by Anne Stanley
What is a “service” dog and how is a service dog trained? On February 16, as part of the Sunday Afternoons at the EAC series, Eastport resident Jeanne Katkavich and her service dog, Sadi, captivated their audience by answering these and many other questions. We learned that a service dog is individually trained to do a specific task or tasks for a person with a disability. On the other hand, therapy dogs and their handlers are trained to provide therapeutic benefits to people who need comfort or company.
Jeanne met Sadi at PAWS, an animal shelter in Calais. The two quickly bonded. Jeanne was patient and firm, guiding Sadi to be obedient and to walk on a leash. But it wasn’t until Jeanne one day dropped a spoon, couldn’t pick it up—two hip replacements can “go out” on her, which makes Jeanne cautious about moving in certain ways—and Sadi suddenly DID pick it up—and gave it to Jeanne—that Jeanne realized she had the makings of her very own service dog! Since then, Jeanne has taught Sadi to fetch Jeanne’s cell phone if Jeanne can’t get
to it, learn left and right—helpful in giving directions in stores with aisles—and retrieve objects, including dropped coins and once even a donut, which Sadi delivered into Jeanne’s hand!
We learned that service dogs in the United States are not required to be certified or to wear special vests, although Sadi does wear a vest so the public will recognize her role. We learned that service dogs are allowed in all public places but that it’s often wise to introduce your dog and yourself as a handler; and not all countries have the same regulations. We learned that under the American Disability Act of
1990 (ADA), businesses may ask a service dog’s handler only two questions: Is this a service dog? and What task does this dog perform?
We also learned how to approach a service dog. This is very important. Sadi is so friendly and popular around town that people instinctively want to talk to her and reach out for a pat. It’s imperative that we ask Jeanne for permission to approach. Jeanne may tell us that Sadi is working right now so please wait for an okay.
At the end of her presentation Jeanne released Sadi from work and told her to make the rounds, greeting each of us in turn. Sadi obliged!
Additional helpful information may be found at: www.ADA.gov or (800) 514-0301 (calls are confidential). Those interested in Eastport-area training may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.