Saturday, January 12, 2013

Please Don't Pet Me, I'm Working!

Being a puppy raiser, everyone asks about the difficulty of giving up a puppy after nurturing them like your own child. "How can you do it?" they query. A few eye me up and down as if I have the sensitivity of a reptile. Yet honestly, what I struggle with more on a day-to-day basis, is telling people they can't pet the puppy!

The patch sewn on Dorian's guide dog-in-training coat. It is meant to discourage people from petting him. Although it is rather prominently displayed, many people don't notice or read it.


Two puppy raisers with their guide dogs in training, both black Labs. We are exposing the pups to busy streets at a bus stop in downtown Charlotte, NC.

In the background is a working guide dog, a golden retriever, with her owner/handler in the pink shirt. Notice how alert the working guide dog is as she sits at the busy curb. 

You would not want to distract this dog by talking to her or trying to pet her!

I think back on a recent day when I was in Lowe's Building Supplies with 10 month-old Dorian. We are at the check-out counter. Now, Dorian and I have had our moments in the environment of the check-out counter. While I am simultaneously handling my merchandise, doing transactions with cash or credit card, zipping up my mini purse and navigating the shopping cart, Dorian finds this setting offers great potential for Getting Away with Things! But today Dorian is being very good, laying down and staying nicely.

The check-out counter is also a Very Bad Place for starry-eyed lovers of canines to make their advances. Today it is a middle-aged, very tall man, who has just entered the store. Using his most surprised and delighted voice, he immediately calls to Dorian. Dorian, on cue, leaps out of his down/stay, his leash sliding out from under my foot, and trots to the man. To my dismay, as I stand with credit card in hand and my purse wide open, the man invites Dorian to jump on him and then rewards with a vigorous head massage!

Now I have manged to round up my exuberant young charge. My attempts to correct Dorian are pretty feeble, since he really was being good until the man walked in. Meanwhile the man is saying things like "Oh, don't worry, I'm used to dogs jumping on me," and "Dogs just naturally love me." Hmm...this guy could be a poster child demonstrating what not to do when seeing a service dog! Somehow, I am struck speechless. I just can't find the words to explain to him service dog protocol. Meanwhile, the man has had his dog fix and happily saunters off to the hardware aisle.

I mumble an apology to the check-out lady and the people behind me in line. They look sympathetic. As Dorian and I head towards the door I glance down. Yes, it's still there, right across the back of Dorian's blue service cape. A big white patch with red and black lettering, which states, "Please Don't Pet Me, I'm Working."

Here the "Please Don't Pet Me" patch is shown rather prominently on Dorian's coat. It also pictures a hand with a slash through it in the patch's center, in case the person can't read English.


  1. GRRRR!!!! Honestly. People are so crazy sometimes. Most of the time, since I live in Clearwater, the people know not to bother a working dog, but when you don't have that constant reminder, it has to be much harder. I call it zombie hands when they are moving towards you with their hands outstretched for puppy love.


  2. yes! Zombie is a great way to put it! We live in a rather backwater area, w.o. much awareness of service animals. I get all kinds of odd reactions, comments to the dogs. Did you say Guard Dogs??? Stuff like that. Still I feel that our presence as PR's has helped a lot in the community.