Monday, October 16, 2017

De-Mystifying the Therapy Dog

The other day I stopped into a store to pick up a drink. The clerk was friendly and asked what I had planned for my day. When asked these types of questions I usually respond with “ you know a little of this and a little of that.” But that day for some reason I decided to share a little more. I told the clerk my therapy dog and I had a session planned for the afternoon, a visit to a college. She looked at me with concern and said “I hope your dog feels better soon.”
With the rise in popularity of therapy (and service) dogs I imagined the majority of people are aware of their function in the world. However, clearly the word has not reached everyone. I decided to take a few minutes to educate this person on the role of a therapy dog, not for a pat on my back, but rather so she can educate the next person.
Similarly, I had a conversation with my niece who is raising a dog to become a seeing eye dog for the blind. Dino is 9 months old and travels everywhere she does, He wears a vest identifying himself as a dog in training. My niece also carries an ID card. Unfortunately there have been a few occasions where people have been confused and denied her (and Dino) entrance to a building. They have asked her if Dino is blind. They have asked her is she is blind. They have a hard time comprehending her role in training this dog. (The early years are spent socializing the dog before determining if the dog can pass the requirements to be a full service dog for the blind).This is an unfortunate situation as she is a volunteer and is doing this out of the goodness of her heart.

Although therapy and service dogs have two completely different roles they both help people overcome obstacles. My hope is that in time and with more education people will recognize the good they do in people’s lives.

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