Getting Personal…Too Personal

I exercised my civic duty last weekend and voted in the latest of our frequent elections.  I remembered the poll workers from the last time I voted there.  What I remembered most was their endless questions and comments about my dog.

Don’t get me wrong; I am proud of my dog and the work he does for me.  I usually smile and say thanks when people tell me how beautiful he is or how talented when they witness him doing his job.  It is the additional intrusive comments and questions I often dislike.

Sometimes I just want to go into a store or other public place, do what I came there to do and leave.  I do not want to spend a lot of time answering questions about my dog from people I do not know.  I most certainly do not want to answer personal questions about myself.

So I waited to vote and gritted my teeth as the questions came one after another.  How old is your dog?  What breed is he?  Is he good?  Does he get vicious? Does he go everywhere with you?  Why do you need him?  That’s when I knew things were getting too personal.  As soon as I could I smiled, said goodbye and walked quickly out the door.

You might think, well, those questions are not so bad.  People are naturally curious and don’t often have the opportunity to see a service dog in action.  That’s true, but when those curious people begin asking questions about me, my health and my disability, they’ve crossed the line.

The Americans with Disabilities Act allows business owners or employees as well as employees or representatives of other public places to ask the partner of a service dog the following questions:

  1. Is that a pet?
  2. What tasks has your dog been trained to do for you?

Interestingly the ADA also says a service dog partner cannot be made to identify his or her disability, and that makes answering question 2 a little tricky.

If I say my dog is trained to retrieve objects for me doesn’t it reveal that I have mobility problems?  If I say my dog is trained to alert me to sounds doesn’t it tell you that I have hearing loss?

Most of us try to keep our answers limited because honestly we don’t want to give a questioner our medical history.  If the questioner asks simply out of curiosity and not in an official capacity, well, too bad.  I don’t owe them any information at all.  So when someone looks at my dog, looks at me and then asks, “What’s wrong with you that you need a service dog?” or “You don’t look like you have a disability, so what’s your problem?” I really want to ask them a question.

I want to ask if they have hemorrhoids.  I want to know if they have low testosterone or if they’ve gone through menopause.  I want them to understand just how personal their questions are.

I want to ask all kinds of rude, personal questions but I don’t.   I don’t because I know better and because I’m not rude.

So if you see a service dog or guide dog team, don’t pry.  Don’t ask questions you would not ask the principal of your kids’ school, the manager of the grocery store or your city council person when you meet them for the first time.

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