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Minding the Gaps

One of my friends had a “service” dog he outfitted with a “Working Dog” vest. He took her places that most dogs usually don’t get to go.

She was a great dog, a friendly Lab-pittie mix that loved balls and people and exhibited good manners. But she was also young and exuberant, and so inevitably would bark or jump or do something a true working dog would never do—which, of course, would blow her cover. Once, she wore the vest to an outdoor music festival, and my friend was questioned seemingly umpteen times about his “disability” and the “service” she provided. He responded vaguely about an unspecified condition and grew uncomfortable repeating it all day. By the afternoon, the dog was sprawled as his feet, and the vest was gone, used for the last time. And I like to think my friend learned a lesson.

D. Glenn Martyn of Martyn Canine Behavior takes up this topic in this month’s coverage of working dogs. Turns out he gets calls frequently from people like my friend who want a “fake” service dog—a pet that can go anywhere. He sets them straight, though. Martyn also has folks calling him who genuinely need a service dog, and he knows all about that, too.

Not all dogs are equipped to be service dogs. Anastasia Pryor of Bergin University recounts a heartwarming story about a lucky pooch, Larry. His skills at helping autistic children in a school setting soared higher than his ability to do tasks for people with mobility issues or veterans recovering from combat-related conditions. Read about Larry’s new career in “They’re in Good Paws With Larry.” The issue also explores human-dog search-and-rescue work and tracking, just two more fine examples of the amazing way dogs work for and with humans. What would we do without our noble furry friends minding the gaps?