TAKING ACTION: Owners of service dogs discuss importance of working while wearing the vest, what you should know

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ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) - Dogs seem to be magnets - always drawing a crowd to them with a friendly wag of the tail. But, some canines are more than pets, they're partners.

Andrea Percle-Navarre's four-year-old Pointer-Dalmation mix, Dot, is skilled as a service dog, but she is also blessed.

"It's just something she was made to do," Percle-Navarre said. "She was made to be my dog and she was made to be my service dog."

Dot helps her human move forward following Percle-Navarre's two knee replacements.

"She acknowledges the differences in heights, and the way the roads and sidewalks are done," Percle-Navarre said. "She lets me know that I need to take the next steps carefully or be more acute to how I'm walking."

Dot sharpens her skills with her service training classmate, Zeus. Zeus is Certified Dog Trainer Joel Allen's service dog.

"God blessed him with ability, I can't explain it any better than that," Allen said. "He nudges you, just pushes on you to try to get your attention."

Through his own senses, Zeus helps control Allen's diabetes.

"He's able to tell when my blood sugars go low when I'm driving down the road, he's kept me from having a car accident," Allen said. "He's come up to me and let me know when my sugars are too high, or before they go too high."

Zeus and Dot's owners share something in common: you would not know they need a service animal.

"Don't assume there's nothing wrong with that person," Allen said. "Don't go up to them and say things like, 'are you blind, are you deaf?'

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, when it is not obvious that a dog is a service animal, there are only two questions someone may ask the owner: 'Is the dog a service animal required by a disability?' and 'What task has the dog been trained to perform?' Allen and Percle-Navarre hope to spread these other messages too.

"If you want to meet someone's service dog, ask the person first, because most people don't want their service dogs touched," Allen said.

"I think a lot of people don't realize that they're working," Percle-Navarre added. "Now, when she's out of the vest, it's all fun and games. She's welcome to be pet by anybody. But, when she's in the vest, it's for work."

 

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