When I started noticing people would say things about Sam, Memphis, or service dogs, I started keeping track of those things—now, I realize that may seem super weird or odd, but honestly, some of the phrases, questions, and comments were unbelievable. I mean, if we thought about them later, we would laugh because we couldn’t believe what some people would say…out loud…
A question that a lot of people ask is “can I pet your dog?” This is a tough one. While it may seem harmless, there have been people who flat out get mad when Sam says, “no, I’m sorry he’s working.”
Yep. You read that correctly–people get mad when Sam says no.
And I’m sorry, but he has every right to say no.
Service dogs are working dogs. When Memphis is in “uniform,” or in his vest, he is working. There are some situations where he needs to be completely focused on Sam and Sam needs to be completely focused on him. Just like kids can sometimes be distracted, Memphis can get distracted too.
It is so hard to say “no” sometimes…but, to be honest, that is Sam’s call as the owner/handler. Cute little kids who just want to say hi to a doggy, people who are in awe that Sam has a dog in public, total strangers, people we know, friends, family, and yes, even our kids…sometimes they all get a “no, he’s working.” Or, even a “no, not right now.”
But even that response (which is always meant in a kind, polite way) makes people mad.
This is a situation that always makes me feel uncomfortable and a little confused for a few reasons, one of them being that I can’t figure out why someone would be mad that they can’t pet a working dog…
Here’s how we started to think of this situation (when we are asked)…
If you saw a disabled person in a wheelchair, would you walk up to them and ask if they could get up so you could have a ride in their wheelchair? I don’t think so.
If you saw someone walking with a cane or walker, would you try to take it from them so you could just see what it was like to use a cane or walker? I certainly hope not.
Just like those tools are for those folks who need them, Memphis is that tool for Sam. While I hate to say that (by comparing Memphis to a wheelchair, cane, or walker), Sam needs Memphis like someone who needs a wheelchair. And even if it seems silly to think of it in that way, it is sort of true.
What some people don’t understand is that while Veterans may seem fine in appearance (having their limbs, no visible injuries or scars from war) is that they may not have visible wounds…they may have invisible wounds.
I know what you’re thinking…did she just say that some Veterans have “invisible wounds?”
Yes I did.
Invisible wounds are ones that we cannot see—like PTSD, TBI, or moral injury. Those are very real wounds of war. They exist, and they can be hidden deep down in a Veteran.
Am I saying all Veterans suffer from invisible wounds? No.
However, there are Veterans who suffer from PTSD, TBI, and moral injury. And while those injuries may not be visible to the eye, they are real. I heard a man say that for a Veteran who may suffer from TBI that it is like “adult shaken baby syndrome.” I nearly lost it. How could someone say that? Were they hit by IED’s? Did their truck blow up? TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) can happen when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain. How do I know this? Sam has TBI as the result of IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blasts from three combat tours.
There are times when we are out in public and Sam has to focus on Memphis as if he is the only thing in a room. At times, Memphis acts as if Sam is the only human around. When there are a lot of people around, random hands will be going toward Memphis…and that is a hard one…to stop someone in the process of trying to pet Memphis when he is working.
I realize some of you who read this may think, “wow, they don’t want us to touch or see Memphis.” Or, some of you may wonder, “do they ever let anyone touch him?” I’ll say this—it is always Sam’s call. If you see us out, and you want to say hello, please ask to pet Memphis. If you see anyone with a service dog, and you are curious, just say hello, and always ask if it is okay to pet the dog.
Some service dogs have a patch on their vest that reads “Working Dog DO NOT PET.” That’s not a slam to people who love dogs. That isn’t a mean thing to put on a vest. That is the owner/handler’s choice. I also know that it is so tempting to see a service dog and want to pet them. Just remember, they are working, and they should not be distracted.
There’s a meme that has circulated and every time I see it, I laugh…so I will share it with you all.
We are so grateful for all of our friends and family who love Memphis! Believe it or not, your understanding of how important his work is makes our transition with him in our home and lives easier. Thank you for understanding (and thank you for loving him)!