SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 12, 2014

Dear Abby: Joy of having a service dog is diminished by public attention

Dear Abby
The Salem News

---- — Dear Abby: I use a service dog, and I’m constantly barraged with requests to pet him. Other people who use service dogs warned me this would happen. Although the ADA does not require him to wear a vest, I bought one for him that reads, “Do Not Pet,” which he wears in public. They ask me anyway!

They also ask what I use the dog for. Sometimes I’m tempted to say, “First, tell me about your medical history and then I’ll tell you mine.” I don’t mind quietly and discreetly discussing with a store owner what my dog does, but for a stranger to walk up and expect me to share personal information is rude.

As excited as I am about how my dog has expanded my life, I do not want to spend my time answering strangers’ questions or hearing about every dog they’ve ever owned.

Obviously, I’m still learning what it means to live with a service dog. Would you kindly share with your readers proper etiquette with service dogs and their owners?

Living Larger In Washington State

Dear Living Larger: I’m happy to. But you must be realistic. If you have a service dog, you must accept that people will be curious. However, what many people fail to understand is that when a service dog is out in public, the animal is WORKING, and should not be distracted from its task — which is ensuring the well-being of the owner.

The basics for interacting with service dogs are:

1. Always speak to the person first. Do not try to distract the dog.

2. Never touch the service dog — or ANY dog, for that matter — without first asking for and receiving permission.

3. Do not offer food to the animal.

4. Do not ask personal questions about the handler’s disability or otherwise intrude on his or her privacy.

5. Do not be offended if the handler refuses to chat about the service dog.

Dear Abby: My son “John” and daughter-in-law “Bree” recently announced their second pregnancy via email, and asked that we keep the news in the immediate family for now.

I was so happy and excited that I notified my sister. She is my best friend and lives in another state. As it turns out, my sister shared the news with her daughter, who is good friends with Bree. My niece then texted congratulations to her.

At the end of the day, I received a nasty, dramatic phone call from Bree. She was furious that I had revealed her secret. My heart sank. It wasn’t my intention to hurt her in any way. I apologized profusely, but now I’m afraid that this may have solidified the wedge between us because our relationship was never very close to begin with.

I realize I was wrong and apologized. What more can I do to make this the joyful occasion it should be?

Now What? In North Carolina

Dear Now What?: Now you pay the penalty for leaking the news, and gracefully accept that you will be relegated to the second tier when it comes to announcements from your son and daughter-in-law. Perhaps you can eventually get back in their good graces by respecting their wishes in the future.

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Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.