I can’t believe it’s been over two months since I’ve had Eva. While my health hasn’t gotten any better she has made my life so much easier. Currently, Eva is trained to alert me of any oncoming seizures or migraines, sit on me to apply pressure to help with anxiety and panic after seizures, alert someone if I say ‘get help’, and lick my face to keep me grounded after an episode.
We are still working on her obedience outside the house as well as training her in other tasks such as bringing me water, helping me not walk into things if a partial seizure causes temporary sight loss (this is a massive one for me right now!), and interrupting anxiety behaviours as they start.
In the short time I’ve been working with Eva I’ve learned a lot. Not only is she a life saver- but she is adorable, everyone else thinks so too. However, on my everyday errands to the grocery store, I get tired of having to explain why I need her to complete strangers who just want to cuddle her. There is a lack of education about service animals- but here are the 6 major things I wish everyone knew.
1) My Service Dog Is Working
When you see a service dog and handler out and about in public, please understand that they are working. Please don’t distract my Service Dog from her job by yelling at her, talking to her, using baby talk at her, touching her, touching her equipment, crowding her or whistling at her. Distracting her could cause her to miss an alert- which could mean I could not sit down in time before a seizure and injure myself.
2) I’m not being rude by not answering your questions
I’m sorry if I don’t stop to talk while I’m trying to pick up toothpaste at Walmart or give you a short answer about why she’s my service dog while I’m picking out bananas. Sometimes I just want to run a quick errand and go home, just like you. Please keep in mind that almost every person who sees me out in public with my Service Dog wants to ask me about her job, her purpose, her name, her breed, where she was trained, what she does, how old she is, and a plethora of other questions. Please don’t be offended if I’m slightly short or dodge your questions.
3) Don’t ask about my medical history- or assume I don’t need her.
Please don’t ask me about my diagnosis, try to guess the reason I have a Service Dog, or ask me to disclose my private medical history. Even if you can’t readily tell what my disability may be, it’s really none of your business. Please don’t assume that just because I don’t have a disability you can see that I am training her for someone else.
4) Know local regulations and laws
In British Columbia there is a Service Dog certification program- while it’s not mandatory business owners don’t have to provide public access without out. This only protects Service Dogs- not Emotional Support or Therapy Dogs which aren’t recognized as working dogs in BC and DO NOT have public access. This chart below explains the different types of assistance dogs and their access rights.
5) Not all service dogs are big dogs or yellow labs
Eva only weighs 1.5 lbs but she can do almost anything a bigger breed dog can do except mobility. Please do not assume my dog is a ‘fake’ because of her size and breed. Service dogs can be any breed as long as they can perform the tasks needed for the person.
6) I’d rather not have a service dog
I couldn’t believe it when someone told me ‘ I wish I had a service dog so I could bring it everywhere’. By saying that you are saying you would like to have a disability you need a service dog for. I love Eva- she is amazing… but I’d rather not be sick. There is so much more to mine and Eva’s relationship than just getting to bring a cute dog with me everywhere.