Sometimes I get frustrated and want to ask . . . "Exactly what about 'Please do not pet me, I am working' is difficult to understand???" Now, I realize that part of my shock and surprise is caused by the fact that I was taught to ALWAYS ask before approaching, let alone petting, a strange dog. I also know that such a negative reaction to those gushing dog-lovers who simply MUST pet Cura would be a perfect example of what it means to be counterproductive . . . but still!
Very early on, I realized that there is virtually nothing that will prevent those intent on petting Cura from doing so, but I also realized that I really needed to do something to curb that reaction whenever possible. So, I invested in some of those lovely patches which have been placed on her vest, cooling coat, and pack in strategic locations for maximum visibility. This has significantly cut down on the spontaneous petting, but there are still those who are not able to help themselves! I think the time that I found most humorous was the time that someone was gushing over Cura, reached out and pet her -- right on the 'please do not pet' patch located on her vest! She was so enthusiastic that she didn't even notice! I still smile when I think about it and it happened over a month ago (at least I am no longer laughing out loud about it).
Now, frequently the attention from the public is, at worst, slightly inconvenient and, at best, down right amusing. But, there are times where it can be very inconvenient and potentially dangerous. For example, there are the times where I am simply trying to complete necessary errands in a very short period of time -- it is during these times that, being stopped by a person who wants to know everything there is to know about Cura in addition to petting her in a way that gets her all excited and decidedly NOT concentrating on her job is very counterproductive to my purpose of getting a bunch of things taken care of as quickly as possible. After all, Cura is still in training and I still have to make sure that -- no matter what my schedule -- I deal with any challenges that come up regarding her working behavior. This alone can make errands take more time than planned and has resulted in things on the list not getting done as anticipated -- so adding petting distractions into the mix can throw a real spanner in the works.
Sometimes, people get so enthusiastic when petting Cura, they get her all excited, playful, and jumpy, pulling her well and truly out of 'work mode'. Many times, this is not a serious problem because usually I can refocus Cura and we are able to continue with our activities with only a rather short delay -- though, sometimes it takes a bit more time for her to get completely back on task as she is easily distracted by random things for a period of time afterward. However, there are times when Cura becomes so distracted that it is difficult for me to get her to refocus on the job at hand -- annoying, but only time consuming rather than dangerous. What truly concerns me is when Cura is distracted by others when I am having a particularly difficult day physically -- this does have the potential to be dangerous because it is during these days in particular that it is necessary for Cura to be very focused. While Cura frequently is very focused on these days instinctively, it IS possible to distract her and that could lead to some unpleasant results.
Then, there is the other side of the coin -- something that always brings a smile to my face. First, there are those who just stop and watch us go about our business. It is clear that they are dog lover's and would LOVE to pet Cura, but they restrain themselves. Then there are those who just can't help themselves and must say something, but they limit themselves to something akin to commenting on either what a beautiful dog Cura is (she really is lovely, even if I do say so myself) or how well behaved she is. Then there are the parents of young children -- who are GREAT! Usually, I am alerted to them by some type of childhood squeal, sometimes just an unidentifiable squeak and sometimes a recognizable word like 'Doooooggggiiiieeee!' This is quickly followed by the parents patiently explaining that they can't touch or bother the dog because it is doing a very important job and that it is a dog that helps people. Of course the wording is adjusted to reflect the age of the child or children involved, but the result is the same. I love this particular reaction (both the children's and the parent's) -- it is very encouraging because not only is it proof that there are a number of people out there that know they should not distract a service dog when it is working, but young people are also being taught how to react around an assistance animal.
All-in-all, every excursion is an adventure -- one where I am always learning and frequently pleasantly surprised. Now, I enjoy my outings much more -- even if Cura gets distracted -- because I am less anxious about being out and about. Even if my plans get waylaid by curious and enthusiastic dog lovers, it beats spending the entire time worried about falling, tripping, being bumped or otherwise running into problems while out.