Service Dogs: Think Before You Pet - Northern Michigan's News Leader

Service Dogs: Think Before You Pet

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Every day Traverse City Books-A-Million employee, Beka Wilkinson clocks into work with her service dog, Zola.

Zola helps make Beka's day manageable, that is when respected properly.

Years ago Beka was diagnosed with a brain injury that resulted in severe anxiety and occasional breakdowns. Until she met Zola.

“I get very shaky and she'll alert to that and then she does deep pressure therapy,” says Beka.

“It kinda draws you back into reality and distracts you from whatever you were panicking about.”

Zola's many calming techniques help Beka get through her work day at Books-A-Million,but recently a man purposely called to and distracted Zola while the two were at work.

Beka says, “A gentleman was talking to her and I was like ‘Oh well she's working,’ well he persisted and I've never had that happen. I was, I was floored by the fact that he, he just didn't care. If it had persisted and I had passed out she wouldn't have been there to- she wasn't paying attention to me so there was nothing she was doing to help me.”

Another occurrence Beka says is becoming increasingly common are fake service dogs, wearing vests to get into buildings.

Something Beka says her and Zola know about first hand, “Two of them lunged at her like barking and growling and um that's not a safe environment for me that's not a safe environment for her and there's nothing we can do about it we're going to draw attention to ourselves.”

Beka says it’s extremely important to respect service dog rules so dogs like Zola are able to do their job, “I don't even know how to describe it. I hated going places I did not like going places by myself I was always in my room I was always by myself well she opened up the world.”

Beka says if you do see a service dog out working to talk with the owner before interacting with the dog.