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'Oh, Puppy!' Jacksonville Woman Talks Seeing-Eye Dog Etiquette

UNF writing professor Emily Michael poses with her service dog York after class, Friday.
UNF writing professor Emily Michael poses with her service dog York after class, Friday.

Emily Michael is a writing professor at the University of North Florida and she’s been blind her whole life.

And for the past couple years, instead of getting around by cane, she’s been guided by her black Labrador retriever, York. 

And for the past couple years, instead of getting around by cane, she’s been guided by her black Labrador retriever, York.

After teaching a class Friday, Michael was sitting outside of the school’s coffee shop with York by her side, in his harness.

Michael said people approach her, or sometimes just York, every day and most people simply don’t understand service dog etiquette.

She said the fundamental rules are: don’t make eye-contact, and don’t pet or talk to service animals.

“If somebody walks by and goes, ‘Oh, puppy! puppy!’ his head will turn to them. It’s like if you were driving on a highway and your vision clicked off,” she said.”

She said when she and York are walking, he’s supposed to be looking for obstacles and figuring out the safest route.

York might look like he's napping but his owner Emily Michael said he's still alert and working.
Credit Lindsey Kilbride / WJCT News
York might look like he's napping but his owner Emily Michael said he's still alert and working.

And, she added, etiquette rules should even be applied when it looks like he’s relaxing.  

“If he’s lying under a table and it looks like he’s not doing anything, he is actually working very hard,” she said.

Michael said York gets plenty of playtime at home, but when he’s wearing his harness, he’s her eyes.

October is National Blindness Awareness Month.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride

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