I had a very difficult meeting today. The subject of the meeting was fine, and all the people there were fine, too.
It all started after I was already seated and I noticed a small dog walking in the room, pulling on its leash. 6 ft later, the handler came in the room. Now I have seen this dog before, it is a therapy dog in training. But the handler did not know any service dog etiquette. To be fair, I don’t think she has anyone to educate her about service dog etiquette, so maybe I should contact her and let her know? For now, I really need to vent/decompress a little.
Anyway, she sat right behind me. Yes, right behind me. And most of the time the dog was exploring at the end of the leash. The dog licked my legs and feet, and the legs and feet of the people next to me, too. One of them said she almost screamed at first thinking it was a rat or something under the table. Luckily I am better prepared for dog licking, and thought initially it was Hestia licking my legs and feet. Then I looked down and saw Hestia sitting in my lap….
Several times the dog came up to my lap trying to greet Hestia. It snuffled in my fanny pack a bit. It shook off several times with very noisy tags, and at the end of the meeting the handler had to remind the dog “don’t be mean” when he saw Hestia and almost started barking at her.
Poor Hestia was very distracted by this dog that was so in our space. She mostly behaved well, but she wanted to keep an eye on the dog. I don’t blame her! But she was so concerned about the dog that she missed an alert.
I thought everything was going fine and then all the sudden it got hard to breathe, my chest started hurting, my eyes started to water, and I could tell I was falling down the rabbit hole of a panic attack. Luckily I don’t think any human there noticed it, I tried to keep very still and quiet and not let on. Then once the panic attack was already happening, Hestia noticed and started licking my arm and doing DPT. I think she felt bad that she missed an alert, because for the rest of the session she was content to just keep the dog visible out of the corner of her eye instead of watching everything the dog did.
When we got out of the meeting, the person sitting next to me complimented Hestia’s behavior amid such a distracting environment. Hestia wasn’t perfect, I had to reposition her a few times, but she wasn’t causing a disturbance! To be fair, I think only the other person who got licked and me were the only people disturbed.
So anyway, that was my difficult meeting. Next time, if they come to another meeting and sit near me, I will move to across the room. They can think I’m rude or whatever for moving away from them, but I’ve got to put my health and Hestia’s ability to do her job first.
Oh and I like the person very much, I really like her a lot, she is a great asset to our community, and I know she would help me if I needed help. I think it’s great she is using a therapy dog in her work. I hope I’ll be in a position to help her in the future with learning about dog etiquette.