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Service dogs are incredible and Jessi shares her appreciation for them by letting you know how to act around them, what not to do, what to do, what's legal, and how much they're loved by their humans.

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Hi guys.  Welcome back to Animal Wonders.  I think we can all agree that animals are pretty darn awesome.  Many of them are so much better than humans at things like hearing, smelling, and seeing.  Some scientists study animals to help us learn more about our natural world and also to help us discover new and better ways to do things.  From medicine to technology, the amazing abilities of animals can help humans live better, easier lives.  Today, I'd like to give a big thank you to the service animals that help their humans in incredible ways.  They hear, see, and smell the world around them to give their humans a better life.  I reached out to some service animal teams in our online community and I'd like to share some insights into the life of these amazing animals and their humans.


Service animals are animals that do a service for their human.  The most common kind of service animal is a dog, though there are also service monkeys, horses, and other animals as well.  Dogs usually train with a professional trainer for years to become a service dog.  Then, they are matched with their human and they learn to become a team and work together. 

Colleen met Joplin just two weeks ago and they're getting along amazingly, but Joplin has been in training for one and a half years.  Colleen and Joplin are learning to navigate the world together before Colleen loses her vision completely.  She says Joplin is a spitfire girl who's up for anything.  Huge trains, loud cars, and tiny yappy dogs don't even faze her.  

When you see a service animal out in public with their human, there are some really important things to remember.  Number one: teams are always working.  In order to understand the importance of this, you have to think about all the services the animal is potentially providing for their human.  Dogs can hear and smell better than humans.  They can detect when something is off with their human sometimes before their person can, but the humans are constantly aware of their dog's behavior in public, too, and they're often communicating what they want them to do and where they want them to go, like tucking themselves underneath the seat on a subway or leading them across a busy street.

Depending on what the animal's service is, they are potentially their person's lifeline and even if it looks like they're just sitting there, they've often on alert for any subtle changes or dangers to their human.

Number two: They are loved.  From their first trainers to their human handlers to their human's family and friends, service animals are so loved.  They enjoy their job as much as they enjoy their time off.  Collen says Joplin is very affectionate and fun when she's not working, but when she puts the harness on, she goes into total work mode.

Katie says even though Watson's services don't include emotional support, he'll sometimes give her a big goofy grin and it makes you feel so much better about everything.  I love seeing teams out and about, because it means that both are comfortable enough out in public living their lives.  It makes me so happy seeing the love and trust involved in being a team.

Number three: Don't interact, distract, or interfere.  Service animals need to stay focused on their job.  We already know that they are their human's lifeline and it's potentially life-threatening to pull their attention away.  I asked Sophia what was something challenging about having a service dog in public, and she said that distractions for her dog were the most difficult.  Her dog is still in training, so they haven't been out much, but she has heard people say, oh look, a dog, and she's seen a grown woman make kissy noises at her dog from across the store.  Don't say hello, whistle, whisper, praise, pet, poke, or otherwise interfere with a dog's focus.  They are there for their person and their person alone.

Number four: all service animal teams are unique.   Don't compare.  Different service animals are trained for different services.  A deaf college student and their medium-sized hearing dog are going to look and act a lot different than a paralyzed retiree and their 75 lb mobility dog, and as Katie says over and over, yes, a poodle can be a service dog.  Every service animal team has their own qualities and challenges.  Respect their differences, like you respect the differences in your friends and pets.

Number five: Service animals are legally protected.  Katie and her dog Watson would like everyone to know that while having a service dog is amazing, it's not easy bringing a dog into a public place, because she always has to plan ahead.  Sometimes she's delayed because taxis or restaurants illegally discriminate against her and won't allow her and her dog to use their services.  It's good to remember that service animals are allowed wherever medical equipment is allowed, so basically, everywhere.  

Number six: there is no requirement for ID or certification in public.  Teams do not need to carry proof that their service animal is needed.  If an issue does come up, there are only two questions that a business owner can legally ask: Is the animal a service animal? and What service does the animal provide?

Number seven: Respect the amazing service these animals provide.  Living with a disability is challenging and getting the opportunity to have an amazing friend, companion, and teammate making your life easier is priceless.  While you can totally wish you could take your pet everywhere with you, never try to pretend your pet is a service animal.  Remember, service animals train extensively for years to ensure they help their human and don't cause problems in our human-centered world.  Claiming an animal is a service animal when they're not causes untold damage to those who truly rely on their animals to do tasks that they may not be able to do without them.  

Megan and Caspian have been together for four years and she addresses some of the challenges that they've had like this in a video she made on the subject.  Link is in the description.  

Number eight: Be happy for the animal and the human.  This is an amazing thing, two species living in harmony and navigating a world full of challenges as a team.  I love it.  The best way for you to show your appreciation for a service animal is to smile and then politely ignore them, letting them focus on enjoying their job.

Thank you to all the service animals who provide comfort and safety to those humans who need you, and thank you for watching and learning how you can be the best service animal advocate you can be.  If you'd like to learn more on this subject, I've put some links below to videos of service animal teams and their experiences and if you'd like to go on an adventure with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel AnimalWondersMontana.  Thanks guys.