I know what it’s like. I’ve been there. You see any dog in public and you’re all


Sometimes, that dog is a service dog and it’s extra cute because it’s in a place you don’t expect to see a dog. You can’t help but lose control. Someone keeps saying “Omg dog. Omg dog. Omg dog.” over and over. That someone is you. You want to reach out and pet it, but you stop yourself because it’s a service dog and you don’t just reach out and pet a service dog (well, ANY dog for that matter, be smart people). But you know the number one rule: do not pet a service dog without permission.

That’s all you need to know, though, right? Wrong.

A few weekends ago, one of my best friends, Alexa, came to visit me this weekend. She has been volunteering for the organization paws4people for 2 years helping to train service dogs as a public access trainer. Recently, a surgery on her back went wrong and long story short, she is now with her own mobility assistance dog, WALLIS, who is there to help with her mobility issues. For 6 months she has lived the daily life of a service dog client.

Alexa and WALLIS at the Carolina Hurricanes vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey game!

If you’re like me at first, you’re probably thinking “ugh how lucky is she to be able to take her dog everywhere she goes!” However, this weekend was an eye opener for me. I now see it’s not as easy to have a service dog in public as I thought. Here are a few things that happened this weekend that don’t seem harmful to the dog and/or it’s person, but actually are!


People talked to WALLIS (without permission).

Talking to a service dog at all is just as bad as touching the dog. Yes, he is a well trained certified service dog, but he’s still a dog that loves affection. If you are calling out his name (because you see it on his vest) or talking baby talk to him, you’re going to distract him from doing his job because he’s going to look at you and think you are going to come love him. This isn’t because he doesn’t ever get affection, either, it’s because he gets SO MUCH love at home and it’s never enough, as it is for most dogs. Think about if you were working and people kept interrupting you. You’d never get any work done, would you? Instead of immediately turning all of your attention to the dog, ask the handler if the dog is working. If they say yes, then respectfully leave them alone. If they say no, then you can ask if you can pet it. A lot of handlers are nice about letting you pet their dog, but if they seem short with you, don’t take it personal. They might simply be over all of the attention for the day (or week!)


People asked me questions about WALLIS instead of his person.

The first time I witnessed this was when we went to dinner. We sat down as WALLIS took his place under the table. The host turned to me, right next to Alexa, and asked, “He’s a service dog, right?” Confused, I nodded, “Yes.”

Alexa pointed out to me that he asked me instead of her because he assumed she was blind. I responded that even if she was blind, she wasn’t deaf, so he should have talked to her. There are two lessons to take out of this story:

  1. Not all people with service dogs are blind.
  2. Blind and other disabled people (that aren’t deaf) can still hear you.

It’s like the equivalent of someone talking really loudly and slowly to a blind person. Alexa can speak for herself and for WALLIS and answer any questions you might have about him.

People mumbled things about Alexa and WALLIS as if we couldn’t hear them.

While we were in the mall, we overheard one woman say, “She must be blind or something.”

Okay, seriously? Let’s say it again for the people in the back:

  1. Not all people with service dogs are blind.
  2. Blind and other disabled people (that aren’t deaf) can still hear you.

Need I say more about this?


People were literally stopping in front of us to look at WALLIS.

It’s one thing to stop in your tracks from the side because, you know, OMG DOG (getting old yet?) But for heaven’s sake it’s common sense to not stop in front of people trying to walk. We were in one of the most crowded areas of the mall and Lord help the person that is claustrophobic in this situation. All of these people staring at WALLIS instead of looking where they were walking was making the situation way more stressful than it needed to be. People bumping into each other, people stopping to “omg dog.” Meanwhile WALLIS is trying to weave through the people at the same time trying to not run into anyone else or trip over him.

We felt like a public spectacle.

Every other person we passed was loudly “oohing and ahhing” at WALLIS, which was honestly annoying after a while. Yes, he is cute. We know. He’s a dog. We know. He carries things for her, that is his job. He doesn’t do it to be “cute.” I admit, I have been guilty of doing this, but now I make it a point to not be obvious even though my insides are screaming “OMG DOG OMG DOG OMG DOG.” Because like you, sometimes Alexa just wants to run a quick errand and go home without any interruptions or without being stared at all day. I can’t imagine how she and other handlers feel every day because I know I felt uncomfortable (and also really awkward) walking through any public place while we were constantly being talked to, stared at, pointed at, or stopped in front of.

These were just a few situations I witnessed over 3 days. Can you imagine what service dog handlers deal with for the entire time they have their dog? But don’t just take it from me, here are a few things Alexa wishes everyone knew as a service dog handler:

I think the #1 thing that I want people to know is that most people with Service Dogs, or really any disability for that matter, want to be treated like everyone else. I use WALLIS to brace for me so that I can reach things on the bottom shelf at the grocery store or if I drop something (like I do 100 times a day) so that I don’t have to squat to the ground and struggle to get back up.

I LOVE WALLIS with all of my heart, he sometimes is what gets me through the day, but there are moments that I have thought it would be easier not to have him so that we were not a public spectacle everytime I wanted to go out. Just like someone uses a wheelchair, cane, oxygen tank or walker (I used one for months) I use WALLIS as a piece of medical equipment. Would you walk up to me with my walker, make kissy sounds and ask to pet it? I mean sure maybe someone would, but for most of you, you would ignore me and walk past. You should do the same with Service Dogs too.

I also want to make sure that everyone knows, not every time I go out people act like this. There are many times and many people who ignore us, and I thank those people. I also want to thank all the parents out there that I hear educating your children about Service Dogs. WALLIS loves kids, so I make sure that he gets plenty of love from little people too. Thank you paws4people for my best (4 legged) friend, I don’t know where I would be without all the support. Thank you to my parents for their amazing support (and WALLIS) and always believing in me. Thank you Emily for writing this and trying to help other handlers and clients out there.


Alexa and WALLIS

I hope this has been an eye opener for a lot of you as it has been for me. For fun, here is a picture of WALLIS and my pup, Zoey. They’re practically twins.

xo // Ems


  1. Great article !! I never knew all off this about a service dog either. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Great points! As a vet student, I nearly fall over myself wanting to visit with almost any animal (honestly, dog, horse, cow, lizard, snake… I draw the line at tarantulas–they might be your boo, but they freak the heck out of me), but I also know the importance of letting people have normal lives as much as possible (whether they are celebrities or people living with physical limitations) which means I try my hardest (sometimes unsuccessfully) not to be entirely enamoured with service dogs and even with normal dogs I ask permission to say hi.

    • Emily Reply

      I totally get it. I still say “horses!” When I pass them on the road. 😂 that’s a great point about celebrities too! They pretty much go through the same thing.

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