"Does she always have to be the center of attention?"
"Not everyone likes being around dogs – why does she think she's special?"
"Does she have to take that dog everywhere with her?"
Though whispered, these are the comments I hear frequently when taking Talos in public. I'm sure there are even more comments, worse comments, that I don't hear. I can tell by the looks that people give us, they'd rather we not be where they are.
I don't take Talos in public to tick people off. I don't take him so I can get extra attention. I don't take him because I want to make people uncomfortable. I take Talos in public despite all those things.
I explain it this way: Talos will have total access to public places when he's paired with his person who is disabled. Would you rather Talos experience strange, perhaps scary things now – with me, who can hang onto him if he spooks, calm him when he's afraid – or when he's with his person (and he's topped out at 160 pounds), someone who will not have the ability to control him if he's startled?
Sometimes it's a pain in the neck to have a dog with me. My trips take a lot longer, I have to carry a lot more equipment with me, I have to be ready to leave if Talos isn't settling in quietly, and I'm constantly on duty – teaching him.
Don't feel sorry for me, I volunteer for this. But don't think I'm doing it to garner attention, or to mess up your day, or because I think I'm special.
I'm doing it for the dog, who needs to have hundreds of hours of public experience so he's calm and collected no matter what's happening around him.
I'm doing it for the person who will eventually be paired with Talos – so he (or she) can have an easier day, an easier life. So he won't have to worry with a cane or a walker. So he'll feel the independence that comes from having a balance dog.
So when you see us in public, and you're frustrated because you have to walk around the crowd that's gathered, or because it takes me a minute longer to gather my purchases and hold onto an adolescent Great Dane, just smile and walk around us. We're not doing it on purpose.