Handler Spotlight Lifestyle

Etiquette Around Service Dogs During COVID-19

A service dog handler's perspective during the COVID-19 pandemic

Written By: @Service Dog Jubilee on Facebook, permission given to be shared

 

Please don’t pet, hug, kiss, or otherwise interact with service dogs during a pandemic- COVID-19, or any other.

Honest to goodness, this shouldn’t have to be said ever, but especially not now. Yet here I am saying it.

I’m used to people feeling entitled to speak to or pet my service dog without my permission. I’ve heard claims of ignorance, selective illiteracy to the large vest emblazoned with ‘SERVICE DOG’ in bold letters, and even that they outright felt their desire to interact with my service dog overrode my need to make use of her thousands of hours of specialized training.

I’m used to having to train my service dog to tolerate being petted, hugged, kissed, pulled on, stepped on, and even kicked by strangers of all shapes and sizes. I’m used to physically taking hold of hands (children and adults alike) to extricate my service dog so we can go about our day.

I’m not used to thinking about this wonderful animal, my service dog, as the carrier of a biological weapon. Dogs cannot be infected by COVID-19. However, it can live on surfaces for several days. This morning a woman as I walked into a doctor’s appointment leapt to her feet to come tell Jubi how gorgeous she is. She grasped Jubi’s face in her hands, kissed her on the nose, and then coughed in her face.

I spent the rest of my appointment specifically not asking Jubi to perform the very tasks she’s been trained for. I didn’t have Jubi retrieve, hold anything, using her harness for stability, nothing. My service dog went through the entire appointment like an adorable ornament.

She’s since had a bath, I did my best to surface wash her gear, and that’s really all I can do right now. I can’t do that every day. I don’t have the energy, I don’t have the time, I can’t do it. Above all, it’s not fair or healthy to my service dog for me to be attempting vainly to sanitize her every time someone touches her.

I’m lucky, my disability does not put me at significantly greater risk of severe illness or death if infected than most people my age; but not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone I love is so lucky. I’m also lucky that I have access to a washing machine, detergent, a bath tub and lots of sensitive skin dog shampoo.

A lot of people with disabilities are not as lucky as me and are not going to be able to regularly sanitize their own service dog and gear. It’s burdensome enough to be disabled without now having to wonder if the animal specially trained to help you will unintentionally pass along some entitled handsy jerk’s germs and kill you or people you love.

This really shouldn’t have to be said but I’ll say it again: Please don’t touch service dogs without permission. Not now, not ever.

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