Companion animals are important parts of many peoples lives. From seeing eye dogs who bring the blind a new freedom, to PTSD dogs that can save lives by being there unconditionally, 24/7 for their companions, to our favourite pet that gets us up in the morning, inspires us to walk, and brings joy and amusement into our live. All play vital roles in our lives and in our society.
One of the hardest things for me is not being able to reward these animals while they are working. Just today, a customer came in accompanied by an awesome Golden, and I wanted so badly to pat that dog on its head and give it a tasty treat. But he was proudly wearing a service dog vest, and taking good care of his partner. I know, later on, when the job is done and the vest is off, that animal is going to be getting lots of love and treats, so I held back, and spent a moment praising his work.
With more and more dogs being pressed into different services, we see these vests more often. Please, when you see a working dog with a service dog vest, don't pet it or ask to pet it. It is busy working and that distraction can jeopardize its ability to do its job.
If you are with a child, this is even more difficult, as every child wants to play with every puppy. Please, don't let them try. It can be a very good teaching moment, and many times the person being assisted by the dog will explain to the child just what the vest is about, and what the dogs job is. If they are not able, its up to you to explain, and educate the child on how its not just a doggy, but a doggy with a job.
Its not just dogs with vests that do vital work for people, though. There are so many "pets" that are vitally important to peoples wellbeing out there that don't get the recognition for their work. I can't count how many people who I've met over the years who have suffered a loss and have credited their companion animal with helping them through the difficult time.
Whether it is the love that the animal shares when they are together, or the routine that the animal necessitates, there is so much to be said for having the unquestioning devotion and affection that our pets give. Having a reason to get up in the morning and go out for a walk can be a life saver to some. That wagging tail and sloppy kiss when you come home to an otherwise empty home is a comfort that can be impossible to find otherwise.
Hopefully, we will see more apartments and condos become more accepting of tenants that have pets. Yes, there are those that abuse the opportunity, and there is no doubt a poorly cared for and trained pet can wreak a lot of damage in a home. But the vast majority of pet owners would never allow that to happen. It becomes a case of the very few ruining things for everyone else. Especially when someone is forced to downsize, and cannot find a suitable place that allows for them to bring what may be the most important part of their life at that moment with them.
Regardless if our pets are professionally trained to keep us safe or are just a bundle of fur and love, they are very important parts of our lives. They deserve respect for what they offer us, and we need to make sure society keeps a place for them in our lives.