"Does your dog need water?"
"No. He's fine."
"Are you sure? I don't mind.'
"No. He's fine. He was fed and watered before we left home, and it is winter. If he were thirsty, he would let me know, and I'd be asking you for water for him, but he's fine right now."
"Let me just give him some water."
"No. He's fine."
This is then followed by: "I think he needs to go out."
"No. He's fine."
"Are you sure? I can take him out. Let me take him out."
"No. He went before we got here."
"Are you sure?"
And on and on.
At first glance, it just looks like an over-solicitous hostess. Or family member. Or friend. Or colleague. But let's look a little closer. This kind of conversation suggests to me a number of things going on at a number of different levels.
1) Although the person tells me with her lips that she understands this is a service dog, her mind is still focused on dog = pet. Throw in a suggestion of "I don't think you know what you're doing" into the mix and voila! Instant battle of wills, however politely enacted out.
In the scenario above, I let the person know that it was okay, the dog was fine, and I'd let her know if he needed anything. In the case of the person wanting mightily to let the dog out, I assured her I knew his tell-tale signs, that he'd been out to do his business prior to entering the door, and that letting the dog in and out would only alert this smart dog that he could get one over on her and he'd soon be training HER on letting him in and out every ten minutes.
She obviously didn't buy it.
2) There was also, I think, a suggestion of "I know better than you" going on here too. This was the first time the woman had met the dog, yet she was keen on over-riding my decisions. Was this because I'm hard of hearing and thus incapable of making a sound decision? Or a generic thought of I didn't know how to take care of a dog properly?
All dogs have "tells". All handlers/owners quickly learn what they are. Ekko and I have been a team since late June, but after a few mistakes I know when he needs to go NOW, and you would be amazed at how fast I can hustle the dog out the door.
3) There seemed to be a challenge on authority as well. I have indicated the dog doesn't need it, but there was an insistence that my decision be over-ruled. I stuck to my guns.
No, handlers of service dogs are not ogres. Poor widdle doggy doesn't have a meanie for a momma. He has free and full access to water at home and at work. I carry a Gulpy bottle and bottled water whenever I go out. I keep a good eye on the dog because he's part of me, and is working to keep me safe, and because I too, would be absolutely devastated should he even chip a nail, let alone get hurt or sick. That said, the dog is working when I'm visiting a person's home. So, no, he's not allowed to walk around and sniff every inch of your home. He's not allowed to beg at the table (or take your scraps). He had a drink and was fed less than 2 hours ago, so I think he is okay on the water bit just now.
Just believe me when I say the dog is fine. He doesn't need anything at the moment. No, you don't know this dog, you don't know his tells, you don't know his routine. You didn't go to school for two weeks to learn how to work with him properly, or to learn how dogs train humans to do their bidding to get snacks, more food and unlimited in/out privileges with you as their personal doorman. You haven't lived with him 24/7 ever since school, and your guilt (and lack of knowledge) should not be interfering in my handling of this service dog.
Looking over what I've just read, I'm a little surprised at my tone. I normally just let this type of situation just go over my head. But last night it rankled. Maybe I'm just a little tired of being treated like I don't know what I'm doing, or am incapable of making a decision. I think the time has come for people to stop treating us like second class citizens incapable of making decisions and unable to look after another sentient being.
End of rant.