Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another Trip to the Grocery Store

Yes, I realize that I write about going to the grocery store a lot.  Well, I don't go that many places.  But also, when you have a service dog, routine trips to the grocery store become, well, a little less routine, I guess.

There's a blog I've been following, Rolling Around in My Head, and I read a post there where the author mentioned that he realizes he writes a lot about doors and floors, but that as a wheelchair user, those two things become much more important than they are to many other people.  Maybe it's the same with service dog handlers and grocery stores.  Because I'm not the only person I know with a service dog that always seems to have a story about a recent trip to the grocery store.

Anyway.  Today I went grocery shopping and I was ringing up my stuff at the U-Scan, Isaac lying quietly between my feet and the scanner. For a change he did not try to sprawl out in the middle of the floor in everyone's way (I make him move when he does that, he just does not seem to get the concept that he is likely to get his tail run over with a shopping cart that way). One of my purchases rang up incorrectly so I had to get an employee to assist me. He came over to the scanner and practically stepped on Isaac before noticing there was a dog there. Which is actually good, it means Isaac was being quiet and well-behaved and unobtrusive, like he is supposed to be. The poor startled teenager just kept saying, I'm sorry, I didn't know there was a dog there!

I don't know if you realize how cool that is, but service dog handlers tend to get pretty excited about it when someone is surprised to notice their dog.   It means the dog is doing a great  job and it's what you want to happen.  Not the surprise, I mean, but the fact that people don't even notice the dog.

A few minutes later, a more typical interaction occurred.  Isaac was still lying quietly on the floor while I was lifting my bags of groceries into my cart.  There was a young couple using one of the other U-Scans and I heard them talking about Isaac.  I heard the young man point out, "It says do not pet," which indeed Isaac's vest does say.  And then the young woman came over, bent down close to Isaac's face, and started baby-talking to him.  She didn't pet him, though.

I told her to stop.  I used to feel bad telling people to leave my dog alone but I don't anymore.  I feel annoyed at their behavior, but beyond that, I feel like my first and primary responsibility is to Isaac, and he needs people to leave him alone. 

She looked startled and then apologized.

I finished loading my groceries and then decided to spend a minute educating, or at least attempting to educate.  So I went over to her and explained that even if it looks like Isaac is just lying there, he's working, he's paying close attention to me, and it's very hard for him to pay attention to me when people are talking to him because he loves the attention.  She and the guy with her nodded.  Hopefully they learned something.

Isaac, I should add, did beautifully.  He did stand up when the woman was bending over talking to him, but that's it.  His tail was wagging, but he didn't attempt to jump on her or kiss her or anything like that.  And he refocused on me as soon as I told her to leave him alone.

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