Recognizing the Work of Assistance Dogs
For some people, dogs are not only great companions and stress relievers – they are a vital component for assistance and independence. To honor these special canines and raise public awareness of their importance to people with disabilities, August 4-10 has been designated as International Assistance Dog Week.
Guide dogs may be the most familiar type of assistance dog. These canines have been trained to help people with vision loss navigate obstacles such as doorways, elevators, and streets. Service dogs help with a variety of tasks, from retrieving and carrying items to opening doors and drawers. Hearing alert dogs notify owners of specific sounds such as doorbells and sirens. Medical alert dogs have been trained to recognize signs of certain conditions such as epilepsy, seizures, and heart attacks.
When you encounter a co-worker, client, customer, or fellow train passenger with a service dog, you may be tempted to pet the animal. It is important to remember, however, that these dogs have been trained to do a job and should not be distracted. Ask permission before touching, and refrain from activities that might divert the animal’s attention (whistling, talking directly to it, offering a treat).
Likewise, show respect for the owner by speaking to the person as you would any other adult. While he or she may be happy to talk about the assistance dog, owners also have a variety of other interests.