As you know, I got Laddie my service dog a couple of weeks ago and for the most part getting out has been amazing, but there is a part of his going everywhere with me that’s really anxiety provoking. He’s attracting a lot, and I mean a LOT of attention!
You would think that when people see a dog in the grocery store, or somewhere else dogs aren’t permitted, that their minds would immediately figure out that it’s a service dog, but I’ve found out that isn’t the case at all! In fact, forty to fifty percent of the time people try to engage with one of us, and for the most part, it’s Laddie.
I’ll hear things like what a beautiful dog, then the next thing you know, they’re either reaching out to touch him or they’re asking him how he is?! Really? I know my illness is invisible, but that doesn’t change how you’re supposed to react to a service dog, and that is, to not react. Pretend that he is invisible, because to you, he should be. He’s my ticket to freedom, not yours and I’m getting really tired of the ignorance regarding service dogs and how the masses are currently treating them, so I’m going to share a few things.
The first thing you need to know is - NO, you can’t make eye contact with him! Eye contact is about trust and bonding so the only person he should be making eye contact with is me. He needs to know what my next move is - whether I’m going to Forget Everything And Run, or Face Everything And Rise - he needs to be watching me.
The second thing you need to know is - NO, you can’t touch or pet him! He is working to help me keep my shit together and if you distract him, he can’t do that!
Last, but certainly not least, NO – you can’t talk to him! He is listening to the commands I’m giving him; his handler. He is also watching my body signals to see if he needs to stand in front of me and block me, or nudge me to get my attention because I’m showing all the signs of a full-blown panic attack.
I have PTSD, and I need you to understand that I’m afraid of you (no offence), and his job is to protect me from you. When you try to engage him, and that’s what you’re doing, not only is it confusing for Laddie, you’re distracting him, and he can’t do his job as a service dog, and if he can’t do his job, I’m going to be forced into going back and hiding from the world.
Stay safe and stay strong. Thanks for following.