You may have seen a certain dog on Instagram named Robin. Robin is my service dog. He didn’t know it when he was born into this world but he knows it now!

When working, Robin knows not to interact with anyone but his handler. To work as a unit, Robin must be 100% focused on his handler. Any distraction could break this focus and he could not be able to respond properly to an episode.

It seems that the public is not quite ready for service dogs. Too many times, I have been pushed to the side or tripped so someone could snap their fingers in Robin’s face, or pet his nose. Too many people will say, “Oh, I know I’m not supposed to distract you but I can’t help it”. Then they distract him.

Robin is a psychiatric service dog. He responds to his handler’s stimming, self harm, panic attacks and meltdowns. If Robin is distracted, this can result in harm.

So why do people keep distracting him? Not once has anyone gone out of their way to push me to get at Robin when he is not in vest. Service dogs seem to attract people like a pig sty attracts flies.

RESPECT THE VEST is what I want to say to people who distract Robin, however my psychiatric condition makes it hard to make my thoughts into words sometimes.

How can you make a difference? Follow some suggested guidelines when interacting with service dog handlers:

1) Don’t. Many times the handler just wants to do their shopping and not be asked questions.

2) If you must ask, be considerate. Handlers are people too. Don’t ask them what their dog is for, or what he/she does for them. That’s a rude and intrusive question.

3) If you’re worried the dog is fake, get the business manager of the store/facility you’re in to check for a doctor’s note. They cannot ask what the service dog is for. They can only ask for a note proving the dog is legitimate.

4) If you see a dog without its handler, please follow it or get an employee if possible to help find the handler. They may be down and in need of assistance.

5) Do not ask where you can get a vest for your dog, or say, “I wish my dog was a service dog”. Service dog handlers don’t choose to be disabled. It’s not fun, the dog is not a pet. These questions and statements are offensive to handlers.

6) Respect the vest. These dogs are working, they’re on duty, they’re focused. Please respect their space and training and do not do anything that may result in harm to the dog, handler or the dog’s training.

You can find Robin on Instagram to learn more about service dog etiquette and what Robin does.

More info: Instagram

Robin and I

Baby Robin

Robin showing off his gear

Dedication… You can see it in his eyes

Robin sports a rain jacket. Rain or shine, Robin works!

Robin provides grounding pressure during a moment of uncertainty

Robin alerts to stimming

Robin lying on the kitchen floor, the best crumbs are down there

Robin enjoys time off hiking

Robin has some fun

Respect the Vest