While walking through crowds, service dog handlers hear the whispers, groans and moans of every person they walk past. Some mumble under their breath "poor service dogs, they never get to live a normal life and have fun."
There have been many instances where people have made that comment while looking right into my eyes, the eyes they believe are blind since apparently, the only service dogs that exist are seeing-eye-dogs.
and continue walking because I know that my service dog gets treated with the most love and attention he could ever possibly receive, a love that is incredibly difficult to explain in a short comeback to these ignorant people.
But first of all, what would make these dogs be considered "normal?" Do people think they don't get to play — that they're not allowed to sleep or rest?
At Universal Studios, a woman walked over to me and said, "That poor dog looks so thirsty, take this water and give it to him!"
And before you start feeling bad for the woman who was "just trying to help," she rolled her eyes and shoved the cup of water at me because my dog was panting. Not many people know that dogs sweat through their paw pads, but I thought it was commonly known that dogs pant to circulate air through their bodies. Dogs automatically pant if it's hot, meaning handlers don't go berserk and frantically search for their water bowls every time the dog starts panting.
I am not sure why onlookers assume that service dog handlers are not aware of their own dog's needs. We know their body language better than we know ourselves — from their comical poop-walk, when they're having an off-day, what type of environment they need to be in to learn something new and how often they need food or water. Obviously, each situation varies by dog, but handlers are aware of that and learn their specific dog's needs.
Anyway, back to the story: I had just given my dog water so I was basically thanking the woman for giving me a cup of water to drink.
Next, people walk past and say aloud to their family/friends how "tired" the dog looks and how "they never get a break" and if only they knew how false that statement was.
Some handlers take breaks on outings to play a game of "tug" with their dog to refresh and get out energy. Some handlers like to take their dogs for a run before/during outings and some like to reward with fun/playing instead of treats. Whichever the handler chooses, the dog is still getting the chance to be a "normal dog."
When a working dog is taking a nap on an outing and people make comments about how the dog "must never get breaks," they need to remember that on average, all dogs sleep for 12-14 hours each day, 18-20 hours for puppies. Whether the dog was at home or on-duty, they would need the sleep. Essentially, do not assume a dog is tired from fulfilling their duties because all dogs will sleep when they get the chance.
Now, for one of the most selfish comments us handlers hear often: "Well, maybe you shouldn't bring a service dog in public if you didn't want people to pet it." We know you think our dogs look bored or unsatisfied, but they're trained well enough not to come when you call them over to play for your own enjoyment.
Not sure how anyone can mistake these happy helpers for being bored:
When our dogs know we're about to go on an outing, they get so excited that some dogs bring the leash to their handler!
If a service dog were truly unhappy working, the handler would wash out the dog, meaning they let the dog go back to being a normal dog, not working, and not forcing the dog to do something they don't want to do....
Which clearly isn't the case for any of these happy helpers, yet uneducated people still make these ignorant remarks to their handlers in public.
Granted, there are people that may work a dog who isn't fit for the job health-wise or is just unhappy working. In this case, that would be unethical handling, which the service dog community does not condone in any way.