Sunday, May 25, 2014

Service Dogs and Boobs- A Complete Guide.

I will be the first to admit that I've had some truly awkward moments with my service dog- having her crawl into the stall next to mine in a public bathroom; cleaning mounds of dog puke out of the back seat of my mother's car less than a week after I got her; trying to shuffle people around me on the sidewalk because she decided to poop in the center of the walkway and then having to explain why I was late for class; trying to convince someone that it really was the dog who farted, in a public space of course, and yes I know it smells terrible; having people give me strange looks in a movie theater when they hear a loud and unexpected voice whisper, "Get back here! You do not need to go on a popcorn odyssey!" As awkward as these moments may be for me, none of them are as awkward as encountering someone who doesn't know how to behave around a service dog.

Now, before I get into the do's and don'ts of service dog etiquette, there is a word that I am going to repeat over and over again until it is no longer uncomfortable for all of you lovely people out there to read. Is everyone ready? Here we go:
BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS
I hope that helped.
Now that we have that out of the way, hopefully we can continue without this being too uncomfortable for anyone.

There are certain rules that one should adhere to when around a service dog that is not their own so that the dog can work the most efficiently, but instead of asking everyone out there to memorize a list of rules (which I know no one will do), I'm going to give you a simple rule-of-thumb that will make service dog etiquette easier than you could have ever thought possible. This will change your perspective on life. Are you ready?

Treat the service dog like a boob.

I'm serious. That's it. That's all you have to remember.

There are certain things that no person should or would (hopefully) ever do in regards to boobs. The following is a list of things that if you ever said or did any of them, you would earn yourself a well deserved slap.

"AAAAHHH!!!! BOOBS!!!!! "GET THOSE BOOBS AWAY FROM ME!!!!!"

"Look at that girl's boobs! *points* Hey, everybody! That girl has boobs!"

"Am I allowed to sit next to you? I don't want your boobs to bite me or anything. Maybe I should just sit on the other side of the room..."

"Can I touch your boobies!?"

"Why do you have to have those boobs with you? I'm just not so sure they're necessary."

"BOOBIES!! *grabs without permission*"

"Are your boobs aggressive? Do they bite?"

"I just don't know how I feel about letting someone with boobs in here. It's just unsanitary, you know? You understand, right?"

"Hi, little boobies! I've got a treat for you! You want a treat, little boobies?"

"Are you sure your boobs are real? You aren't blind or in a wheelchair. How do I know you don't have fake boobs? Do you have paperwork proving that they're real boobs?"

"Are your boobs going to behave themselves? I don't want any disruptions."

"Look, honey! That girl has boobies! Go pet her boobies! What? What do you mean my kid can't pet your boobs? That's so rude of you!"

"Are your boobs going to be able to handle this situation? They aren't going to get scared and freak out, are they?"

"How dare you have boobs when there's nothing wrong with you! There is a disabled veteran out there that served our country that actually deserves to have those boobs, and needs those boobs, and you took those boobs away from them! You should be ashamed of yourself!"

"I know it's none of my business, but why do you have boobs?"

"Why is that girl allowed to have boobs in here! I want boobs too!"

As humorous as all of this is, it is actually a genuine problem for people like me who have a legitimate service dog for an invisible illness. Replace the words "boobs" and "boobies" with "dog," "service dog," and "puppy," and you will have a list of actual comments people have made to me- most of them by complete strangers who have never seen me before in their lives, and who began their conversation with me this way.

Please don't be the ignorant individual who makes comments like these, about boobs or service dogs. People who have a disability already feel like they stick out like a sore thumb. We know we are different. We are aware that we have a walking, fuzzy billboard saying that something is wrong with us. It will not kill you to not know what is wrong with us, nor will it kill you if you don't pet our service dogs. Going out into
public is already uncomfortable enough without having a random stranger stare, gawk, point at us, chase us, or make rude comments.

So remember, if you aren't sure if you should do something around a service dog, or say something to the dog's handler, just ask yourself, "Would I do that to/say that about someone's boobs?"

Or better yet, just ignore the dog altogether and let it do its job. After all, that's why it's there.



If you enjoyed reading this and want to see more service dogs in the world, please consider helping the organization that I got my service dog from. These dogs change lives. I know my dog has saved mine. Even the spare change under the sofa could be enough to feed one of our dogs in training for a day.
http://www.marjthedogtrainer.com/glad-wags-letter/

38 comments:

  1. I about died stifling my giggles as I read this in the middle of the night with all the house asleep!
    But on the seriouser side, good rule of thumb.

