Most of us know this rule regarding service dogs: don’t approach or pet a service dog while they’re on the job. Which means that most of us won’t pet or approach a service dog. Period.
But what a service dog approaches you and they’re completely alone? What is that all about? Well, it could be that they’re actually asking for assistance for their human.
There was a viral tweet on Twitter that regarding the subject matter and it’s important for people to know what exactly to do when a service dog approaches you but there is no one with them.
The “Service Dog PSA” began with the story of a woman who was out with her service dog when she tripped and fell down. The dog was specifically trained to go get someone if she had a seizure, so off it went in search of someone. The dog tried to get the attention of a woman, who “was swatting him and telling him to go away.”
However, what the woman was ignorant of, was the fact that she was being given a sign that there was a nearby emergency happening that needed attention.
The post read, “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!”
The post continued, “If it had been an emergency situation, I could have vomited and choked, I could have hit my head, I could have had so many things happen to me…. if what’s-his-face could understand that [L]assie wanted him to go to the well, you can figure out that a dog in a vest proclaiming it is a service dog wants you to follow him.”
When it was first shared, the post got more than 163,000 retweets, and hopefully, the word continues to spread. The woman who posted the tweet had originally found it on Tumblr, so it wasn’t her personal story but she still wanted to educate people about potential life-and-death scenarios that could be playing out around us.
After the post began trending, the Today show got involved, even having a professional dog trainer appear in order to tell people exactly to do when an active service dog approaches you and they’re alone.
Do you know what to do if a service dog approaches you without a person?
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 19, 2018
The trainer went into further detail about the information in the tweet, explaining the exact ways in which a service dog may try to alert you to a situation, and what you can do to help.
She said, “What they’re going to do is take their nose and nudge your leg. If you see a dog in a vest without a person attached to it, follow it.”
She also noted that oftentimes they’re trained to not jump or bark.
She also explained exactly how to respond to a service dog seeking help, saying, “The verbal cue is not going to be a secret password. You can say, ‘What?’ or ‘Where?’ or just start walking [to follow the dog].”
There was a lot of follow up responses to the information:
my classmate's service dog came up to me alone outside and i said "where's your mom?" he ran off and i ran with him. his mom was having a seizure on the sidewalk and i was there to put my sweater under her head to protect her.
always follow a service dog https://t.co/oruNJDW2YK
— gretchen mothman (@solelymoving) June 18, 2018
Honestly… I’d follow a stray dog into a dark ally so you better believe I’ll follow a service dog! https://t.co/FijxecOhdq
— Coach Mike (@gymMIKE10) June 18, 2018
The whole point is, follow a service dog because you may be saving someone’s life if you do.