Today, at the dentist’s office, my teeth were cleaned by someone new.  At one point, when Sky got up and came over, the technician said, “She doesn’t want to be alone.”  I was sitting on the floor of the locker room with Sky on my lap and someone passing by said, “Oh, I knew you spoiled her.”  When Sky was on my lap on a plane, several people said, “Awwww.”  And when she is on the job, standing at my side or waiting for me to catch up, people will suggest she’s scared or shy, because “her tail is down.”  In each case, my service dog was working, doing the job that is her life’s work and her passion.  She comes over when she knows I am in pain or when my stress level shoots up.  She sits on my lap to help with pain.  And when she’s on the job, her tail is down.  She’s a Border Collie.  That’s what they do.

Though I would love to educate the public (people without service dogs), there’s no way I can explain to every person who comments what’s really happening.  For one thing, some of the comments are made when I am hurting.  Others are made on the fly.  By the end of the comment, the person is gone.  And some people, no matter how carefully you explain, are so full of knowledge that they just won’t get it.

There are so many times that we humans jump to conclusions.  Rather than waiting to see, rather than asking, rather than doing a bit of research, we grasp an answer and we think we know what’s going on.  Things are often much more complex than we like to think they are.  Easy is comfortable.  There.  I get it.  But sometimes we cannot bear the anxiety that can come with doubt.  Or we need to blame someone, fast.  Or we need to dismiss an incident by feeling we know the answers.  You know I am no longer talking about service dogs.  Or dogs of any kind.

But let’s go back to dogs.  Let’s go back to a different kind of service dogs, the ones who went to comfort the grieving, the ones who wagged their tails and pushed their big broad heads into hands, into laps.  And even in that case, when the comfort seems so obvious, so welcome, so touching, even in that case there is more than meets the eye, because those dogs were changing the body chemistry of the people they befriended.  They were doing more than offering unconditional affection.  They were showing each person they touched that they could and would feel better, that despite the horror, life would, somehow, go on.