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    1. ps, blog on. you are a great writer!

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    2. I sent Erika into a giggle fit. My day is complete. :)
      Reply to ps- Thank you. That is a very kind thing to say, and I'm glad you think so.

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  2. What an excellent bit of satire. Well done, and needs to be shared often.

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  3. Thank you for this. I, too, have an unseen illness and a service dog for that illness. Trying to explain to people that he's not to be petted while working gets me dirty looks constantly. I wish I could hand this out or send it to those people every time I get "that look".

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  4. I love your analogy regarding proper behavior around service animals. I too have an unseen/invisible illness (actually two diagnoses; I don't talk about my secondary all that much) and I have mobility issues. I do not currently have a service animal but can see the need to get one for myself (mainly for mobility and autism related challenges). By the way, other than a few minor typos (I'm worse than you are at it (that is saying a lot telling that I believe and my peers believe that I can write fairly well), your post is very elegant and well written. You are a great blogger of whom I just found. Keep on writing, blogging, telling stories, and advocating. I sincerely appreciate this post. Well done.

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  5. Thank you for this. Although my son was in a wheelchair (he passed last year) he had 2 service dogs during his last 16 years with us. His disability wasn't invisible, but he experienced many of those things. To this day I take his 13 year old Golden Retriever to classrooms and educate kids about service 9dog etiquette and read an age appropriate book about these amazing dogs at Read Across America events. I'm considering printing out your story. Keep up the good work!

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  6. Thank you for this. Although my son was in a wheelchair (he passed last year) he had 2 service dogs during his last 16 years with us. His disability wasn't invisible, but he experienced many of those things. To this day I take his 13 year old Golden Retriever to classrooms and educate kids about service 9dog etiquette and read an age appropriate book about these amazing dogs at Read Across America events. I'm considering printing out your story. Keep up the good work!

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  8. This is an excellent piece! I am a volunteer foster/trainer and unfortunately, I have heard or experienced almost every scenario you listed. The best is the looks of disgust from people and moving to the other side of the room/aisle like the dog will suddenly attack them or something! Keep up the good work, spreading the word about service dogs and their people.

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  10. This is fantastic! It's an interesting spin on the idea but it makes perfect sense. I train service puppies and while I'm sure it's not as awkward or uncomfortable for me as it would be for someone with a disability, I have gotten almost all of these and it's extremely frustrating. If we didn't have to be so careful about how we represent the organization we train for, I would most definitely use this as a comeback in some way!

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  11. Have you seen the shirt I had made a couple years ago?
    Depicts what you have written.

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  12. "Your service boobs are beautiful and sweet, but I know they are working so I won't try to play with them. Other than that, they are welcome in my space.".

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  13. This is the best thing I have read in a long time!!! As a guide dog owner, I'm sharing this with as many people as possible. This is such a tangible way to share service dog etiquette.

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  14. GREAT post! Way to make SD education FUNNY and approachable.

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  15. Oh sweetie Thank you thank you thank you and my boob sleeping next to me making sure i don't fall while i am laying here two weeks before my next spine surgery thanks you also with her nubber wags.

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  16. So true! My favorite is when they stare so hard as you walk by that they collide with others or walk into poles.

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  17. This would make an awesome t-shirt! Can't you just see it, "Please treat my Service Dog as you would treat my Boobs." And maybe in smaller type, "No touching, no staring, and no questions." Ha!!!!

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  18. This is the solution to every question we have ever been asked! Thank you for your wit and unique approach to a subject that is so aggrevating to many!

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  19. I have a service dog who has changed my life. He's a beautiful long hair Dachshund. Everyone wants to pet him.

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  20. Let's try this out:
    "That's a beautiful animal, may I say hello?" changes to
    "Those are beautiful boobs, may I say hello?"
    While I wouldn't want to disturb either from their work... Upon consideration, I get it.

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  21. Thank you!

    I am a service dog handler with an invisible disability.

    I LOVE this way of describing how to deal with a working service dog.

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  22. Excellent!! I have friends who have service dogs, so i can appreciate your message. I also appreciate your "boobs" analogy... It really geys to the point.
    Sadly, I am also aware of oeople who claim thst their pet is a "service dog" when in fact it is just a pet, and a poorly behaved one at that. It certainly contributes to some of the problems people with genuine setvice dogs experience.

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  23. I decided not to get a needed service dog because of interference from the residents where I live. They love to feed dogs treats and do not respect the service animals. So Instead, I will be getting a comapnion cat who stays in my apartment. Geez.

