Can I Pet Your Cute Puppy?

Ever since I’ve had Trixie, and have had to stop people from petting her, after they apologize, they tell me that I should get a sign for her that says “don’t pet me, I’m working”. I’ve never been a really big fan of the sign, as users who have used it haven’t had great success with it. People read the sign, or comment about how cute it is, while petting the dog. If people respected the fact that the dog was a working dog, they wouldn’t pet it, period. Since they don’t, sign or no sign, they will be drawn like moths to a flame, and with a sign, I’ve heard it’s even worse than no sign at all. Sometimes I’ve wondered if someone snuck in and changed the word “don’t” to the word “please”. But I had it solidified why Trixie will never wear a sign.

I came into a bus shelter with a couple of other people standing there. One of them just could not resist the urge to pet the cute doggy. I stopped him, and explained that she’s working, and I need her to not be getting interested in other people while we’re walking or even just standing somewhere. Suddenly, the woman who was with the man said, “So that’s why the dogs wear the signs. I always looked at the signs and wondered why they wear them. I didn’t think it was because they were vicious, but that was the only thing I could come up with.”

Great. So now we have two groups of people, people who don’t care about the signs, and people who don’t even understand them and are wondering if the guide dog will bite them! Just dandy! Either way, the signs aren’t doing their job.

While we’re on the subject of people wanting to pet Trixie, here are the latest gems spat in my direction when I say no.

“I thought she was resting.” Is the harness off? It’s simple, guys. Harness on= no pet unless the handler tells you otherwise. Do not assume that because the other person you know who has a guide/service dog lets you pet the dog when the dog is sitting and wearing the harness that I will. Every dog is different in the level of interest s/he will take in passers-by. Mine is very interested, so no pets from others when harness is on. That’s my rule.

“Can I pet her? Oh! She’s coming to me!” as hands fly out to receive dog who is having a goofy moment. No you can’t pet her, and that’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid. Then they get all pouty when I correct the dog back to my side.

Here’s a good one. “can I…” *bends towards dog and prepares to pet…*”pet her?” Why did you bother to ask? If you actually wanted to respectfully ask before petting her, you wouldn’t be moving in for the kill. I say no, and they’re all sad and offended.

This one isn’t about petting the pooch, but it was too weird, so I’m writing it down. Someone asked me, “Can you see?” Maybe it was just the way he asked it, because I understand, “Can you see anything?” or “How much can you see?” But it was right after I asked him which bus he was catching, to which he responded, “This one.” Thanks, pal. I was left to wonder if he thought I got a guide dog just for fun, and didn’t actually need her to guide me.

I feel like an angry old woman writing these posts, and I feel bad about that. I don’t want to seem unapproachable. Really, she doesn’t bite, and neither do I if people use common courtesy. I hope that writing this stuff down helps to make these guide dog rules understandable for people, so they don’t seem like some kind of arbitrary list of things to remember. They are all here for a reason.

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