If you’ve seen me in the great Houston area volunteering in the past month, you’ve most likely met my Service Dog. Don’t be fooled by my Standard Poodle’s stylish looks; Colton (Colt for short) has substance and personality too! His breed is one of the most intelligent and most obedient dogs to be found. This, combined with their curiosity and eagerness to please, makes them easy to train and dependable. These qualities made the breed popular as circus dogs when such things were more common, (sorry Barnum & Bailey) and today they’re valued for assistance work.
Poodles appreciate mental challenges and lots of physical activity, both of which often come with assistance work, and they have an innate love of retrieving. Colt was trained for two years and can easily pick up a dropped cell phone, find a remote or get a water out of the fridge. He is a medium sized dog and adaptable to different environments, allowing him to stay focused and alert at home and in all sorts of public situations.
Colt is a good representation of his breed. He doesn’t like being left alone for prolonged periods and thrives on interaction with humans. So, not only can disabled people benefit from the companionship of a standard poodle, but these dogs mutually benefit from a person relying heavily on them.
What IS a Service Dog?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as dogs individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Tasks can range from calming a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder to retrieving keys from a hook on the wall — but just don’t call them pets.
Allie Keaton from My Service Dog says NEVER call them pets or emotional dogs. She trains Service Dogs and says “They are an extension of the person who has the disability.” This also serves as a reason to ask before you pet one. It may be on the job.
Badges? We don’t need any stinkin’ badges!
There are no papers, documentation, ID, certification, or other required information of any kind for me to have Colt in public with me. Not only is there no documentation necessary, but it’s illegal for you to ask for any. If you’re a business owner and you’re not certain my partner is a Service Dog, then you may ONLY ask two questions: if my partner is a Service Dog, and what work my partner does for me. That’s all. You can’t ask for my private medical information, request “paperwork” or do anything except ask me those two questions.
Follow Colt on Twitter @WonderDogColt and watch us travel and educate people on the value of Service Dogs for humans. We can also visit YOUR company if you live in the greater Houston area. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll come visit!
- Tim Stroud