For Australian army veteran Glenn Marskell, venturing into public with his assistance dog has become an exercise in frustration.
Initially, having Dakota by his side offered hope to the PTSD sufferer. However, after unpleasant encounters with members of the public, Mr Marskell hoped to educate the community about the role of service dogs.
The Batemans Bay resident said it was not unusual to have between 20-30 challenging encounters with the public in any given week.
“We do love our animals, but a dog wearing a jacket is an assistance dog for the person they are accompanying,” Mr Marskell told the Bay Post/Moruya Examiner.
“I’d like Batemans Bay to understand that a service dog wearing a jacket is not to be tempted by the community – to be patted or interacted with.”
Mr Marskell said public interaction with assistance dogs on the job could undo hours of training and confuse the animal.
She’s given me a reason to go back outside, a reason to socialise and a reason to talk.- Glenn Marskell
“It makes her second guess what she has to do and it can trigger the person and bring out an adverse reaction,” he said.
“She’s not a pet; she’s gone through rigorous training.”
He said it was common to have strangers become aggressive or provocative upon being told they were unable to pat his assistance dog.
“At a venue in the area recently I was engaged by not one person, but five, that told me their dog was better behaved,” he said.
“They were all trying to provoke me.
“My parting comment was: ‘My dog is a certified assistance dog and not all disabilities are visible’.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding out there.”
After suffering from PTSD, depression and anxiety for decades, Mr Marskell said receiving his four-legged helper had given him his life back.
With the help of Queensland-based assistance dog group, Ruff Love, he was matched with Dakota last October.
“Dogs are such an intricate part of a veteran’s rehabilitation back into society,” he said.
“She’s given me a reason to go back outside, a reason to socialise and a reason to talk.”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.