I had a really funny/awesome encounter with an adorable little girl and her mommy while cruising around the grocery store with Caleb yesterday. The kid was in the driver’s seat, sitting in the bottom of one of those race car like grocery carts (what did I say… KIDS LOVE RACE CARS) at perfect eye level with Caleb when she shouted, “MOMMY DOGGIE! Why is there a doggie in here!” and her mom quickly responded, “He’s a seeing eye dog.” And I almost lost it, feeling a chuckle erupt from inside (man… I’d really be in a tough spot if I was quadriplegic who needed a seeing eye dog), but I held it together and nicely told the mom that Caleb is my service dog and showed them a few cool tricks. It was a great little impromptu teaching lesson and the mom/child gave me a wholehearted smile/thank you and really appreciated what they learned.
Thinking back to that funny little moment and the many that have preceded it really opened my eyes to the huge responsibility of being a handy-capable person with a service dog. I often take it for granted that people understand the whole service dog gig, that they won’t approach my service dog, make a fuss over him, and overall just get why he is there. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and sometimes I find myself darting away from these folks (you know… the adults exercising their loudest puppy voice) instead of confronting the behavior. The problem here, and something I pledge to do better, is by not approaching these people who aren’t respectful about service dogs I’m not educating them on the proper way to behave around a disabled person who possibly doesn’t have as much function or control as I do.
I think all of us who benefit from this tremendous bond, the companionship of these animals that unconditionally love and help us through life really need to step up and be ambassadors for service dog users and the entire disabled population. We need to educate the public about the proper, safe, and respectable way to be around a service dogs and really help them understand what is so special about this wonderful partnership. I only hope that by doing so we can make it easier for all people with disabilities and their furry helpers.