*Thank you Pink Floyd 🙂
I have often touched on how differently people respond to Judah’s presence in a more populated area versus where we actually live (out in the woods). This is very true, out in the ‘boonies’ people tend to be more critical and questioning than in the ‘city’ areas we go to. <– I don’t really do cities and definitely haven’t done anything big since Judah has been a working dog but Portland, Maine and Concord, New Hampshire have a much more understanding and welcoming approach to my service dog than I get in Ossipee, New Hampshire or Porter, Maine. It’s nothing you can really blame them for, it’s mostly through a lack of education and exposure- not through malice (usually). Very rarely do I have a business question his validity, it’s more often other patrons to establishments I am in. It’s a combination of curiosity, confusion and sometimes (realistically, often) a sense of entitlement.
I try to be as nice and willing to share and educate as possible. If someone asks me a question I try to answer it as kindly and I try to be as informational as possible, most often it leaves people wanting to know more. Marshall wants me to have business cards printed up with the blog’s address, definition of a service dog and similar information so that I can give a more abbreviated explanation and move on. I see where he is coming from, there are days when the last thing I want to do is stop and explain:
why I have a service dog (because I have a disability),
what he does (alerts to my blood sugars being out of range, he will alert someone else if I don’t treat the issue, he will get me juice etc. etc. etc.),
how I didn’t buy him from a program (he was my pet and began to alert on his own, then he specialized his training and put him to work),
yes- he is a legitimate service dog (if this is confusing please see this post),
and a slew of other questions that often lead to people wanting to know some pretty personal medical information.
A business card would certainly help me to create a better buffer… the more I write about it the more I like the idea. Looks like Marshall was right again… damn it.
There are times however that no matter how nice I try to be people made up their minds about Judah and Me before they even spoke to us. Over time I have learned that it isn’t worth trying to change their minds- state the facts and move on. I am glad that I have been blessed with the ability to read people well and I tend to know what I am dealing with before it’s an issue. I am also excellent at deflecting people, kill them with kindness- I love making people confused by their anger at how nice I am. Sometimes people take one look at me (a seemingly healthy young woman) and my dog (a husky mix, not your ‘typical’ working dog breed) and assume the entire scene is a farce. Those people are the ones that seem to be out to get you.
They come over and ask questions like, “How does he service you?”, “Where do I get a vest for my dog so he can come everywhere with me.”, “You don’t look blind what do you need a dog for?”. Or after I explain what he does they give me something like, “So you don’t have very good control of your diabetes then?”, “You need him so you can eat whatever you want then?”, “I don’t think dogs can really do stuff like that, I mean it’s just a dog.” etc etc. When I start to get responses like that I usually try to find a graceful exit, often times that is facilitated by Marshall giving a disapproving stare (he can be pretty intimidating when he wants to be). I find that I meet more people with this attitude in my rural area than I do out in the bigger world. I am not sure why.
Part of me thinks it has to do with exposure, people in more populated areas are more used to seeing service dogs or service dogs in training (which is what people assume Judah is because I don’t look disabled). So, because they are used to seeing it they are far less likely to have doubts or to feel the need to interact. The other part of me thinks
it has to do with the whole mentality of the area. Out here in the boonies people know each other more, they recognize cars, kids and dogs. Out here people know things about each other and a service dog without everyone knowing all about it deserves scrutiny… at least that’s what they think.
I’ll be honest I’ll take scrutiny from the woods people over a house with no yard any day. I have made it my mission to educate as much as I can when I am out and about in my ‘hood’. I explain to people what Judah does, how he helps me, why it makes a difference and anything else I can without completely giving up my day. Hopefully soon I will be going to one of the local schools to talk about life changes, disabilities and working with Judah. I hope that it will be the first in a long line of speaking engagements and educational opportunities.
I hope to always live out here in the woods, even if that means I have to spend the rest of my days explaining my dog and his great work. Perhaps someday though, people will understand the value of a dog like him and the independence he can give to a person that wants nothing more than to live the fullest life possible.