You Know You Have a Service Dog When...

I always wonder if people know what it’s really like to have a service dog. I’ve had my girl since she was 4 months old, she’s 9 months now. We’ve been working together since the day I got her, starting out with super short trips, up to going to classes with me now. Since I’m living on a college campus, we’ve had so many encounters with people, while she’s working and when she’s not. Most of these encounters have been positive, but people will always be people. They throw all common sense out the window when they see a dog. Now, I love her to death and would never be where am I am without her. But, sometimes I wish people were more aware of how to act around service dogs. Here are eight ways you know you have a service dog.

1. Everyone points out there is a dog.

We’ve all been there, service dog handler or not. We see a dog and get excited. Whenever I’m going somewhere, I hear at least once, “Oh my God, there’s a dog!” This one’s probably my favorite, “Look! It has a blue tail!” Since I’ve had her with me for a while, I have learned to just blur it out. Sometimes I don’t even hear it, and my friends do.

2. People always want to pet your dog.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to tell people to not pet her. Even with her wearing a patch that says “DO NOT PET,” and a leash wrap that says the same. You would think seeing a dog with a vest on would stop people; unfortunately it doesn’t. There are even people who just pet as they walk by.

3. People ask why you need a service dog.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had random people ask why I need her. I’ve also had people straight out ask what’s “wrong” with me. Also, since we live in a dorm, when I introduced her, I told everyone if they wanted to know they could ask. I think it helped with people not asking. I wish I didn’t have to deal with these people, but it comes with the territory of having a service dog.

4. You feel like you’re missing something when you don’t have your dog with you.

I don’t know how many times I’ve felt like I’ve forgotten something when I don’t bring my service dog with me. Since she’s only 9 months old, she still gets plenty of off time. When I don’t have her with me, I feel lost. I’ve learned that when I’m without her, people who know her ask where she is. On the plus side, things go much faster.

5. You’re embarrassed because your dog is having an off day.

Service dogs are not robots; they mess up too. Some days they just have a bad day. We’ve all been there. Sometimes your dog isn’t heeling, sniffing, or even lets out a small bark. I get super embarrassed when this happens because people expect our dogs to be perfect.

6. People talk to your dog.

There are always the classic people that straight up talk to your dog. Sometimes it’s the good ol’ “oh good puppy, you’re doing such a good job.” Or “I bet you can smell my dog/cat.” Do these people not know that our dogs don’t talk? I just don’t understand why people feel they need to talk to our working dog.

7. People compliment you on your dog.

Sometimes it’s a simple “wow, she’s so well behaved;” other times it’s “I didn’t even know there was a dog in here.” I always appreciate it when people respect that she’s working and even let me know that they like how well behaved she is. Since my girl is being owner trained, it makes me feel even better.

8. People ask if you’re training the dog for someone.

I always have no words to people who ask this. Yes, I “look” healthy, but no. I have POTS. You can’t see it, but trust me I feel it all the time. I always respond with a polite, “No, I’m training her for myself.” Sometimes this comes back and they feel the need to know my medical history. Most of the time people are fairly nice about this comment, though.

I could go on and on about ways you know you have a service dog. But the reasons vary from person to person, even dog to dog. Are all of these bad things? No! When I look back on my day, I try to laugh about the comments people make. No matter how rude it was, or if I was having a low spoon day. These are just some things you learn to accept when you have a service dog. Some of them even make life a little bit better.

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Thinkstock photo by David Osberg.

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