Letting Things Go as a Service Dog Handler

Letting Things Go as a Service Dog Handler

The law in America states that pets are not allowed in stores unless deemed pet friendly, with the exception of service animals. Grocery stores with open food cannot be deemed pet friendly per health codes. Yet in so many places, people seem to brush off legal regulations and bring their dog in with them. I’m fortunate to live in an area where a run in with a rogue dog where it shouldn’t be is few and far between, but the latest from Publix reminded me that in other parts of the country, handlers aren’t so lucky.

It’s a tricky place to be in. I’m in no place to be reinforcing the law. I don’t want to call the police nor would I ever really think there would be a reason to, when I can just remove myself from a situation. I don’t like confrontation or talking to people in public anyways. But if there’s a dog coming right at me in the middle of the mall, what should I do?

Some handlers can’t stand any of it, and report every single dog they see to higher ups. Whether this tactic works, I don’t know. I personally have chosen to let things go. If the dog ignores mine, we don’t have a problem anyways as nothing is interrupting his work. If it barks at him, it’s not humiliating for me - my dog is trained to stay calm and poised. It’s the person struggling to control their own animal that is going to get the attention. I have the last laugh.

I think all handlers, no matter their take on rampant pets in public, can agree on one thing: we can’t control what other people do and where they bring their dogs. When we all started in this business, we tried. It doesn’t work. Somehow, they will always find a way in. It doesn’t matter how many signs are plastered out front. It doesn’t matter how many times you shove the law in an underpaid managers face. It is how it is, at least at the moment. I always have hope for the future! But what we can do right now, is work on ourselves. Work on our own dogs, and make each moment something we can be proud of our service dogs for handling with grace.

Each snarling chihuahua in someone’s arms makes me overflow with pride and gratitude for the dog in a vest beside me, choosing to look up at me and check in on my needs despite his surroundings. Every pet in public for us, is the silver lining on the grey cloud and a reflection of our hard work. Let’s choose to celebrate that.

xo, A & P

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