Service dogs are amazing animals and typically possess certain characteristics like good health and temperament and the ability to be trained. Any dog can be a service dog if they possess the proper qualities.
Service dogs are specifically trained for individuals whose physical and/or psychiatric disabilities make it difficult to complete at least one major life task alone. They can free people from the confines of the mind and body, and help them lead happier and safer lives.
Service dogs may be trained to:
- lead those with hearing/visual impairments
- calm and focus those with PTSD and/or autism
- dial 911
- help someone stand and walk by acting as a brace
- help pull someone’s wheelchair
- open and close doors
- turn light switches on and off
- pick up small objects
- let someone know that they are going to have a seizure
- let someone know that their insulin levels are low
- remind someone to take medication
Because of the life-or-death nature of the tasks service dogs may perform, it is vital that they aren’t distracted. If we coo over them, they may miss the warning signs of a seizure, and any consequential injuries would be our fault. As much as the soulful eyes plead with us to give them attention, it is respectful that we politely ignore them. Don’t worry though, service dogs get off-time when they can play in the grass and are shown they are loved.
Service dogs are not required to wear a vest or any other identifying or proving information. Although it would be helpful that handlers provide us with some kind of identification, for those of us who melt at the sight of any pet (which a service dog is not – they are working dogs, and legally classified as medical equipment), it is always good practice to ask if a stranger’s dog is a service animal before we kneel down to pet it.