Friday, August 17, 2012

On Education

(Warning: this is my soapbox.  I try my best to write this as nicely as possible, but it is the truth and it really happens.)

Dante and I went to the library just like any other time.  I wanted to look at some stuff and brought some work that I had to get done.  I thought this would be a perfect time for Dante to get some "chilling out" practice.  

I was looking at some books at the end of an isle, about four rows in from the back corner.  I was just inside the isle, and Dante was on my left, just outside the isle. There is a huge table at this back corner that was currently filled with a group of high school students.  Now, I will try to write this sensitively, but from first glance, they did not seem like the most mature group of young adults I have ever met.  

I mind my own business, with my back to them, and then I hear what I think is someone barking.  I ignore it, but hear it again.  This is where I say "ARE YOU KIDDING ME!" to myself.  

Now, I have stood speechless on more than one occasion where grown men have made kissing noises at Dante.  Most of the time if you ignore them, they move on, but on one occasion he did not, I turned and politely explained Dante's training and asked him to stop, and he did.  

But this was not the same.  At all.  It is one thing to try to distract and get my dog's attention: he is already amazing distinguishing when someone is distracting him and I don't want him to give his attention to them, and when someone wants to greet him.  But it is completely different when you deliberately and insistently try to egg him on, work him up and try to get him to react.  I have spent FAR too much time teaching this pup NOT to bark in public for you to ruin it in less than 2 minutes.  You see where I'm heading, right?

By the fourth time, I decided that I could not let it go.  Reminding myself of Whom I represent, I did not lose my temper, but you can imagine that I was rather annoyed.  I commanded Dante to "let's go," and we walked determinedly to the last isle where the teenager was "hiding" behind the last shelf of books.  A chorus of "Oh"s from the table to our right, meaning that the rest of them were not expecting me to confront him.  

We came around the corner and I asked, "excuse me?"  In a you are the person I'm looking for, right? (sarcastic) tone.  I then gave a rather lengthy educational talk on service dogs, their jobs, and why you cannot distract them.  Including "distracting (insistently barking at) service dogs is harassment" statement. I would say that I was rather calm and composed, considering.  

You know what his answer was?  Apologize, you say?  I wish.  He then stated, "well, I didn't know he was still in training.  I thought he was yours."  (soapboxLike thinking that I was disabled and my dog was currently helping me, any more justifies your actions!!!

A few words on why it can be so detrimental to a service dog team, and I left.  Hearing, "did you see what happened with  _____ (teen's name)?"  "She actually came over and said something to him. . ."  following me as I walked away.  

As a puppy raiser, one of my most important jobs is educating the public.  And doing so in a manner that reflects well on myself and CCI.  I am always happy to talk to people about service dogs who genuinely want to learn about them.  But it is so much harder to keep the same positive mindset when educating more ignorant (for lack of a better word) individuals.  My goal in education?  That one less person will bark at a working team.  And if that is accomplished, then I have done my job. 

Dante asleep under the table at the library


  1. You know, it astounds me at what some kids are like these days. I guess it's just our goal to educate them on Service Dogs and how to respond when they see one! But you'd think it should go without saying that you shouldn't BARK at them......

    1. Hahaha! I love how we both talk about "some kids" like their not our generation or something! ;-)

  2. Well done, Hannah!! Here's a thought - do you have a local paper that submits letters from the public? If so, I encourage you to write a letter educating the public, and giving this example inside the body of your letter. The teens may or may not read it, but others will ... and I bet somehow/someway it will get back to the "Barker" and his friends. It'll show you mean business in a professional, yet leadership kinda way. =)

  3. That's Hannah! My feisty one! And I love you for it! You handled that well. I only wish it would be the first and last time you had to deal with that.

  4. Wow, what an amazing job you are doing with Dante and all the while educating the public!

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments, I always find them so encouraging!


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