886749_590228184338751_1023318156_oWe take a dog with us everywhere we go. Often more than 1. The grocery store, restaurants, the Dr.’s office (all though we don’t take one to the allergist) Home Depot, amusement parks, movies, and, well, everywhere. Even if our daughter isn’t with us, to give the dog more public access training. Here is a big pet peeve:

(If you do not have a service dog, I’m going to let you in on a secret. I am giving you the inside scoop on what NOT to say to a service dog handler.)

Handle a dog long enough, and it happens. For us, it seems like it happens all the time. Someone will approach and say something to the effect of “Wow, you are so lucky. I wish I could bring my dog with me”. It is at this point that if I had hackles, you would notice them raised.

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I understand that the person doesn’t mean “gosh, how lucky you are that your daughter has a life threatening disease that requires the use of a service dog to help protect her”. What they are really saying is “I love my dog, and I would like to be able to go more places with him”. They aren’t really thinking about the cause or need for the dog, they just see a well groomed, well behaved dog in an unusual location. It is doubtful that the normal pet dog would have the self control, patience, and temperament to handle most public access outings,  often times they can be quite stressful, and certainly not natural, for a dog.

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Major on Autotopia at Disneyland

My response to the person inquiring varies by how I’m feeling at that particular moment. Obviously, this can be used as a chance to educate someone about service dogs, diabetes, and the like, and that is always my goal. But occasionally, the person making the comment has said it snidely, and perhaps insinuates that we are cheating, or faking, as what they can’t actually “see” the need for a service dog.

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Raven at the Aquarium

Most of the time, my response is something to the effect of, “oh, I wish I didn’t have to have my dog here and he could just be a pet at home. You see, my daughter is a type 1…” and go into an explanation of what the dog is, what the dog does, and diabetes. Often times they are fascinated and intrigued, and it opens up a dialog, and we have created an ally.

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Sometimes, it is a simple as “oh no, you are the lucky one to not need one”

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And then other times, I may be dealing with a blood sugar event, a lack of sleep, we are in a hurry, and/or this is the 4th person that has slowed us down in the last 20 minutes. At which point, I have at least once, on a particularly bad day, let slip, “I will gladly trade you my daughter’s diabetes so you can bring your dog to the grocery store”

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My wife ends up being much more diplomatic than I at these “educational” moments 🙂

You see, bringing a dog with you everywhere isn’t fun. It isn’t easy. It isn’t convenient. It’s a lot of work. There are more things to remember. Now you need stuff for the diabetic (meter, insulin, low snacks etc) and you need stuff for the dog (leash, harness/vest, water, water bowl, treats, etc). And that invisible disease that no one has to know about is now visible, like a huge neon arrow pointing right at you.

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And about that invisible disease? Well, because of that, a lot of people either assume we are training our dog, or assume he is a “fake”. So when we are approached and questioned, often times we are already under scrutiny. And again, I remind myself, “you are an ambassador, educate”. The general public doesn’t understand what it’s like. I didn’t before diagnosis either.

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So if you see someone with a service dog, understand that the dog is there because someone has a health issue that requires it. Not because they thought it would be really cool to take their dog to Target. After all, every time we take the dogs to Target, they always make us go down the pet care aisle, and I always wind up spending more that I planned to on some crazy squeaky thing they don’t need.

193681_498547660173471_73775133_oSpeaking of Target. Stella and I were there just last week, and as we walked down an aisle, a woman stopped us and asked us where we got our vest and papers. I told her Major was a trained service dog, and she said she knew, her dog was too. And then I saw him. A mini pinscher in the child seat of the cart. He started to snarl, snap and yap at Major. That’s when she told me he was her therapy dog, and he was just protecting her. She pressed to know where I got his vest. I just told her I went through a service dog organization and we moved on. Another way to really irritate a person with a service dog is to ask where you got your vest so you can get one for your pet. This may make me even angrier. Just like opening up the in flight magazine and seeing a “service dog” package for sale. Grrrrr…..

