Hello, my name is Packer. Let me take a few minutes to introduce myself. I’m a 2 ½ year old Great Dane Service dog. What is a Service dog you may ask? A service dog is one that has been individually trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities. Such tasks include providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications and calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, for just a few of the many tasks. Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life.
I’m sure you’ve seen me around town with my combat veteran. The fact of the matter is, I go everywhere with her, it’s my JOB. How is this possible you may ask? Under the American Disability Act (ADA), State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go. The staff may ask only two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. I also cannot be asked to leave the premises unless: (1) I’m out of control and my handler does not take effective action to control it or (2) I’m not housebroken.
I am NOT mean, I do NOT bite, however I am very big but not a horse as I’m so frequently called. When I’m in public with my owner, please do not scream as I will not hurt you and also do not pet me. I would love for you to pet me, however I am working. I am on the clock, sort of speak, and distractions such as petting and making noises to get my attention only distract me from performing the task at hand which is the safety of my owner so she can fully participate in everyday life. Please reframe from asking my owner personal questions about her disability. All disabilities are not visible, and asking questions about hers is personal. If you had something that made you different, would you like to have to explain it all the time to complete strangers? When my owner is out in public with me, all she wants to do is be like everyone else. Making comments and asking questions prevents her from doing this.
Packer the Service Dane
As relayed to Rebecca Hunt, VFW Post 8316, Hugo Oklahoma