January 2018 Magazines 89138 - Page 34

Even if their vest is obvious, the job they’re doing may not always be. Service dogs are constantly working–whether they’re monitoring scents for a change in their handler’s blood sugar or surveying the area to alert them of possible dangers–respecting their space is crucial to the job they do. Petting a service animal without permission could result in an unintended injury, so if you simply can’t resist, be sure to ask their handler before you distract their right-hand man. Therapy Dogs – “Buddy to All” A therapy dog is one that’s trained to interact with many people other than its owner in order to help emotionally uplift or teach others. Since they are intended to help more than one individual, therapy dogs are typically certified, as they need to prove their temperament is safe around all sorts of people in varying situations. Unlike the animals protected under the ADA, therapy dogs are only allowed in certain establishments, like nursing homes, hospitals or libraries, with a prior agreement. According to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, a therapy dog can be any breed and has to be at least one year old; they must have a calm, gentle disposition around strangers as well as other dogs, and they need to consistently respond to their owner’s commands. If you think your animal would enjoy being a therapy dog, websites like Therapydogs.com can put you in touch with testers and observers in your zip code to help get you certified (or you can also become an observer to help other potentials pass). While they may not be considered life savers by law, therapy animals make a huge difference in the lives of the people they visit. Whether it’s helping children learning to read aloud or giving an elderly person a reason to smile for the first time in months, these gentle canines undoubtedly serve a very admirable purpose. Since they’re meant for the mass- es, most therapy dogs are easy to spot when out and about, wearing vests or leashes that say PET ME or something equally as welcoming. While we like to err on the side of polite, you don’t normally need to ask for permission to pet therapy dogs but always approach in a calm slow manner to avoid startling them.