Fact: My service dog Likes to work, but she also enjoys being an over excited dog too.
There are two sides (Okay maybe a few more then that) but there are two main sides to a service dog, her work side and her play side. This is a concept that a lot of people don’t understand so I feel it should be explained. I think this is one of the traits that really makes a service animal have a human side to them. They work just like any other teen or adult does and then when they are off work, it’s time to be lazy, play or do random things like talking my ear off when she feels I’m not giving her enough attention. The reason this is so important to explain is because I often hear this phrase or a variation of it, “Oh that poor thing, its so unfair that she has to work and cant just be a dog.” this statement bothers me for many reasons, one being that to be perfectly honest Service dogs have an amazing life and two, most of the day she sleeps under my desk so its not like I’m making her run laps all day all the time or something.
The reason I say they have a good life is that to the handler, a service dog isn’t a dog; they are an extension of your life. They are your best friend, your helper, your child (at times), that annoying sibling, and most importantly one of the most important parts of living a normal life when you have an illness that might otherwise prevent that. With this in mind they are treated as such. Now I don’t know many service dogs, but from the blogs other teams have, and knowing how the trainers are with them, I can safely say they are treated very well.
Here is an average day for Bella. In the morning when my alarm goes off, she roles over (by-the-way she sleeps on my bed most the time) and cuddle and then when my alarm goes off the second time its part of her job to help get me up. most of the time this involves getting out of bed and talking to me or jumping up and down on the bed when she is really excited. if i am having a bad day and don’t want o get up she starts nudging me or brings me her toys to say hey “the sky’s awake so I’m awake, lets play” between my routine she gets lots of hugs and belly rubs and sometimes goes back to sleep. Then she gets fed (her favorite part of the day) gets her vitamins (her second favorite part of the day) and we go for a walk and head to work.
At work she greets my coworkers and settles down on her comfy office mat and takes her morning nap. She has her own space in the office that has her mat, a few toys and her water bowl. She greets the other two graphic designers whenever they come to the office and has a blast. We go home for lunch and play fetch in the apartment to get her moving, if it’s a nice day and we have time we go for a short walk or play outside. Back at work, it’s similar to the morning. When the day is done we drive home with the windows down, go for another walk, play outside and then go eat dinner. She spends the rest of the night showing me all her toys cause I might have forgotten, she gets brushed and scratched and fluffed, and she goofs off and naps on the couch. Then she sleeps in my bed usually taking most of it up. If I have to go out she gets to go with me and she people watches.
Compared to the average dog that spends the day at home alone, I would say this is a pretty good life.
As to the work thing, she loves to work and to her she’s trained all her life and likes the tasks. even when her bib is off and she is “off time” she still does her tasks and alerts me if need be because that is how she is. Also, if I try to leave her home while I go out, she gets mad at me and will snub me when I get home. I am not kidding she will actually pout and not look at me.
The moral of this story is, the next time you look at Bella or any other service dog, do not feel bad for them and think they are treated like slaves (I’ve been told this before) just remember, my dog is spending the day with me seeing people and loving her life, while most dogs are at home alone waiting for their family to come back.