What happens if you get approached by a service dog, but there is no one with the service dog? What do you do then? Most of us have always been told not to approach or pet a service dog while they’re on duty. However, there may be a reason why they’re approaching you without their person – and it could be an emergency situation.
One Tumblr announcement focused on the importance of what to do in these types of situations with their service dog PSA. The announcement featured a story where a woman was out with her service dog, and then had an accident where she tripped and fell. The woman suffers from seizures, so when it looks like she’s having an attack in public, her service dog is trained to go seek help. Doing exactly what it was trained to do, the service dog sought the attention of a woman who “was swatting him and telling him to go away.”
She was completely unaware that an emergency situation was unfolding nearby.
The post read, “If a service dog without a person approaches you, it means the person is down and in need of help. Don’t get scared, don’t get annoyed, follow the dog!”
“If it had been an emergency situation, I could have vomited and choked, I could have hit my head, I could have had so many things happen to me… if what’s-his-face could understand that [L]assie wanted him to go to the well, you can figure out that a dog in a vest proclaiming it is a service dog wants you to follow him,” the post added.
After going up on Tumblr, the post was shared more than 163,000 times. The woman who was posting it revealed that it wasn’t her personal story, but rather something she’d seen on Tumblr and felt compelled to share.
Following the circulation of the post, the Today Show got involved in the story and further investigated what should be done in situations like a service dog approaching you. In fact, they even brought on a dog trainer to talk about how you should react when approached by an unaccompanied service dog.
Do you know what to do if a service dog approaches you without a person?
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 19, 2018
The trainer elaborated on the content of the original post, saying that a service dog has a unique way of telling you that there is something wrong and its owner may need help.
Explaining that service dogs don’t always jump up or bark, she said, “What they’re going to do is take their nose and nudge your leg. If you see a dog in a vest without a person attached to it, follow it.”
Regarding what to do in the situation, she added, “The verbal cue is not going to be a secret password,” she said. “You can say, ‘What?’ or ‘Where?’ or just start walking [to follow the dog].”
There was an overwhelming response to the information:
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 mothman (@solelymoving) June 18, 2018
Honestly… I’d follow a stray dog into a dark ally so you better believe I’ll follow a service dog! https://t.co/FijxecOhdq
— Coach Mike (@gymMIKE10) June 18, 2018
The point is when you see a service dog without their owner you should always assume something isn’t right, and if you are approached by such a dog, definitely follow them because their owner may be in serious trouble.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.
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