It's very hard to resist petting every dog you see, I know, but most people know not to interrupt a service dog. Service dogs are usually easy to distinguish because they're usually wearing a vest or harness. They probably get lots of pets at home, but they shouldn't be distracted on the street while they're looking out for their human.
But that's about the extent of what most people know about service dogs. However, a recent PSA is circulating to inform people that these dogs have all sorts of training to make them useful to humans with medical issues.
Twitter user Melissa Hope, or @lissalet, recently posted a story about someone who tripped and fell. Their dog had been trained to help them in the event of an epileptic seizure, and that's how the pup interpreted the fall. It ran off to find another person to come help, but the person it met was not very helpful at all.
The story is originally from a Tumblr post by lumpatronics, and it reads:
So today I tripped. Fell flat on my face, it was awful but ultimately harmless. My service dog, however, is trained to go get an adult if I have a seizure, and he assumed this was a seizure (were training him to do more to care for me, but we didn’t learn I had epilepsy until a year after we got him)
I went after him after I had dusten off my jeans and my ego, and I found him trying to get the attention of a very annoyed woman. She was swatting him away and telling him to go away. So I feel like I need to make this heads up.
If a service dog without a person approaches you, it means the person is down and in need of help.
Don’t get scared, don’t get annoyed, follow the dog! If it had been an emergency situation, I could have vomited and choked, I could have hit my head, I could have had so many things happen to me. We’re going to update his training so if the first person doesn’t cooperate, he moves on, but seriously guys. If what’s-his-face could understand that lassie wanted him to go to the well, you can figure out that a dog in a vest proclaiming it a service dog wants you to follow him.
A lot of people are really surprised and grateful for this information:
A couple people even said they'd experienced being approached by a lone service dog:
my classmate's service dog came up to me alone outside and i said "where's your mom?" he ran off and i ran with him. his mom was having a seizure on the sidewalk and i was there to put my sweater under her head to protect her.— gretchen (@solelymoving) June 18, 2018
always follow a service dog https://t.co/oruNJDW2YK
When I was in college, the service dog of our blind professor came to our lecture hall without her. No one knew what to do… 15 minutes later our professor arrived disheveled and shaken. Now I know how we should’ve responded. Has bothered me for years.— J. Anne (@mtnmama14) June 18, 2018
Or being helped by their brave pupper:
My dog is not a trained service dog but I got real ill and had to crawl to the phone in the other room and lost my vision and couldn't even dial 911. I yelled to the dog, "Go, GO GET SOMEONE!" She busted through the screen door and next door and made them follow her back to me.— Possum (@Ladypossum) June 19, 2018
The story was also shared on Reddit, where commenters brought up how many people just buy vests and put them on dogs that are not actually trained so they can take them places where dogs are not usually allowed. These animals may be emotional support dogs, but they're not necessarily trained to be companions to people with disabilities.
"The good thing about service dogs vs people just saying their dog is a service dog so they can take them anywhere is that a true service dog is extremely well mannered. It'll not bark uncontrollably while trying to get your attention, it'll start to walk and then wait for you to follow, it'll be attentive to your face and where your attention is and make one movement or another set of controlled barks to make sure follow, etc. They won't try to smell your butt, lick your toes or play with you, all they want to do is serve their human until their human tells them it's play time. This is how that poor guy won't waste their time following a fake :)"
That's how you stop yourself from following a lost dog for an hour.
In all this helpful info, there was still time to make the inevitable Lassie jokes.
Nor did I know that. What’s the point of teaching dogs to approach random people if people aren’t informed about this? Not everyone grew up watching Lassie films— Norma Laming (@TheSandlings) June 18, 2018
I learned all about this from watching reruns of lassie!— john william osullivan (@putlock) June 19, 2018
“Little Timmy was always getting stuck down a well”
I’ve been socially engineered to follow any dog that walks up to me,
looks back at me,
and continues on!
What a great, informative show Lassie was. It also taught us one of the greatest lessons of all.
dogs should rule the world, they are just the goodest of bois— TediousTurtle 🐢 (@TediousturtleZZ) June 19, 2018
We don't deserve dogs. They're too good!