Everyone knows that when you see a service dog out working, you don’t approach it. After all, the dog is doing an important job, and you don’t want to disturb it.
Many people don’t realize there’s one time you should approach a service dog: when they’re alone. If the dog is alone, it means their owner is in trouble.
Twenty-year-old Tessa Connaughton thought everyone knew this, but then she learned firsthand that that wasn’t true. In June 2018, Connaughton and her service dog Raider were out shopping. Connaughton got Raider in 2016 to help with her autism. Later, she was also diagnosed with epilepsy, and so she updated Raider’s training. She taught him to find help if she ever fell down.
While she was shopping, Connaughton tripped and fell. Thankfully, she was okay, but when Raider saw her fall, his training kicked in. He immediately ran off to find help.
Raider approached a woman who swatted at the dog and told him to leave her alone. By that point, Connaughton had gotten up and tracked Raider down. As she was leading Raider away from the annoyed woman, she realized that many people didn’t know what it means when an unattended service dog approached them.
When she got home, Connaughton wrote a PSA about this topic and posted it to her Tumblr page.
In the post, she explained that if a service dog ever approaches you, it means their owner is in desperate need of help. She says:
“If a service dog without a person approaches you, it means the person is down and in need of help. Don’t get scared, don’t get annoyed, follow the dog!”
Connaughton also said that she’s going to update Raider’s training. Now, if the first person he approaches doesn’t help, he’ll run to a second person.
Connaughton’s important PSA quickly went viral, receiving over 90,000 notes. Many people were grateful to Connaughton for sharing this information.
Inspired by Connaughton’s post, The Today Show decided to do a segment where they showed what to do if an unattended service dog approaches you. The trainer on the show said that typically, a service dog would nudge somebody’s leg to get their attention—the dog is trained not to bark or jump.
The trainer also said that you don’t need to respond verbally to the dog. You can simply just start following them, and they’ll lead the way to the person who needs help.
Do you know what to do if a service dog approaches you without a person?
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 19, 2018
Connaughton is happy that her PSA is teaching so many people something they didn’t know. She’s glad that people now realize what to do if they see a service dog who’s all alone.
Connaughton’s message has helped tons of people. We’re so glad that she took the time to share such important information!
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h/t: I Heart Dogs