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We posed the topic on our Facebook  page yesterday and had some amazing responses. Here is what everyone had to say:

“Okay service dog handlers, I’ve touched on this before, but I want to know YOUR responseWhen someone says something to the effect of “I wish I could bring my dog with me everywhere” or my favorite, “you’re so lucky, you can take your dog with you”, how do you react? What is your response?”
  • Laurie Schwartz “Be very careful of what you wish”
  • Valerie Squire Having to have a dog with me to live a normal life sucks
  • Valerie Squire I haven’t had this happen to me yet. But I think if someone said this to me, I would respond with, “I don’t feel lucky.”
  • Brenda Cole Pearlman I try to remember that most people love dogs and statements like that usually just slip out of their mouths without them thinking too much about the disease that causes the need for the service dog. I usually come back with “Yes, we are very lucky to have this dog that helps to keep my daughter safe and can go with her nearly everywhere but, we would rather not have to even have a service dog and her diabetes.”
    • Carol Smith Russell This is a friendly response to a comment about your service dog. I don’t think people mean anything by their words, they just haven’t thought about the reason(s) you have your dog with you everywhere you go. I’m sure it must get old though.
  • Hannah Enriquez I dont get this. I am the freak show pushing a cart full of groceries with 4 kids hanging off if it while wrangling a puppy. I’m the cautionary tale with a woman-on-the-edge look in my eyes that just screams “unless youre offering help, leave us alone”
  • Karen Holmes Side note.. if someone did say that to me, I probably wouldn’t say anything. For 2 reasons. Most people don’t mean it the way you think and 2, you can’t fix stupid.
  • Johanna DeGidio Reynolds I say “yes, they’re blessings (the DADs) but you’re much luckier to not NEED to take your dog with you”.
    Overall, I try to be gracious about it, however, if I’m experiencing a low at that moment, WATCH OUT!
    • Leann Harris That’s very close to what I say. When I’m low-ish, it’s “Yeah, well, I wish I had a functioning pancreas”. I’ve always wanted to go for the shock value of ” I wish I wasn’t carrying a dead organ around inside of my body” but have never done it.
  • Larry Ayonn I’m not a service dog handler, nor do I play one on TV, but I think my response wouldn’t be safe to post on this page.
  • Tami Neumann That is an awesome question, make sure you have an answer to it Frank Wisneski I may have to steal it for the show
  • Laura E. Olivo I’m sorry but the worst smart-“butt” thoughts just came into my head…. You are stronger than me. I would find it hard to NOT say something like, “Well you could have the big D and all the worry, frustration and blood-shed that comes along with being diabetic!!!” Knowing you, you just smile and are super-polite… So kudos to you. I will seriously pray for you on this one, because I have NEVER even thought of how totally annoying that would be for me!!! Love you guys and all you do for Stell!!!<3
  • Maureen Brown Smile and move on… Today I was told how sad it is that Nola can’t be ”loved on” by everyone . That’s another fun one.
  • Karen Holmes I don’t recall anyone saying that to me other than my best friend. And I smacked her! LOL seriously she just meant it in fun because she knew how I would react. Most people are just shocked or curious as to why I have a dog with me, as it is a rare thing here. They only know about seeing eye dogs so they just think I am training her.
  • Lori Peterson I know how you feel…I remember feeling the same way…UNTIL…(dX) story, cost of getting a trained dog that is permitted to have public access, no longer being invisible, having every trip interrupted by people who don’t understand that while the dogs are a benefit they are present in our lives because…etc. Enjoy letting your dog be just a dog, find fun activities you can do with your dog, because I don’t think you would feel the same way if you had to bear all of the same burdens that made it necessary for me to find a dog that I could have with me.
  • Karen Ann Young Over the last 28 years working guide dogs (and the last 7 working my guide and my DAD) I’ve had people say this countless times. I usually say, “They’re amazing dogs, but having them with me has nothing to do with being lucky.” This usually leads to further conversation and becomes an education opportunity. I’ve also replied, “Yes, lucky to have them, but not lucky to have the disabilities that allow me to have them.” This tends to either leave people with their mouth hanging open speechless, or again, leads to further discussion.
  • Cheri Johnson I am a puppy raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind. I raise and train puppies from 7 weeks until they go back to Leader Dog to begin their formal training. I also have two therapy dogs who go with me to my work at the State’s Attorney’s office where they comfort children who are victims of sexual abuse or other serious crime. When I hear those type of comments, even for the young dogs I am raising, I am kind of dumbfounded. These people have to know the importance of service dogs and therapy dogs and the critical job they do…they are not just going along with you for the fun of it. I usually try to gently point that out. I seem to hate letting people get away with this stuff…
    • Crystal Leigh Duncan I would be not so gentle but I’m a confrontational type of person. I try really hard not to be but if it’s something I REALLY believe, yeah, I get a little upset.
  • Jessica Luman I don’t have one but I would tell them maybe they could go and get a life altering disease so they could have a service dog to help catch highs and lows that could kill them if they went undetected. I’m not a mean person just blunt I swear lol.
  • Clara Corinne Lanier Valdés You can have him, but you have to take the wheelchair and the insanity too.
    Generally when I say that they run like mad haha
  • Kimberly Raymond I would want to say them” well, you’re lucky you pancreas goes with you everywhere!”my daughter in law has a DAD in a very small town and it was very difficult to integrate into places there. They weren’t kind comments our” you’re so lucky” comments. I think all that saved her was, she had a laborodoodle and she looks like a lamb
  • Elaine Marion I tell them since I’m out with 2 small kids I needed something to do with the spare arm growing out of the middle of my forehead or that I would trade wondering if my kid was going to have a seizure from a low for going places with a dog. Depends on my sleep level and mood..
    .used to be a much better person
  • Mindy Schwartz Depends on my mood. Usually I ignore it. If they really piss me off I give them an education… Lol
    What I hate more than it is “oh she’s so cute! You know I want to buy a best like that so my “blah blah blah” can go with me everywhere! Where did you buy yours??”
    Oooo it makes my blood boil
  • Kristina Meyer Bow I just tell them that I would be glad to let them have my invisible illness (fibromyalgia, neuropathy, chronic fatigue syndrome and being total deaf), for one day to see if they could handle it without a SD.
  • Grace Chamberlain I get that so much..I don’t think i’ve ever had a response, i always smile at them and fake laugh or something. Maybe i should read the comments and take some tips!
  • Charity Reed I’ve had people ask where to get the vest so they can take their dog out. I have been very frank. I just tell them that because people do try to pass their pets as service dogs, it becomes very difficult for those who truly need their dogs. These are not just dogs , but they are life savers for their people.
  • Eileen O’Connor Pfeifer I’d say “I wish I didn’t have to!”
  • Clara Corinne Lanier Valdés Sometimes I will say theres a lot to it and give them the business card I have for Ryker and I with a link to our facebook page
  • Bill Meyers No, you are the lucky one, you do not need to have a DAD.
  • Ari Thompson-Fortune I don’t think the people who say things like this realize the trials and tribulations you go through…they just didn’t think before they spoke….I see what they are saying but it is like a slap in the face I think.
  • Judy Peters Depends what mood I’m in. Usually I don’t respond. Try to ignore it. Sometimes I just give them a confused look.
    Again, if someone has a service dog, chances are they have it for health reasons. Not because Sparky makes an excellent traveling companion. Be kind, be considerate, and think before you ask questions or make statements. Chances are, if approached kindly, the person will be more than willing to talk.
    Team Blackdogsrule
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5 Comments

