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Service Dogs on Campus and Canine Education

human interest

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Rochester

campus

- experimental

Service Dogs on Campus and Canine Education

Some things to think about when approaching your new furry classmates.

9.11.16

With classes starting, assignments coming, parties happening, and campus security roaming, you know that the fall semester is about to begin. With that comes the opportunity to learn, "experience growth" and to meet new people. Most of the people you meet are two-legged people, but all that is changing. Not one, but TWO service dogs are coming to the University of Rochester River Campus this year, and one of them happens to belong to yours truly. The other belongs to my lovely sorority sister, whom you see in the thumbnail. One may think, this is a little weird; dogs in college? How does that even work? I know there are a lot of questions that may be going through your mind right now, but all will be answered! I promise. So, what is a service dog anyways? According to The Americans with Disabilities Act National Network,

"A service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability" -ADA

Pretty simple, right? Most of these dogs have trained since they were born to do some sort of specialized service for their handler. Allow me to be very clear: they are not pets. Think of these service dogs as medical equipment, because that's what they are. With their help, people like me and my sister are able to live more of our lives the way we want to. They come everywhere with us, just like a wheelchair or crutches; legally, they can come with us wherever we go unless it's a completely sterile area, such as a burn ward of a hospital. I know it seem a little strange to see a dog sitting in your Bio 110 class or chilling in the Pit, but it's what we have to do. As a handler myself, I get a lot of questions along the lines of, "Can you even have that thing here?" This gets really embarrassing and frustrating when we just simply want to get food and leave or sit with our friends and chat. So, for your convenience and my sanity, let's quickly go over some Service Dog Manners: a list of do's and don'ts.

(Quick rule of thumb - if you wouldn't do something or ask something to someone in a wheelchair or on crutches, don't do or ask that thing to a Service Dog handler).

You're completely fine to ask if it's a certified Service Animal, what kind of dog it is, their favorite color, whatever. You cannot ask what they are for, or what they do for their handler because that is personal health information. No one wants that shared with every random person on this campus. You can say, "Oh! They're so cute!" but please address the handler and not the dog. When the dog is wearing a vest, it is working and needs to focus solely on its handler. A safe bet is to ignore the dog when it has its vest on and then you should be good. Don't reach for a pet, or say its name; the animals need to focus completely!
This is a huge step for our school because it shows just how diverse we are as a group, but it also tells you a lot about the students that go here. Yes, we realize the dogs are adorable, and an odd commodity on this campus, but in all honesty, they're just fluffy shadows and shouldn't affect your life at all unless the sight of them makes you crack a smile.