing, my chest was becoming tight, my vision was going fuzzy, I felt like I was under water,” Joos wrote.
“You couldn’t tell my hip was sliding in and out of place and every step I took was painful, agonizing. You couldn’t see that your daughters actions caused my dog to miss a second alert. My heart rate now nearly 120, I felt like I was going to vomit, luckily I made it to my car before The full effects of my heart rate hit me, like a ton of bricks. I almost lost Consciousness. Luckily my kids didn’t have to stand over their mother in the middle of the grocery store waiting for her to wake up.”
“Luckily your kids didn’t have to see some woman hit the ground, it can be scary for young kids, and even some adults.”
“I’m sorry that my ‘tip’ to help you help your kids, and help the service dog Community, pissed you off, and you felt the need to snap at me “EXCUSE YOU” in a snotty holier than thou tone, but yes, excuse me, excuse me for expecting YOU as an adult to teach the children you are raising to be respectful of disabled individuals. I’m sure you wouldn’t allow them to grab someone’s cane, or yank on their nasal cannula that supplies their oxygen.”
“My dog provides life saving assistance to me every day. She keeps me alive, and safe so that my kids, can enjoy their mother.”
“I’m not asking much. I’m just asking you to give the same respect you would expect, had you been the disabled mother and service dog handler. So mom, if your (sic) reading this, know I’m not mad, just disappointed.”
Hopefully, this message will help parents teach their kids to behave around service animals, and maybe the woman in question here will even see Joos’ message and understand that lack of regard for a service dog is not only rude, but it’s also dangerous.
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