Recently I was out and about and I saw a man in a wheelchair who had a small Chihuahua walking rather quickly behind. My first thought? “Is that dog going to be labeled a service dog?”
I couldn’t tell, I smiled, looked back at the dog and noticed that it was wearing just a sweater. Did that sweater have a patch that read service dog? I’m not sure, but I’m baffled at how a pet or a dog that is not properly labeled or trained as a service dog could just roam the hallways of a school.
What really frustrates me, as the wife of someone who has a service dog, is that some (note: some, not all) people feel that they can tote their dog (who is a pet) around as if it is no big deal. I even had someone tell me, “well, I take my pet to Walmart, and my dog is not a service dog, but it’s okay because I worked there.”
I’m sorry, what?
How in the world is that okay?
My advice, for what it’s worth—
- Educate yourself on what a service dog is and what a service dog does…real service dogs, not a dog who wears a sweater or a jacket…but one that is properly trained and wears a vest. One that provides a service for someone who is disabled and needs to have a service dog.
- Try to realize there is a difference between a comfort dog, a therapy dog, and emotional support dog…these dogs do not have the same “perks” that a service dog does. While people may think so, just taking your pet along for the heck of it can really cause problems for people who really do need and have a service dog.
- Did you know if you type “service dogs” into Google that you’ll get results that say “Register your service dog and service dog ID and cert kit only $69″…that friends, is not a good thing. What type of training do those dogs get? How do people know if they need a service dog or emotional support dog?
- Please, please do the research–look for the organizations who put hours upon hours into training…hours of love, education, and support not only for dogs but for Veterans as well. I realize there might be other organizations who provide service dogs for Veterans, however, I can tell you that TAV (This Able Veteran) does the work–their dogs are trained from an early age, and they are introduced into all types of environments so they will be able to work well with their Veteran. I also realize that there might be folks other than Veterans who may need a service dog. The reason I speak so highly of this organization and service dogs for Veterans is that, well, it is part of my life, and what I do have information on…so, I do realize that service dogs are not just for Veterans (just to clarify).
This is such a sensitive subject for me, and for my family. We’ve been out in public where we’ve witnessed a person dragging a dog on a leash in a very odd looking “vest” that did have patches that read service dog. We’ve had moments of being questioned because people want to know if Memphis is “legit.” We have two other dogs in our home, but they are pets. They don’t get the privileges that Memphis does, and that’s okay. We don’t have to put them in a sweater and try to pass them off as a service dog or anything like that. They are pets.
Please be mindful of the types of dogs that are out there—emotional support, therapy, comfort—and know that there are proper ways to get those dogs trained and certified if needed.