• Middle and High School Band Concert is on December 14th at 7 pm

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  • SENIORS: Turn in senior and baby pictures as well as senior quote by December 20th

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The Lantern

Filed under The Torch

Canine companion

New to most high schools is the appearance of service dogs. The Lantern has explored the impact of this unique situation.

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Canine companion

Service dog Kylo Ren stays vigilant near his master

Service dog Kylo Ren stays vigilant near his master

Carson Lind

Service dog Kylo Ren stays vigilant near his master

Carson Lind

Carson Lind

Service dog Kylo Ren stays vigilant near his master

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Lockers slamming. Voices yelling. Take a wrong turn and some kissing high schoolers are discovered. Yup, it’s a typical middle school day, but as one squeezes their way through the crowded halls between periods, something catches their eye. Upon a second look, it’s realized they are looking at a yellow labrador. But before running up to this fuzzy canine, there are a few things one should know about this very special dog.

Jesse Mosser is a 7th grader who has just started attending Cannon Falls Middle School this year. Whether anyone has met him or have never seen him before, there is more to Jesse than meets the eye. He is able to do something very special; be the handler of a service dog. Kylo Ren is Jesse’s service dog. Currently, Jesse only brings him to school on some days, but he does bring Kylo Ren out to public places. In Jesse’s opinion, the hardest thing about taking him everywhere is making him sit and listen.

Now that one is sitting and staying put, (unlike Kylo Ren), what exactly is a service dog? According to the United States Dog Registry, “service dogs are dogs that have been individually trained to perform a specific task for individuals who have disabilities.” The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a disability as a physical or mental health issue that significantly limits one or more aspects of a person’s life. These disabilities can include mobility issues such as paralysis, blindness, diabetes, cancer, autism, epilepsy, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Service dogs make it possible for people to live their lives normally (to some extent) and are protected under the ADA. The ADA makes gives disabled people the right to bring their dog to most public places such as hotels, restaurants, housing complexes, and air travel. Another thing the ADA does concerning services dogs is giving the right of the handler to live with their service dog, regardless of pet policies. Because a service dog is not considered a pet under the ADA and is essential for everyday life, the individual does not have to pay any pet fees nor can the landlord, building manager, or hotel deny the service dog access. In addition to that, an owner, manager, or other representatives of a business is not allowed to ask the handler what disability allows them to have a service dog. The only things they may ask is if the dog is a service dog and what task the dog does.

A vest or a service dog tag usually indicates if a dog is a service dog. However, service dogs do not have to wear these items. Although, their handlers would have to explain why they had a dog to every person they met. At this point, a few people probably want to find Kylo Ren and give him a hug. But as much as anyone wants to, this is exactly what shouldn’t be done, and this leads to another topic related to service dogs; service dog etiquette.

First of all, a handler is seen with a service dog in public, understand that they want to be respected. Give them their space. Making personal comments, pointing or staring at the service dog and handler is rude and disrespectful towards them. Jesse knows this because he has been in this situation. As he puts it, “It makes me feel really uncomfortable”. Also, if one sees a service dog, don’t just walk straight up to the handler and start questioning them. This is almost worse than just staring at them. If there was a person in a park with an injured arm, no one would walk across the park and start bombarding them with questions. That’s just rude. Treat people with service dogs with the same respect and kindness given to any other person with a disability (or any person for that matter). Understand that the handler is trying to do their own activities, and even if they are at the fair or any other place, they are not there to entertain or answer questions. Health is a private issue, and no one has the right to invade on someone else’s health, whether it be physical or mental. However, this does not mean that no one can ever talk to someone with a service dog. But know that there is a time and place for everything. For example, if someone is waiting for a bus and someone with a service dog sits on the bench next to them, there is nothing wrong with making small talk with them. Honestly, the conversation does not have to be about the handler or the service dog. If one does start chatting, avoid questions such as;

 

-“What is wrong with you?”

-“What a good dog you have!”

-“What happened?”

-“What is his name?”

-“I have a friend that fosters service dogs”

-“I know I am not supposed to pet, but I just can’t resist!”

 

And don’t ask for a demonstration. Just don’t.

The second rule in service dog etiquette; don’t interact with the dog in any way, shape, or form. The canine’s job is to focus on completing tasks for its owner or handler. A stranger’s behavior should not interfere with the dog’s focus. Examples of poor etiquette towards the dog include praising the dog when it does its task, talking or whistling to the dog, patting a leg or clapping hands, and petting the animal or asking to pet it.

It makes me feel really uncomfortable”

— Jesse Mosser

Once absorbing all of that information has been accomplished, the question, “What does a service dog do if it’s not out in public?” might cross one’s mind. The answer to that question can be summed up in one word; pet. When service dogs aren’t on duty, they get to have downtime as a regular family pet. Kylo Ren is a two-year-old yellow labrador. When the pooch isn’t on duty, Jesse says he likes to “Just sit with him.” Not only does Jesse try to make Kylo sit, Jesse also helped train him. Ever since Kylo Ren was a puppy, Jesse worked with his mom to train him as a service dog. This goes to show how much work goes into training a service dog to perform a specific task. And once Kylo Ren has gotten used to the school environment, he will be attending every day alongside Jesse.

Service dogs are everyday superheroes. They can do anything from knowing when someone is going to have a seizure to guiding a blind person. They can be any breed, any age, and any gender. To know that these creatures will be protective and loyal to their owner can make it less stressful for family members and friends of the person with disabilities. So when one sees that special vest on a dog, remember that everyone deserves respect. Even if there is no visible disability, know that the handler deserves respect so they can live their lives as normally as possible. Jesse’s favorite thing about taking Kylo Ren everywhere is that his dog can give him comfort and support. In the same way, give Jesse the silent support of knowing how to act if one does see his personal superhero. That is if one manages to see Kylo Ren before they find the smooching high schoolers in the back hallway.

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Canine companion