PSA: Don't Touch the Service Dogs

Reported by Danielle Brown

Roaming around George Fox University’s campus are two hardworking dogs, Shadow and Penny, who spend their days assisting sophomore Aspen Monkhouse and freshman Alyssa Minar respectively. You have probably seen the dark, shiny fur of Shadow or the curly brown hairs of Penny, but as tempting as it may be to pet them, these dogs are not to be distracted from their jobs.

“People don’t realize that they’re working,” Monkhouse said, describing her daily encounters with others--the constant petting and whistling that causes these dogs to turn their focus away from their owners.

Both women explained that distractions for service dogs aren’t good because you never know when something bad could happen that is detrimental to the owner’s health — something that often gets pushed. However, they need their dogs to be focused on getting them help if the occasion arises.

Minar shared that she has had her most recent bout of Lyme Disease for four years now and has developed serious heart conditions that can drive her heart rate up to 200 bpm. Penny alerts her when this happens, signaling that Minar needs to sit down or eat.

Photographed by Alyssa Minar

Photographed by Alyssa Minar

“If they're paying attention to you because you’re talking to them or petting them, then they’re not paying attention to their owner, so they might miss an alert or a signal,” said Minar. She said that a friend with heart conditions went into Atrial Fibrillation because a teacher was talking to the service dog, distracting him from his owner’s needs.

Monkhouse shared that she has Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). This can affect her heart rate and blood pressure, causing it to spike or drop dramatically. Shadow’s job is to aid her with alerts or mobility in cases where she becomes dizzy or passes out.

“If it got serious — like if I were unconscious and I hit my head on something — I wouldn’t be able to do anything about that, and if [Shadow’s] distracted, he can’t go get help, he can’t task for me, and that could be scary,” said Monkhouse.

Minar and Monkhouse were both open to sharing about their disabilities and stressed the importance of their service animals in aiding them in their daily lives. They were also adamant that their disabilities are a part of them — just as much as our hobbies and majors are a part of us — but just because they are affected by them doesn’t mean they need to be the focus.

“Yes, we do acknowledge our disabilities, but that doesn’t define who and what we are,” Monkhouse said. “There’s still a person inside.”

Jessica DaughertyComment