I love the tag line for International Assistance Dog Week. Because there is a dog for lots of different “thats” – some that we think about a lot (guide dogs, to some extent service dogs), and many that we don’t (hearing dogs, seizure response, diabetes/blood sugar alert, PTSD…).
It’s important for me to look outside of my little Lab mobility service dog bubble and see the variety and talent of amazing assistance dogs who do incredible and different tasks to help mitigate a variety of disabling conditions.
For more information on International Assistance Dog Week, check out assistancedogweek.org.
This week marks International Assistance Dog Week. I think it’s a great idea to make us think more broadly, and more compassionately, about the entire assistance dog community. I recently had a sort-of encounter that made me reconsider this.
Normally seeing other working dog teams out in public is nice. There is the moment of acknowledgement, the admiring of both dogs behaving themselves, and then going on our own separate ways. Often this is done without so much as a word between the two handlers, just a communal acknowledgement. (Unless it’s a fellow CCI handler/raiser/volunteer, then you end up discussing breeding and raising and who trained the dog in Advanced Training!).
Last week, though, I had my first “bad” encounter with another service dog handler, and I was honestly a bit shocked. I was at my local independent grocery store, checking out the prepared food. Cassius was standing between me and the counter. Guide dog and handler come barreling down the aisle behind me (aka, before I had time to react!), dog sticks its nose in Cassius’ face on the way past. Cassius rocked a pretty darn good “leave it”, guide dog got a stern forward. All good, right?
Apparently not. As I was checking out, I heard the handler asking the cashier if they knew there was another service dog (in a blue vest. Hello, if you gave enough vision to see the blue vest, how about seeing the big honking yellow dog in said blue vest?!) in the store… “And if they knew if it was a real service dog?” Sigh. Thankfully I buy a lot from said grocery store and they know I’m almost always there with Cassius, so they stood up for me… But it was rather bizarre.
So what can be learned from this? Education! Education for other service dog handlers (yes, there are indeed other types of service dogs besides the kind that you have!). Education for the public about fake service dogs so that the default question isn’t “are they a faker?” And education for businesses so more can make good judgements like this one did.
And while we’re at it, how about some education for your dog so it doesn’t sniff things on the way past. 🙂
Having not just one but a few different medical conditions, I kind of feel sometimes like I’m inundated with awareness weeks and months: apparently there are now two different ones for craniofacial conditions, a day for Rare Diseases in February, Moebius syndrome in January, and probably one sometime for alopecia areata – which has been in remission for so long I don’t keep up with their events!
But anyway, this week is International Assistance Dog Week. It’s great that it’s being celebrated so that all different types of dogs, handlers and teams can be recognized – from more traditional guide dogs and dogs that help people with mobility impairments to seizure and diabetes alert/response dogs, dogs for people on the autism spectrum, and therapy dogs working in a variety of settings.
There are several events and demonstrations happening, if you have any questions or are interested in how an assistance dog might work for you or your family… think about attending one of these (or commenting below, I’ll try my best to answer!)