Sunday, November 16, 2008

The general public can be scary and kind

Well, we've been here one week and it has been an educational journey in ways I did not expect. Learning about service dogs, the law and about the purpose of establishing a strong bond with their new canine partners is right on schedule. Learning about the general public has been both annoying and enlightening.

When the men and their partners go out, whether individually or together, there are the expected stares and hushed whispers. Some of the stares can be downright hostile or full of fear. Not knowing the background that people have with dogs you can seize the moment to shower them with kindness or gently explain that this is a working dog who is competely safe. It's the questions from the general public that can shock you.

  • Q. Is the dog in training?

  • A. No, the dog is competely trained. I'm in training and we are learning to work as a team.

  • Q. Is this a military dog? Military working dog?

  • A. No, I was in the military.

  • Q. Can I pet the dog? ( This is asked quite a bit. )

  • A. This depends. Usually it depends on the situation. If the dog is in her service vest and is working at that moment, the guys explain that she is working and she can't be pet at that time. Then they thank the person for asking. Other times they allow the dog to be pet or spoken to, but only when they are in a sit/down position. I find they almost exclusively allow this when the children ask.

  • Q. (While looking directly at the men) they will ask are you blind? They blink at the person, look them square in the eye and say no. Sometimes they explain that they are Iraqi War vets and this dog helps them injuries they received there. Most people nod, thank them for their service to the country and walk away. Some look skeptically at them and ask, so where's your injury? I can't see anything wrong with you.

We have only had one challenge about bringing a service dog into a business. A young greeter at Wal-Mart was certain that service dogs were not allowed entry. It was a challenge to Isaiah and he responded with certainty that it is federal law. Pat was with him and asked the young man if he had ever heard of The American with Disabilities Act? He had not, but he was educated today.

The public kindness has also been as generous as it has been uneducated. People have respected the men and their partners. They have thanked the men. They have let the dogs work and in Home Depot they went out of their way to help with the ongoing training these dogs need in unexpected situations. They allowed us to drop lumber, large metal clasps, and anything else that would cause an unexpected and loud sound. They ran saws for us and drove the loader back and forth. The whole experience bonded the men and dogs closer. The dogs and the men protected each other in a sense.

As these men heal enough to handle the day to day living that has been so difficult for them to continue, they will begin to educate those around them. Family, friends and perfect strangers will be exposed to a world that may be foreign to them. These men will pass along the kindness that started in the whelping box with inmates who got a second chance to change a life for the good. It continued with Golden Kimba Service Dogs and the dedication of Pat Schwartz to train the veterans on the way to handle their service dogs. Friends along the way who have provided situational training and playdates for the dogs. Lives will be saved from this program. Generations will be changed for the better. The darkness will begin to lift and the light will most assurdly mark the path for these teams.


  1. Thanks Deb, for giving us this glimpse at the good, the bad and the ugly out there.
    I'd like to think that the dogs and their receipients, (be it these young men or others) will each be an emissary for this program and it's benefits as they go back into their communities. Heaven only knows, we need more kindness in this world and hopefully this will be an opportunity for an "exchange", a "dialogue", or maybe just a "smile" that will bring a moment of acceptance and peace to all involved. Please ask Pat if there is a place we can donate in Isaiah's name to this program.

  2. Contributions may be sent to:
    Golden Kimba Psychiatric Service Dogs
    13316 Golf Pointe Drive
    Port Charlotte, Florida 33953

    Golden Kimba Service Dogs is a 501.c.3 Non Profit Organization. All donations are tax deductible. Thank you.

  3. Contributions may be sent to:
    Golden Kimba Psychiatric Service Dogs
    13316 Golf Pointe Drive
    Port Charlotte, Florida 33953

    Golden Kimba Service Dogs is a 501.c.3. non profit organization. All contributions are tax deductible. Thank you.