Many years after being partnered with my first service dog, I would hear people talk about us as we moved about in stores, libraries, museums and other public places. Yes, I have hearing loss, but the people in those early days spoke loudly as if to proclaim their wisdom from the mountains. Sometimes I would hear a small child ask why that lady has a dog in the store. Even small kids know they can’t bring their own dogs into places like a store. Sometimes even without a question from a child the parent, most often a mom, would decide to educate the little tyke simply because my dog and I were right there. Sadly, more often than not mom got it wrong.
“That’s a Seeing Eye Dog. That lady’s blind!”
On one occasion I looked down at my dog and, loudly enough that the mom could hear, said, “Blind?! I guess that means you’re driving us home.”
Time after time children were told I was blind and my dog was a Seeing Eye Dog. But now my experience is likely to be different. I am happy to say more people have heard about service dogs. Children come up to me, smiling shyly, to tell me they like my service dog. I ask where they learned about service dogs and they tell me from Clifford the Big Red Dog story books, Sesame Street or from school.
I hear children educate their parents, friends or siblings saying, “That’s a service dog. You can’t pet a service dog.”
Now I hear parents and grandparents telling kids about service dogs and how they are very special. They say my dog helps me and is really busy so it can’t be interrupted by being petted.
It took a while but people are now a little better educated about service dogs. Good job, people, good job.