Service dogs in Albany are amazing. They have been extensively trained, live strict but loved lives, and take care of their owners like truly no one else can. The dogs’ abilities to detect seizures, pick up dropped items, and even warn owners of impending stroke or heart attack make these dogs literally life savers.
With all the amazing things these animals can do, it’s no wonder we have learned to accept them in places we usually wouldn’t, like a restaurant or the office. But there is a growing cynicism towards service and support animals in general, and mostly because of misunderstanding, and I’ll admit that I used to be one of these people.
I was not raised in a house with pets, and I never could understand the “emotional support animal“. I could understand a seeing eye dog or a dog that assists with the hearing impaired, but these are obvious needs that a dog could help with. When I would see articles about an emotional support pig or bunny, I would roll my eyes.
The Best Law on service dogs in Albany
There is controversy surrounding the roles of animals in the lives of people with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Many of us have seen the posts online about registering your animal as an emotional support animal with a small fee, and being able to keep your animal in a no pets allowed setting. This has led people to question the legitimacy of all service animals and their roles. A feeling of distrust among people who do not understand the difference between these animals, and the rights that accompany them, has been emerging as more people utilize these services.
Service Dogs are the most protected and trained of the 3 types of dogs. While many people refer to all 3 types as "service animals", the official names for this type is Service Dog. These dogs are legally considered medical equipment and have a price tag to match, ranging from $10,000- $50,000. They are intensively trained for 1.5-2.5 years, having to pass a variety of tests to be serviceable including, but not limited to, opening cupboards, retrieving dropped objects, staying calm in public, etc.
The last type we are discussing are Emotional Support Animals. This one is the most vague and open-ended. An Emotional Support Animal does not have to have any special training and most of the time is registered by its owner because it brings comfort. Also, an Emotional Support Animal does not have to be a dog. These animals are not protected under the ADA and cannot accompany their owners in establishments where there are no animals allowed. Owners with a registered support animals can keep them in housing that otherwise does not allow pets according to the Fair Housing Act.
How to Act Around a Service Dog: Etiquette for Everyone
Don't Pet Me
It is my pleasure to introduce one and all to Hunter the service dog. He has invited me to be his voice for several important messages that he would like to share with you. First, he would like to direct your focus to the message that he wears printed on his vest when he is on duty in public, "Please Don't Pet Me, I'm Working".
I am a dog lover and I fell in love with Hunter on sight. I would have loved to pet and hug him on the spot like I might do with other dogs. But, I can read and I knew right away that touching Hunter was off limits and I resisted engaging him in any way other than taking pictures of him with permission. Believe me, that has taken a little bit of discipline for me because I have spent hours on different occasions with Hunter on and off duty. Also, with Bob, his spokesperson and "Handler", and his wife Linda, who needs a service animal. After each arranged meeting or social visit, that warm place in my heart for Hunter the service dog has enlarged.
Interestingly, Bob, told me that it is usually adults that will try to pet Hunter. He said, "children seem to know better". I am guessing that school age children have been taught dog etiquette somewhere along the way to not pet Service Dogs. Or, it may be that we usually teach our children not to pet strange dogs. That is a lesson we all need to review, especially as it applies to all Service Dogs that are trained to help people with disabilities, illnesses, or other medical conditions that may or may not be visible to us, but a dog's keen sense knows.
A Service Dog's Vest
As Bob and I were talking in a parking lot, Hunter stayed alert to everything around while laying or sitting on the ground, as well as standing at Bob's side. I could tell that this dog took his job seriously and didn't want to be distracted from active duty.
I saw a lady approach and could tell right off that she truly wanted to engage and love on this black and white Springer Spaniel on duty. Oh, but she did see the message on the service dog's red vest and resisted the urge using proper etiquette. I knew exactly how she felt, and I suspect the dog sensed it, too.
We all need to remember that Service Dogs that are out in the public eye to aide people, are not there to socialize with us. They are providing essential services for the people that they serve. They are at work.
You may be wondering how Hunter became a Service Dog. Well, you could say that he volunteered for service. When Hunter was only two years old, he took on the personal responsibility of looking after Linda, and of alerting her husband, Bob, if there were any concerns that needed attending to.
Bob brought their Springer Spaniel to a professional Service Dog trainer and Hunter went officially into training and service after passing an evaluation with flying colors. He is natural and is now 8 years old and has 6 years of service under his vest.
More Articles To Come
I am happy that I have been able to spend quality time getting to know Hunter the service dog on duty. I have been honored to get to know Hunter the family member in his home, along with Bob and Linda. The three of them together make a very loving family and their home a special place to visit.
I took this photo when I was able to join Bob, Linda and their service animal on a planned shopping trip to see the three of them in action together. What a joy it was!
Bob said, that he has had other Springer Spaniels, but that Hunter has stood out from all the rest. An exceptional dog does not come along every time, I know.
Hunter is ever at the ready at home to serve both Bob and Linda as the need for his special skills may arise. Many of the duties of a Service Dog actually do occur in the home. I notice Hunter keeping a watchful eye and checking in with both Bob and Linda. Alertness is a special trait that all service animals must possess.
When the vest comes off, Hunter is a different dog. He loves to be petted, and loves to play with toys, and entertain everyone who is around.
Hunter has some more important messages that he wants me to share by writing articles online. So! There will be more articles and photos to come in 2015 on HubPages. I could not be more delighted to be the voice of a service animal.
