Can a Service Dog Serve Two Masters?

by Patty L. Fletcher

Hello Word Matters Readers! Campbell and I are sorry we’ve been away so long. We’ve endured a ton of technical trials over the last few months but today we’re back with an article for you, that we hope will be both entertaining and educational.Pit Bull Wearing Service Dog Vest

One of the questions I get asked quite often is, “Just what does Campbell do for you, and can he do any other work?” Up until recently I have always answered folks by simply explaining that Campbell is a Seeing Eye Dog Guide, and that his purpose is to be a guide for me. Then one day while attending the peer support drop-in center for persons suffering with mental illness I began to realize that Campbell might have talents and abilities I was over looking. It was becoming very obvious to me that he was very good at calming people during panic attacks, helping them to overcome fears, and helping them with becoming more involved in activities.

It was also becoming increasingly obvious that these things he was doing did not in any way cause problems for either of us where his work for and with me was concerned. Soon I began to wonder if Campbell might make a good therapy dog. I was interested in doing that type of work, and in fact had been volunteering for a couple of area public schools by going into their special needs classes, and having the children read out loud to Campbell. As I began to look into places he and I might volunteer, or possibly seek employment for me, I learned that Campbell would need to be licensed as a therapy dog before he would be admitted into certain places to work with patience in a hospital, or residents in a group or nursing home.

At first I have to be completely honest and say I was a bit taken aback by this. I couldn’t believe that someone would feel that my most awesome, and very well trained ‘Seeing Eye Dog Guide’ could possibly need more training, but instead of totally shutting the door on the entire idea, I decided to find out why. It turns out that one of the most important things that having a dog certified as a “Therapy Dog” is that it gives the dog liability insurance. Making it so that a facility or handler cannot be held liable for any injury that might take place during interaction between dog and patience or residents that we might visit and work with. Although Campbell is well trained, he is a dog, and even accidental injuries can happen. I also learned that there were things he needed to be tested for that were a bit out of the norm in the things that he had been exposed to and taught to do. For example, one of the things on the test is to have people standing around him, yelling and waving their arms at him. The object is to see if he will be upset or in any way become aggressive at such behavior. Due to the fact that things like dementia can cause elderly to behave this way, I can see how this would be a good thing to know.

This led me to begin the search for information concerning gaining his license. At first I hit a brick wall. I contacted one place that certified dogs only to be told that active service dogs could not be certified because it was their belief that a service dog should only service its own master. This however did not seem right to me. While there might be some dogs this could be true of, I had not as of yet seen any evidence to support their belief where Campbell was concerned, and because I hate being put in a box and did not wish for my dog to be put in one either I continued looking.

One day I put a message out on one of the online Canine groups I belong to and within just a day or so I was contacted by one of its members. She wrote to say that Pet Partners would certify him, and that she’d written them on my behalf. See Pet Partners.org – Therapy Pets & Animal Assisted Activities for more information concerning this organization.

Now I am getting ready to officially contact them, and begin the process of getting his certification. This will do several things. It will allow me to work with more people either as a volunteer or employ, or both. It will open new doors of opportunity to educate the public concerning blindness and mental illness, and when Campbell is no longer willing or able to be a guide for me, and I need to retire him, it will if he is able allow him to keep working around people which he loves.

So, can a service dog serve two masters? Well, I believe so, and I will write more as we go along with this newest project and let you know if the answer is yes or no.

Until next time this is Patty and Campbell saying, may harmony find you, and blessid be.

About the Author

Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport, TN, where she worked for nine years at CONTACT–CONCERN of Northeast Tennessee, Inc. She now writes full time. Her autobiographical book is Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life (C 2014). There, she tells how she obtained her first guide dog from The Seeing Eye® in Morristown, NJ: what motivated her, the extensive training she had, and the good friends she made.

For more details about her and her book, including where to purchase the book in e-book or print format go to: www.dvorkin.com/pattyfletcher/. To see my blog and newly updated website go to http://campbellsworld.wordpress.com/.

For more details about her and her book, including where to purchase the book in e-book or print format go to: www.dvorkin.com/pattyfletcher/

To see her blog and newly updated website go to http://campbellsworld.wordpress.com/

 

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