Accidental Snowbirds

An Informative Post About Service Dogs

A dog is an awesome addition to any RV adventure. Read more about it here. Now as many of you know, Z is a service dog, first and foremost, then he is a pet. Due to Lance’s disabilities, Z is trained to assist when needed. Z does a great job detecting the signs and jumping into action.

As you can imagine, and see from the pictures on our social media, Lance does not necessarily look like he has any physical disabilities. Unless you catch him on a bad day. Then you will understand the challenges that he faces on a daily basis.  

Based on those facts and many of the questions we get on social media about Z, we decided to share some stories with you from what we encountered on our journey pertaining to having a service dog.

Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask us about it. As you can tell from all our blogs, we’re very open and straight forward in our communication and thoughts.

 

Service Dogs Not Welcome

We chose this café because it had good reviews online. We later found out that if you gave a good review on Google, you would get 10% off your bill. In the window, there was a “Service Dogs Welcome” sign.

 

“Service Dogs Are Welcome”, or are they?

We got to our table, which was in the corner. Lance was not moving very well this morning. It took some effort for him to get around the table and into his seat. Z laid down beside him. The owner watched all of this. She watched him struggle, saw him give Z the command to lay down, and settle in to look at the menu.

At this point, she came over and told Lance that Z had to move because he was in the pathway. The restaurant was not at all busy, and he was not impeding traffic. Had she not watched the struggle, I might have been a little more understanding when she asked Z to move.

We had already ordered coffee, which had not arrived at this point. I offered to pay for the coffee, which she gladly accepted my money at $2.75 per cup. I was shocked that she accepted the money. Given her lack of compassion for people, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. She acted as if she had no idea why we were leaving. I calmly explained the scenario and she became defensive.

Isn’t there a saying that if a person has a good experience they tell three people and if they have a bad one they tell ten? Well, hopefully, this is reaching more than ten!

 

Excuse Me, Sir, Are you Handicapped?

Lance hit his people limit early in the excursion, which is typical. I wanted to hike down the Grand Canyon to explore, as this was my first time there. He and Z decided to wait for me in the truck.

When I got back, Lance had this strange you’re-not-going-to-believe-this look on his face. Apparently, in the hour I was gone, seven different park rangers came up to him because he parked in a handicapped spot. Mind you, he has a disabled veteran license plate and was legally parked.

Apparently, people were complaining to the park rangers about an able-bodied man parked there. It’s hilarious for two reasons.

A.) Don’t judge a book by its cover. You don’t know the whole story about a person.

B.) THE FREAKING GRAND CANYON IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU! Why are you focusing all your energy on how people are parking their vehicles?

I understand that often people use those spots because they’re convenient and they’ll “only be there a minute.” We see this all the time. But, if you’re going to go out of your way to complain, make sure you’re right.

Fun fact: In Texas, disabled veteran plates have the letters “DV” in them. We don’t have the wheelchair symbol, however, there is a Combat Infantryman’s Badge. If there is any confusion, approach the driver yourself.

Is That a Service Dog?

With the popularity of small dogs, everybody thinks it is acceptable to bring dogs with them everywhere. This is making it more difficult for actual service dogs.

 

Z, donning his stylish service dog vest.

Lance had a medical appointment and he took Z with him. As we walked in the door, a woman started screaming over the desk, “IS THAT A SERVICE DOG?” Lance and I looked at each other, back at her, at Z who was wearing a service dog vest, and back at her. This exchange of looks happened three times until finally, Lance asked her if she was serious. She quickly apologized and said that it is policy to ask.

While I completely understand the need to distinguish pets from service animals, the way she chose to handle the situation was inappropriate. Z’s vest covers his entire body. It is black and has large white patches that say, “SERVICE DOG.” She also could have waited until we were through the door and able to approach her desk letting her know of our appointment.

SERVICE DOG FAQ

Q: Is it ok to pet a service dog?

Only if you ask the handler. Usually, the answer will be no. Please don’t pout or whine. The “no” has nothing to do with you (Trust me, it has happened before). The dog has a job and is working. Each dog has different commands for when it is work time and when it is play time. For Z, when the vest on, he knows that it’s business time. I have found that children understand this very clearly. It is adults that don’t seem to follow the ask-the-handler-rule.

Q: Can I ask what service the dog is providing?

You sure can, but in many cases, the handler will ignore you since you are prying into their personal business. When the service dog is working, smile and let the dog do his job.  

Q: Can staff at an establishment ask what training the dog has received?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act staff may ask only two questions:

(1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

(2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

“Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.”

Q: Can a service dog be refused access from any location?

Yes. For example, at a swimming pool, the dog cannot go in the pool. It would violate health codes. However, the dog can go on the swim deck. A service dog can also be asked to leave an establishment if they are not housebroken or under control of the handler.

Q: Is a service animal required to have identification?

No. Some animals wear special harnesses or vests, but it is not required. Z has a vest to avoid the whole “pets aren’t allowed” conversation.

 

While most people have good intentions in their questions about service dogs, situations go awry generally because of a lack of knowledge. The same rings true for handicapped parking spots. What questions do you have about service dogs? Don’t hesitate to comment below or reach out to us via email.

4 comments on “An Informative Post About Service Dogs

Great article guys! Very informative!!! Here’s my question…I may have a fee! LOL Can you explain…is there a difference between service dogs and emotional support dogs? What sort of training is required of the dog to be considered a service dog? And at what age should a dog begin training? I only ask these questions for informational purposes due to I am not disabled nor do I consider myself disabled; however, I suffer from random anxiety attacks symptoms left from cancer I had 6 years ago…it happens occasionally when we are on hikes or when I’m faced with uncertainty. It sometimes happens randomly for no reason and even when I’m driving…anyway…any more information on the subject would be helpful even if it needs to be a private conversation! Thanks!!!

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This was a great article.

Reply
Laura Crum

First of all…Lance, Thank you for your service! I, too, am a veteran with invisible disabilities. I suffer from PTS, Scoliosis, Degenerative Disk Disease, Hip Displaysia, and Osteoarthritis. I completely understand the difficulties behind these injuries that people can’t see. I have had several days where I could not walk, yet today I was able to walk 1.5 miles in less than 30 min. The reason people don’t tend to see my issues is because I tend to stay home when I’m hurting. I just don’t want people to see my weaknesses, ya know?
Due to living in Illinois, and the lack of work and these insane tax hikes, my husband and I recently purchased a shuttle bus to convert into an RV. We are still in the floor laying stage so it’ll be a while before we hit the road. We really don’t have much of a plan other than getting out of Illinois. We want to travel the country looking for that perfect piece of woodland to settle on. we have no idea where that will be tho. Maybe Missouri, maybe not.
Anyway, best of luck to ya’ll! Would love to meet up and get to know ya’ll when we do get out there!
Keep on keeping on!
Respectfully,
Laura Crum

Reply
Lance

Laura, First of all, thank you for your service.
It is hard for people to think that there might be something under the surface that they cannot see, so judging is a better alternative when they don’t understand.
I am glad that you are staying active, that is what helps me and keeps me going. When’re your guy’s journey out of Illinois is going to start? do you guys have a tentative date in mind?

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