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  24. Love this! I've had several of those comments stated to me (I am a disabled vet with an invisible disability, as well as mobility issues) when I've got my service dog with me.

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  25. Wow. I'm so shocked to find all of these views and wonderful comments waiting for me. I'm not really sure how so many of you found this post I wrote 3 years ago, but I'm really happy you did. Thank you!

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  26. Thank you for this it is great. I have had two service dogs, both were small mixed breed dogs. I have faced some of those situations as well especially since my first was in the late 90's when blind guide dogs were the most common. Mine were both hearing dogs which aren't seen as often in public. Lease keep up the good work.

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  27. Thank you for this it is great. I have had two service dogs, both were small mixed breed dogs. I have faced some of those situations as well especially since my first was in the late 90's when blind guide dogs were the most common. Mine were both hearing dogs which aren't seen as often in public. Lease keep up the good work.

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  28. Ok, i have a question, When I see a service dog I usually say something more at the dog, like "hi puppy!" or "thats a beautiful dog." I do not approch or try to pet or engage further I might talk conversationally about the breed or how well behaved it is. While I understand and laughed at the metaphor I would never greet someones breasts or tell them their breast were beautiful, well not at least on first meeting. Is my behaviour seen as inappropriate by you?

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  29. I get and respect your analogy and, at present, a service dog's need to be "on duty" when working. A serious question--dogs are trained to do so many amazing things while "on duty" for a very diverse group of disabilities and challenges that people have, and learn very well. Can organizations who train these dogs train them not to respond or be distracted by stranger's hands petting them; train them not to take treats from strangers? It would seem that this would help a lot, (along with educating the public not to respond). It is such a natural response for many of us to be drawn to any dog, with friendliness and affection (hence the query--can I pat your dog?)--it might be easier to train a dog to respond to only your commands and needs, and to remain alert and stoic when petted, than train the thousands of people that one runs into every day?? Just a thought. Also--it is so much easier to ignore a service dog when they are brightly caped or identified in some really obvious way, although I don't know if that that signals to the few bad apples out there, here is a vulnerable person.... Maybe the "ignore" training would come in handy there too, as a dog wouldn't have to be so clearly identified to keep people away. Just a few thoughts and questions.

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    1. Most professional programs already proof the dog's to distractions. But at the end of the day, a dog is a dog, not a robot, people are bloody persistent, and training is only as good as the upkeep.

      Also, the distraction training is only as good as the trainer. Many teams are novice handlers and owner trainers, without the benifit of professional guidance.

      It comes down to should we depend on the reactionart 4 legged creature tp ignore the idiots, or the cognitively-abled, two legged idiots.

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  30. I am guilty of 'staring' at service dogs, well, actually ALL dogs. It's not to point out a disability in the person they are with. It's in adoration of the dog. I love dogs of all shapes and sizes. I do not approach them if they have on their service vest, though, because I know they are working. Other dogs I will approach and tell the owner how pretty their pup is, and I always ask before I pet them. I also teach my grandchildren to check first before they pet a new dog. Ee have not encountered a service animal yet, but when we do, they will also learn the rules with them.

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  31. My cousin shared this article with me, along with the comment: I can't wait to meet your new boob! Er, I mean, service horse!

    It was pretty hilarious.

    But, seriously, thank you for pointing this out. I'm new to service animals and, as a handler of a miniature service horse, I get inundated by these questions and comments constantly, seemingly even moreso than my counterparts who have service dogs. It's a challenge to deal with, sometimes. If people just followed this guideline, 98% of my issues with people asking inappropriate questions would go away.

    (On a related note, before someone comments to this effect... Yes, miniature service horses are allowed under the ADA. There is a clause permitting their use in place of a dog. I've also spoken with the ADA numerous times to make sure my understanding of the laws as they pertain to service horses is accurate. So, please, don't tell me she isn't legally a service animal!)

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    1. I am so glad to hear another individual who is trying to get themselves into the "service industry" the 'RIGHT' way and ultimately loved the idea of service horses (I trained and worked with full size horses with handicapable children long ago) and thought that way back then, miniatures would have a great hand in this. I would love to connect with you on a more personal note as I am consistently working on articles and pieces that pertain to the "horse" element and find out where you are located as a reference through my new website going up. My husband is visually impaired and has always wanted to consider a leader horse, but ultimately has not been around horses (city boy) and thought it was silly. I on the other hand, want to learn more so when I am asked questions it would be answered properly... are you game?

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