Be Aware of Man’s Best Friend — And Helper

Don’t distract and disregard these service dogs and their jobs; they’re important and must stay focused.

Reese Bennett, Columnist

Countless people own pets. Cats, dogs, birds, fish, you name it. One of the most common household pets, the dog, however, is not always what it seems. They can sometimes be service dogs. These specially trained dogs offer endless aid to many people with disabilities or disorders. According to the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), service dogs can assist their handlers with retrieving objects, moving the person from wheelchair to bed, their bathtub, etc., and even pushing a button on a K-9 rescue phone, a device specially designed for service dogs be able to alert 911 if their owner is compromised or in danger. Some dogs are trained for specific medical conditions too, such as Severe Allergy Alert Dogs, Hearing and Guide Dogs, Seizure Alert Dogs, and tons more, according to AnythingPawsable. It takes rigorous special training to obtain the skills that allow these dogs to assist humans.

Service dogs clearly serve an incredibly important purpose for their owner. From day to day work to saving the person’s life, these animals are required to stay 100 percent focused on their job. That’s where the rest of society comes in. If the service dog is not yours, extreme precautions must be taken around the animal. One of the most important rules is to not pet the dog whatsoever. Some dogs wear harnesses to make people aware that they are busy and must not be interrupted, but not all do, according to PleaseDon’tPetMe. People need to be aware that it will not always be blatantly obvious that a dog is actually a service dog. You shouldn’t go randomly pet a dog in the first place, but it is even more vital that you don’t just assume you can pet the dog just because it has no harness either.

A general image that comes to mind when talking about service dogs is a big golden retriever or German shepherd. That is not always the case. ServiceDogCentral says that although bigger breeds like the former are proven to work better, there is no restriction to size or breed for service dogs. Little dogs can perform tasks for people, too, so be cautious. The dog isn’t the only one that can appear to be typical either. Sometimes the people are the ones who seem like your average citizen. As stated by AnythingPawsible, “lots of disabilities aren’t visible, including neurological disorders, psychiatric illnesses, diabetes [sic] and hearing loss.” Just because the human does not show any sign of issues doesn’t mean you can distract their dog or question why they need one. If you really want to know what service the dog helps their handler with, just politely ask instead of interrogating someone who does not have a visible disability on why they claim to “need a service dog.” These dogs are crucial to their owners. Out of respect for the person and their safety, please don’t bother their service dog. It is the kind and civil thing to do, and ensures that the dog can do its duty and its handler stays out of danger.