  1. So let me turn this around a little bit. As a volunteer at the Zoo, one of my jobs is to make sure that those with a service dog in the Zoo stopped and signed in with Security. I try and approach respectfully saying something like, “Hope you are enjoying the Zoo. Did you happen to stop at the main entrance and register with security?” I’ve gotten mostly annoyed responses from the handler. How would you prefer to be approached.

    • That’s a great question Sue. The zoo is a tough place for a service dog. I believe it gets very stressful for both the service dog and some of the animals in the zoo. We personally have left the DAD’s home when we go to the zoo. But if someone does bring their dog to the zoo, it is one of the places that I do believe the handler should check in. Most zoo’s have liaisons to help navigate the zoo for the service dog handler, and to help them avoid the areas that might stress out animals. Even still, as zoo personnel, asking someone if they checked in is a lot different then saying “I wish I could bring my dog here” 🙂

  2. We don’t have a DAD for my daughter so I have not had to endure this mostly innocent-stupidity but my cousin is visually impaired and has one. I think because his “need” was more obvious he did not have so many questions. However, I think we all agree that mostly people don’t know how stupid they are being when they say things. Our pet-peeve (pun intended 🙂 is when it comes out that my dau. has T1D and their response is a story about someone they know who DIED from Diabetes! I’m like, “Thanks for telling me that, it was very uplifting” always glad to be reminded how close to death my child could be. In the end, I just try to be kind and educate remembering that somewhere in the past I was probably that “stupid” too — before I joined the “club”. Hang in there ALL type 1’s and their friends and families – we will beat it sticking together!!

    • OMG Holly, I talk a lot about the people that come right up to you, and right in front of your child talk about how their Aunt died, or their cousin had a foot amputated, or “aren’t you worried she could die?”. Where is their filter?!?

  3. Filter? There isn’t one – or maybe it’s just clogged 🙂 but yes, the stories to me make me shake my head and practice my faith the ones in front of Olivia cause me to need prayer for the things I say to them in my head as I abruptly change the subject. I figure her seeing me go off could cause a spike in her BG so I refrain. Anyway, thanks for the great blog, I really enjoy it!! Keep up the good work for “the cause”.

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