When I think about you I..stop touching the dog.

One of my favorite public interactions involves my dog. He’s 80+ pounds of furry black sleepiness hell-bent on sniffing the air and sleeping. If we’re in motion he’s rolling to his own beat, proud to find every single seat-ish object in a 20 mile radius of my body and take me there. If he does something he deems awesome, his entire body wags until I acknowledge it.

my guide dog hiding behind my legs on the trainHe’s a very, very good guide dog.

Suffice to say, we’re a little bit in love. We share so many characteristics how can we not be? He likes eating, I like eating. He likes sleeping,  I like sleeping. He likes personal space, I love personal space. He doesn’t like to be touched by strangers, I don’t like to be touched by strangers. It’s win/win most of the time. It’s like we read each others’ thoughts.

So when I’m cruising the public scene with my guide dragging my left arm to a seat on the bus or train it’s usually because we’ve got things to do, not because we’re interested in a social visit. Imagine my surprise when a fellow commuter told me yesterday that in fact my dog loved pets and attention. So much so that he was going to give him lots of pets regardless of what I had to say.

It resulted in my dog staring at me with those gloomy, allergy-ridden eyes and a quick snappy response from my own two lips. Really? You know my dog better than I do? Because all humans are alike, all creatures are alike, and goddess forbid any creature not want attention from a human…man.

This isn’t a rare occurrence of course. The school I got my dog from even published a little ‘how to” when meeting guide dog teams because so many people interfere with the business of independent travel for so many teams.  But every once in a while it goes from “oh I’m sorry I pet your dog, I was distracted by the cute” to “I know better than you, don’t tell me what to do.” And that’s where the situation goes from irritating to simply unacceptable.'do not pet me i am working' harness sign

There are definitely ways people with service animals can try and educate the public but…think about it. If I stopped to ‘educate’ every single person who did something ignorant with/to me and/or the dog I wouldn’t stop talking. I already talk too much. It’s tedious, it’s dehumanizing, it’s often unimportant. Those little signs you can put on a harness handle to tell people not to pet the doggie woggie? They go ignored.

So…helpful creature lovers….stop petting them. Ask. Respect the answer.

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5 responses to “When I think about you I..stop touching the dog.

  1. Then there are the dudes who reach between your legs to pet D. BECAUSE THAT IS EVER OK, stranger!

    Can there be a post about the obnoxious teenage boys who scream like little girls when they see him?

    Nicole

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  2. Milkbone is sponsoring a service dog program, and on the tv ad about it, they show a man and his service dog leaving a building and joining a bunch of his friends on the grass — where the friends immediately are petting and loving up on the dog. Now, I know those aren’t strangers, but the dog is working, and I find this a terrible example for Milkbone to use when bragging about sponsoring a service dog program. People will see it and feel vindicated in petting working dogs, especially if they fancy themselves friends with the person. (I’m going out on a limb and saying if they were really close friends, they’d know better.)

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  3. AWESOME – though I find Milkbone products to be incredibly terrible for dogs anyway so terrible media….makes sense.

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  4. I’m just waiting for this to happen when I’m with [you and] Squonk, like a Romulan anticipates the day a Federation ship enters the neutral zone.

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