This post was inspired by the day I had with Bright on Friday. It started like any other day; we got up at about 7:30, had breakfast, hung around the apartment for a couple of hours, then headed to work for a 12-9 shift (I hate those). About an hour into our shift, she barfed all over the floor with no warning whatsoever, then again about four hours later, then two more times about two hours after that. Then we went home early.
For all of you that are concerned about her health, fear not. She’s fine.
I think a good alternate title for this post could be “What Not to do When Your Service Dog Poops in the Produce Aisle.” If you take a dog in public every day for long enough, you get used to the fact that accidents do happen. It’s not a matter of if. It’s when.
And when it happens, most bystanders will be anything but helpful. Friday, while I sat guard to be sure no one stepped in Bright’s third mess, a guy looked at the floor, looked at her, then asked if he could pet her. Really. Other people stood far away looking horrified, as if they’d never seen puke before, and of course whispered and pointed it out to whoever they were shopping with. If I’d made eye contact, I’m sure someone would have offered to help, but I had all the help I needed.
I’m a seasoned veteran in the realm of doggy bodily functions at inconvenient times. When I was a sophomore in high school, my first dog, Keno, had diarrhea in the carpeted hallway at school. Horror. It doesn’t matter how many times it happens; on some level, it’s always a horrifying experience. You can handle the situation a couple of ways, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say there definitely is a wrong way…a couple of wrong ways, actually.
Bright and I are at the mall early in the morning, and no one is around. We’re moving swiftly through the halls when she puts on the emergency brakes and poos on the floor. What should I do?
A. Quick, get out of there! No one saw…save yourself the embarrassment! Janitors are there to clean up messes. Let them deal with it.
B. Correct Bright, clean up, then drop it in the closest trash can, which happens to be ten feet from the pretzel stand.
C. Stay calm, clean up, and take the baggie to the nearest outdoor can.
The answer is always C.
Didn’t ever tell you that?
The first, and in my opinion, most important part is to stay calm and take charge of the situation. If my otherwise potty-trained dog has an accident indoors, of course it’s embarrassing and frustrating, but there are really only two good reasons for it: 1) She hasn’t had an opportunity to go recently enough, or 2) She’s sick. In one case, it’s my fault, and in another it’s nobody’s fault. Regardless, do not yell, correct, or scold. Seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist if it becomes a pattern.
We all (hopefully) carry some kind of clean-up kit. In some situations, what I carry is enough to clean up an accident, but if Bright’s sick, I can’t possibly be carrying all of the supplies I need. If I’m with another person, I can send him or her to find help and supplies, but if I’m by myself, I have to employ the help of a stranger – I don’t want to leave the mess for someone to step in. It’s always a little embarrassing to bring another person into this nasty situation, but I’ve never had anyone turn me down. When it’s all cleaned up, I thank my helpers and dispose of the garbage outside, if possible. The last thing I want to do is stink up a store and make the owners loathe dogs.
This is about public relations, people!
Most of the time, Service Dogs are happily welcomed into businesses, but one bad experience for the business can cause access issues for the next dog. No matter what happens, respond calmly and graciously, so that the people in charge can see that you’re handling the situation responsibly. That way, when you leave, they won’t remember the awful dog who threw up all over their floor and be hoping you’ll never come back; they’ll remember the really cool person with the poor puppy who got sick or had an accident, and they’ll be hoping you get that little guy home and tucked into bed safely. See the contrast?
Benefits outweigh the inconveniences.
When something inconvenient that involves Bright happens, I think about all the benefits of having her by my side. Since she was sick Friday, I didn’t take her to work on Saturday, which meant I had to drive rather than take the train because she usually pulls me, and I’m too slow propelling my chair to get from the train station to work. That alone makes up for any inconvenience she could possibly cause. Plus, she’s cute and furry, and she takes all of my stress away. Gosh, I missed her.
Doesn’t she just make your heart smile?
Do you have a horrible, embarrassing story about a doggy accident? Ooh, tell me. I want to hear it.