A service dog is important to those who need them. Education about these animals has been lacking as of late. They are not pets, nor should they be treated as one by those who don’t have a service animal. When you see them in their vest or harness, they are at work. Whether it be for medical purposes or everyday life, these companions are helping their human. A service dog, for instance, can help someone cross the street, turn on a light if it can’t be reached, or even alert someone if their master is having a seizure. If you see one on their own, pay attention. They could be trying to lead you to said master for extra help.
Service Dog to the Rescue
Meet Raider. He is an English mastiff and bulldog mastiff mix. For the last three years, he has been a service dog for 20-year-old Tessa Connaughton. Tessa suffers from seizures, as well as having autism. It is the reason she has Raider.
He has been trained to lay on top of Tessa if she falls. To stay calm during a seizure, she needs the pressure of her service dog on top of her.
“Layman’s terms: He lays on me if I get antsy.” Tessa explained of Raider’s responsibility.
Many service dogs have been trained to do this for those who have seizures. This young woman from California had been diagnosed with epilepsy. Since then, Tessa added a level of training to Raider’s regime. Getting outside assistance. He can nudge arms and legs with his nose in attempts to get other humans to follow him to Tessa.
“Loud noises are painful for me,” Connaughton wrote. “Especially when I’m already in distress.”
Since she can’t handle loud noises, Raider couldn’t just bark to get other’s attention. That isn’t the case for one woman in a grocery store.
Shopper Doesn’t Get the Message
It happened one day at the grocery store, Connaughton fell while getting coffee. Unharmed, of course, Raider thought she was having a seizure. So, he did what he was trained to do–get help.
He found a nearby shopper and tried to get her attention. Tessa noticed this once she recovered. Unfortunately, the female shopper wasn’t getting the clue. Instead of thinking to follow Raider back to Tessa, she pushed him away.
“She was swatting at his nose and telling him to leave her alone while she was shopping,” she said.
That’s when Tessa realized something. If this shopper couldn’t recognize that her service dog was trying to signal for help, would others?
Getting the Message Across
Tessa took to her social media and made a Public Service Announcement, posting it on Tumblr. It was shared more than 160,000 times on Twitter and liked over 187,000 on Tumblr. In the post she shared her story, and what happened in the grocery store. She also mentioned what people should do if a service dog comes up to you without their owner.
“If a service dog without a person approaches you, it means the person is down and in need of help,” the announcement said. “Don’t get scared, don’t get annoyed, follow the dog!”
Yes, there were critics of this announcement. However, there were more people who gave shout-outs to Tessa’s story. Even going so far as to share their own stories.
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.
always follow a service dog https://t.co/oruNJDW2YK
— gretchen (@solelymoving) June 18, 2018
Moral of the Story
A service dog is important to Tessa. It helps her function in her everyday life and keeps her safe when she has seizures. For the ones who criticized her story, she had this to say; “There are a thousand ways to train a service dog…I live in a small town with a lot of people, so my method works for me.” Let this be the moral of our story – if you see a service dog come up to you without their owner. Don’t think, just follow!
Featured Image: CC by 2.0 by Samuel King via website af.mil