Okay, this topic is an important issue and might take two parts. I want to talk about Petting. First I want to say that I dislike people who pet my dog without asking, Second I Strongly dislike people who ask to pet my service dog. Now that statement is confusing I know but let me explain.
When Bella is not working, she is a regular dog. I really believe that all parents need to teach their children and themselves that you must always ask before petting’s someone else’s animal. It surprises me on a daily basis how many people will walk up to a dog they don’t know and just reach out to touch them. I don’t mind letting people pet Bella in casual places but if you are a stranger to the dog you should always ask first. Also, it is important to ask because sometimes Bella works without a vest or collar and its nice for people to still respect her space. It’s better to ask first, then get bit for petting a dog that doesn’t want to be touched. I know Bella wont bite but if someone pets my dog without asking and gets it in their head they can pet all dogs, they are going to have a hard time when they go to pet “spot” down the street who likes to bite. So I repeat, please stress to anyone you know in regards to this topic that you should always ask first before touching an animal.
Now that second part of my statement might seem harsh, but I really don’t like when people ask to pet Bella while she is in work mode as my service dog. Here is why. I am going to use my usual comparisons, if you walked down the street and saw someone in a wheel chair would you go up and ask if you can ride in it? If you see someone checking their blood sugar or using an insulin shot would you go up and ask to look at it and maybe check it out on yourself? No, you wouldn’t just like you wouldn’t ask those people what happened or why they use what they do. It is rude to ask those questions and to be honest a service dog is no different. Yes, she is a dog but she is also my medical device, as a service dog she is trained to perform specific tasks just like any other medical item so I find it weird when people ask to pet her because it’s like I’m being asked to show and tell my medical issues.
Now as much as I don’t like people asking to pet Bella when she is working, I would rather you ask then try to sneak attack. The reason being that Bella has specific commands on having contact with others while working. When she gets pet without getting a command first, she gets frustrated, confused, and distracted. Also, most sneak attacks aren’t very sneaky and then I get yelled at for calling attention to the situation.
Here is an example:
This weekend while at the Mall of America I had a run in. After getting off the escalator, I was waiting at the bottom for my Mom and Sam who were a ways behind me and Bella (She loves escalators so we get on them quicker then people who have to work around strollers and stuff) so anyway, Bella and I were waiting when I see a girl in her late teens early twenties do the quick reach. We see this often, someone sees a dog and just starts reaching out while saying oooh puppy. Bella is actually trained that when she hears Ooh Puppy (or pretty puppy or really puppy in general) I step forward and put my hand out while she steps back behind me. It’s a quick smooth transition we have perfected over the past few months. While stepping up, I automatically say “Please don’t pet her, she is working.” The whole action and sentence usually takes about 5 seconds because that’s all the time I have to stop you from touching my dog.
So back to blonde teen. I do the sweep forward and say “Please don’t pet her she is working” and the girl looks up at me shocked like A) she didn’t see a person there, she just thought the dog was by herself and B) how dare I tell her, no you can’t pet my dog. Now this interaction happens daily but the reaction this time was very different. The girl looks at me and gapes and I give the “I am sorry” shrug and turn to look for my mom when I see this girls mother turn around and she is pissed. She looks at me and starts chewing me out and telling me how rude I am and how I need to learn to be more understanding and nicer to people. And that she can’t believe that just happened and how rude I was (I think I got yelled at for a full minute with out her taking a breath) finally my mom and Sam get to me and I am just to shocked to say anything. So I just stand there staring as the lady turns both her girls and the rest of her family around, guiding them like I might attack. I am still standing there shocked as I watch her walk away while still watching me and giving me dirty looks and saying something about security.
Now while that is an extreme reaction another reason I don’t like being asked is that it is important to know that just because you ask to pet her does not mean I will say yes. About 95% of the time that I am asked, I have to say no and look like the bad guy. My few exceptions are my mood, Bella’s mood and the situation. If you are rude, I will without a doubt tell you know. If it’s a cute little kid informing their mother what a service dog is, I will teach you how to greet Bella for fun.
That brings me to my Next point that I will tackle in part 2, How to greet Bella.
Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion but remember: do not pet animals without asking, be prepared to hear no when you ask to pet a service dog and don’t yell at me please because you are probably person number 12 that I have told can not pet Bella.