I think it must have been destiny for me to meet Hunter and his handler, Bob. I still distinctly remember how we met. I was at a Walmart and was heading for a door. I glanced to my left and saw this adorable black and white dog approaching me along with a man who seemed to have a contented smile on my face. I had my camera along and wanted to take a picture, but did not want to interact because of the message on the dogs vest. In my heart, I secretly made a wish to meet them.
I did not get my courage up and the moment seemed to be lost as I was greeted by an acquaintance. I thought, "Oh well", and visited for a few minutes before heading to the exit. What happened next seemed like a mini miracle.
As I stepped outside, the man with the dog was still there. I got brave and struck up a conversation with him that lasted at least a half hour or more. All that time, I noticed that Hunter only sniffed the air in my direction to check me out and made eye contact. That was it for interacting with me. He had his vest on and he seemed to be very proudly on duty. Bob allowed me to take some pictures and said I could use them online to tell their story and, more importantly, get some important messages out about how we all need to learn about appropriate etiquette when we see these dedicated workers on duty in public.
Service Dogs Need To Be Alert
Anything we do to distract a service dog while on duty, could prevent them from doing the tasks they are trained to do, to assist their people. It only takes one split-second for accidents to occur, and lives could possibly be in harm's way.
Why we should not pet service dogs on duty.
- They are watching.
- They are smelling.
- They are listening.
- They are sensing.
- They are thinking.
- They are ready for service.
A Socially Interactive Dog
I have mentioned that I have never engaged Hunter in any way when I have met him in public. It is important to note that Hunter does not engage me when he has his vest on. There just seems to be a formality about him and it is obvious that he takes his job very seriously. He knows I am there, but does not interact with me other than a quick sniff of the air and a glance in my direction.
On the other hand, Hunter is socially interactive at home. First, he alerts Bob and Linda that someone has arrived in the yard as he looks out a window and then heads to the door. He greets and interacts with guests in an appropriate and friendly manner. He is a very good host that makes visitors that he knows feel welcome.
In the video above the lady talks about reaching her hand out when someone tries to pet her service dog, they instead end up petting the back of her hand. Also, she has taught her dog the comment word "ignore". She will tell her dog to ignore, and keep repeating "good, ignore" and give her dog treats for obeying the command. Finally, people get the idea and stop petting.
Hunter is in training to assist Linda, who has disabilities and challenges related to having had a stroke several years ago. He is also in training to assist Bob, who has hearing loss. I think that is like doing double duty.
There are basically three different types of assistance dogs. You can read educational articles about them on Wikipedia from the links below.
- Guide dogs
- Hearing dogs
- Service dogs: "Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person's disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA."
Start Seeing Service Dogs
This is another message the public needs to know, because they need to know the law.
Bob called: Linda stepped into eternity at 1:00 a.m. on September 19th, 2015. She was at home at her request, under the loving care of Bob and Hunter. The doctor at the hospital had asked her what she wanted to do on the previous Wednesday and she chose going home. The doctor did not think she would make it there, but arrangements were quickly made for a hospital bed, oxygen and care.
On Friday, Bob asked for a kiss and she puckered up, he asked for a second kiss and she puckered up again. When he asked for another one, she said, "Don't push it.", those were her last words. It was something that seemed to really bless Bob, probably a history on those words.
What's the Difference Between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals?
If you are in the US, you may have heard of emotional support animal or ESA. An emotional support animal works like a companion animal for people and patients, for offering therapeutic benefits. Usually such animals are either cats or dogs, although a patient can choose other pets. The whole purpose of an ESA is to offer relief and support for disability, psychological symptoms or emotional stress. Check some of the basic facts you need to know before getting an ESA certificate.
To get an emotional support animal, you have to check with your physician to consider the option of proving verifiable disability, as stated by law. Your doctor or medical professional will give a note or a certificate, which will mention the concerned disability and the need for emotional support animal that will offer therapeutic care and healing. However, the animal isn't treated a service animal and therefore, there is no need for any formal training. In fact, all domesticated animals, including rodents, birds, reptiles, cats and dogs, can become an ESA.
There are professional companies, which can assist you in evaluating if you qualify for ESA evaluation letters, but these services are just meant for assistance. Ultimately, only licensed medical health professionals can offer you the certificate on their professional paper. Check online and you can find simple forms that will help finding your qualification. Don't miss on asking the rules and regulations with your doctor in detail. As a pet owner, you have to find the benefits of having an ESA, so that you can exercise your rights.
How to Act Around a Service Dog: Etiquette for Everyone
"Why use service dogs for invisible disabilities?" you ask.
Why not? A disability is a disability, and dogs are amazingly attuned to their humans' needs and moods. Is someone with epilepsy helped less than someone with hearing or vision loss? Not if that dog is trained to help them in the unique ways in which they need help.
Even the government is starting to promote the use of service animals for veterans returning with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) because the dog can provide a grounding or stabilizing force for the person with PTSD. Trained dogs can help compensate and care for the disabled person in ways that a routine doctor's visit or medication can't.
Besides, how many people who are blind actually LOOK blind without their white canes? How many people look deaf?
Service dogs, prescribed by a medical doctor, aren't just for certain disabilities, they can be trained to help with MANY disabilities in ways unique to each individual. Examples of invisible disabilities that may be helped by a service animal:
- Bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Chronic pain
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Brain damage/traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Environmentally triggered allergies
- and many more disabilities!
The (Common) Sense Pet Professionals