Guide Dog User Etiquette

I have this thing going on at work. It’s incredibly complex and way too sensitive to really detail, but in part a great deal of the controversy revolves around Yara. As such it’s very personal to me and frankly the whole thing gets me quite emotional.

When I started work at VESID I was aware of two things: (1.) that there were several other guide dog users in the office and (2.) not all of them had the best reputations. When I made the decision to get a GSD from Fidelco I knew that I would battle the “bad rep” that shepherds have, including other guide dogs. But initially this didn’t seem to be of any concern at VESID. In fact, one of the more common questions that colleagues asked was why I “wasn’t working my dog.” Meaning, they wanted to know why she wasn’t actively guiding me through our floor. I’ve been asked similar things over the years because I do have residual vision. For a long time it used to get my back up because it always seemed synonomous with asking whether I needed a guide dog. Anyway, the basic reasoning I gave them was that inside, for the most part, I can see relatively well enough to get around. And I also want to feel comfortable navigating the floor as part of my job requires interacting with nearly everyone. I’ve since realized that this was indeed a comparison of me to the other guide dog users.

Of course, there was a lot of talk, both behind my back and right in my face, about Yara’s ribs when we were still in the midst of diagnosing her EPI. It was frustrating, but not so much because of the constant badgering. I know that, though misguided, people were concerned for her well being. But it was difficult to handle because I never got a reprieve since I was basically being attacked everywhere by all manner of acquaintances and strangers alike.

Sometime during this, Yara had an instance of misbehavior. She saw Sharon walking passed my desk and, probably thinking it was time for a walk, followed her. As luck would have it, the path Sharon took led Yara in front of the desk of a coworker who is fearful of dogs and had before expressed her displeasure at my dog. The coworker formally complained about my dog, and I’m quite sure embellished the story. I was verbally warned and told to keep Yara under control. And I’ve made sure she’s never wandered from my desk since and when she is away from the desk with me, she’s securely on her leash.

But it would seem I can do no right with my guide dog. While people throughout the office building and surrounding state agencies and buisnesses commend me about how well behaved she is, how happy and eager she seems about working with me; my coworkers seem to think our bond is offensive and unprofessional. As compared to other guide dog users on our specific floor, my blatant loving relationship with my dog has allegedly caused people in my office discomfort. Such discomfort they don’t feel able to tell me, but most report this to my superiors.

As I said the issues are far more complex than all this — and much of my drama has little to do with this precise issue — but you can imagine my dismay. Especially when you recall that I work for the state’s VR services for the disabled. Rather appalling, no?

Comments

  1. It seems that some of the most insensitive and cold people work in human services. Sad but true. I hope that this cn be resolved. Sigh and hugs.

  2. It sounds to me like it’s time to complain to your state’s human rights division. Your coworkers and employees are creating a hostile work environment for you because of your disability. One instance of very benign misbehavior is no cause for constant complaining and backstabbing. As for those that dislike your relationship with your dog, they need to be told, clearly and publicly, to mind their own business.

  3. What do they expect you to do? Neglect her so she might eventually start acting up and cause problems? I assume they’ve never heard of positive reinforcement…

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