I love dogs, and I love my dogs as much as anyone, but I don't have to have them with me all the time. That's apparently part of the problem in this unusual story I did for today's news we're calling ‘' fake service dogs''.
That's' right, using our old friend the internet, you can go online and order those bright red ‘'service dog on duty'' vests for your pal Fido, whether he helps you cross the street, deal with stress, sense diabetes, or just sits around and drools a lot. Then you can take him into restaurants, on airplanes, into the movies, you get the idea. The fact that he might not be socialized or trained or gentle or smart like ‘'real'' guide dogs ? Well, we are selfish and foolish at time aren't we.
To do this story I paid a visit to a remarkable place, the campus of ‘'Guide Dogs of America'' in Sylmar, where they breed, train, and place guide dogs for the blind. www.guidedogsofamerica.org
It's a 2 year process, and the dogs (typically Goldens or Labs but sometimes Shepherds) are a person's lifeline. The trainers are certified and licensed by the State of California, and it's all taken very seriously and is very professional. To them, the idea that anyone can go online, answer a few questions about themselves and their dogs and ‘'pronounce ‘' them service dogs and order the little vest is outrageous, irresponsible, and just plain wrong on so many levels. It also undermines the legitimate needs of people with disabilities or problems that make a service dog indispensable. More evidence of what I've called , in many different kinds of stories on a wide range of topics ‘' the dark side of the internet."